For some time now, the popular public domain eBook site gutenberg.org has had prominently displayed on its home page something labeled: “New Kindle Fire Review Before you buy: Read our Webmaster’s review of the new Kindle Fire.” The summary of this “product review” is:
Don’t buy a Kindle Fire, buy a Nexus 7 instead.
The details don’t read like a product review, but rather like somebody got pissed off and wanted to say everything bad they could, whether it was true or not.
The review starts with a disclaimer:
A Review of the Kindle Fire by our webmaster. This review is not an official position or advice from Project Gutenberg or the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation.
If it not an official position from Project Gutenberg, then why is it the most prominent thing on the home page of their web site? I can’t answer that, but I can say why this so-called review is bunk and has no place on the web site of an otherwise-well-respected organization.
False or misleading information
The review makes a number of false or misleading statements. Let’s examine some:
Statement: You can get free ebooks to the Fire too, but the process is so cumbersome that it isn’t worth the trouble given the alternative of buying a Nexus 7, which handles free ebooks with ease.
This is simply false. If you want to read free eBooks on the Kindle Fire with no trouble at all, just install a free App like Overdrive Media Console (free at the Kindle store). Then with the Kindle’s built in web browser, go to a web site, click on the epub version of the book, and it’s downloaded onto the Kindle. Then open Overdrive to select the downloaded book you want to read and read it. How is that different from what you do on any other platform? Later on, the review admits that the statement isn’t really true when it allows that you can: “install a third party EPUB reader and download free EPUB books instead of free Kindle books, but that implies learning and using two different apps to read books on the same device.” Learning a book reader app isn’t rocket science, so why is this a make or break factor in deciding which tablet to buy?
Statement: Use a PC to send your files to the Kindle Fire, but that will work only near your PC
That’s not true either. Amazon provides a “Send to Kindle” app that will send a downloaded eBook from your PC to your Kindle Fire over the Internet, anywhere it’s connected.
Statement: …install a third party app called a file manager and manually move every book you downloaded into the right folder, but that makes every download of a new book into a dozen-clicks affair
This is the fictionally-difficult description of a workaround to the non-existent problem described above. It’s wrong in several ways. The Kindle Fire does have a folder for documents and a separate one for books. It doesn’t take a dozen clicks to drag a file into the right folder. But the more important error is that the difficulty is not in which folder the file is stored, but rather with the Kindle formatted eBooks from Project Gutenberg: They are tagged internally as documents instead of books. If you want to easily read Kindle books from Gutenberg, you have to fix them with something like the free PC application, Calibre.
Calibre is a neat program because it makes sense of the myriad eBook formats, reading and converting between them. It will automatically deal with managing your eBook library both on the PC and on the Kindle Fire. It allows you to add Cover Art and do all the things to make eBooks from Gutenberg into attractive and usable books. All of this is stuff Gutenberg ought to do one time for each book instead of making each downloader do it for each book.
Ignoring a host of possible considerations in selecting a tablet (things like what the screen looks like), the review mentions only three other items: the Nexus is less expensive, the Kindle Fire has an ad on the startup screen and the Kindle Fire doesn’t include a wall charger. That’s it. And since the price of the Kindle Fire has come down to just $159, the Nexus isn’t less expensive anyhow. The startup screen is whisked away in less than a second. Yes, it doesn’t come with an AC charger, but it comes with a charger that you can use with your computer’s USB port, and who doesn’t already have a drawer full of USB chargers anyway?
So, in the spirit of the Gutenberg Kindle Fire Review, I offer these instructions:
If you want a good review of the Kindle Fire:
- Don’t read the Project Gutenberg review, but one of the over 10,000 other product reviews of the Kindle Fire.
- If you find yourself reading the Project Gutenberg review, stop and go read one of the over 10,000 other product reviews of the Kindle Fire.
- If you read the whole review, download a good book on critical thinking and read that to cleanse your brain.
Project Gutenberg has no business endorsing products, and if this is just the ranting of a rogue webmaster, then they need a new webmaster.