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.


Dennis Ritchie

Unix creator Dennis Ritchie
Image via Wikipedia

Dennis Ritchie, the inventor of the C programming language and the Unix operating system, has died.

If great men stand on the shoulders of giants, then Ritchie was one of the greatest giants of all.

Unix (including Mac OSX), Linux and Windows were or are written in C. (In Windows’s case it has now moved on to C++, a direct descendant of C). Your iPhone‘s operating system iOS is written in ObjectiveC which, as the name suggests, is also a derivative of the great man’s work.

In your face, fan bois

Image representing Safari as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

There is something very annoying about Apple users: they pay twice as much as the rest of us for stuff and then think that they are the clever and cool ones. How does that work?

Well, here’s some bad news for them: their browser is almost certainly broken.

If you look at the graphs on this post, you can see that Safari seems to get worse with every iteration – the opposite to the way Internet Explorer and Firefox are going.

Ha ha.

That is all.