Don’t buy a Kindle to read maths or computer science books

The volume rocker of the Amazon Kindle 2
The volume rocker of the Amazon Kindle 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the last twenty-four hours I have been forced to completely reassess my view of the Kindle.

I have been reading a book (I won’t say what as I want to make the comments below anonymous) on a Kindle (the device, not an application – see below), and was resigned to the usual second class Kindle editing – the odd missing paragraph, the loss of a non-roman letter or symbol here or there, when I came to a chapter which was essentially unreadable because it relied on (for example) the difference between P and \bar P but was unable to render \bar P , merely displaying P .

I was so frustrated and annoyed – how could any publisher allow their book to be published in this form when a whole chapter was rendered into (literally) nonsense – that I emailed a senior editor of the publisher to complain.

To be fair to them, they replied quickly and passed on my complaint to a senior colleague:

This is a problem with the way the Kindle displays mathematics and it is an ongoing problem that we are trying to solve with Amazon and other hand-held device makers … I suspect you will be due a refund from Amazon.

The reply does the publisher a lot of credit, and more or less restored my faith in them. But it also carries a very simple message – don’t buy a Kindle to read technical books.

I have since discovered that one Kindle app – on Mac OSX – renders the book perfectly, while another – on Android – is just as poor as the Kindle itself.

Why are Amazon selling books that are broken like this?

In the meantime I suggest sticking to hard copies when it comes to technical works.

Update: Not sure why I thought the Mac OSX app worked – it’s just as broken as the Kindle itself.

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