Kindle Fire: First impressions from a library perspective

Wednesday, November 16th 2011

We were lucky enough at work to buy a Kindle Fire for experimentation. It has a mostly decent UI, feels very solidly built, and if you structure your media-consumption habits around Amazon content there’s no better tablet choice for you. But there’s reviews of the Fire all over the web, so I won’t waste time and words by rehashing all that in any more detail. Instead I want to focus on how the Fire’s features can (or can’t) be used in libraries.

  • First and foremost, the Kindle Fire’s PDF reading capabilities are what I’d call bare bones at best. PDFs can be sideloaded via a USB cable like any other Kindle, but the built-in PDF reader doesn’t allow highlighting, notes, or even bookmarks. Previous Kindle models did allow all of those features. Of course you can install and use a better PDF reader app to get around those restrictions, but that’s a clunky solution. As for loading PDFs in the browser from a website, I couldn’t get JSTOR or any EBSCO product to load a PDF article at all. Anybody planning to read journal articles on a Fire will be pretty disappointed.
  • For libraries which have chosen to circulate Kindle hardware, there may be new disappointment with the Fire. I know some libraries use their Amazon/Kindle account to purchase and load ebooks on the device, then remove the account and check the device out to users. This allowed users to read the loaded books, but not to purchase any new titles under the library’s account. Unfortunately the Fire does away with that. When removing an account, all ebooks are deleted without warning.
  • Not only are all Amazon-purchased ebooks removed, but any sideloaded content in the books folder is wiped as well. I find this baffling. I sideloaded my own (legit purchased from another site with no DRM) book via a USB cable. Why does that need to be deleted? Again, there’s no warning that this will happen.
  • After removing an account you can still play locally stored music and access some apps. But which apps still work is wildly inconsistent, and I can’t find any rhyme or reason to it. Some work fine, others demand the original account log back in before proceeding, and a third category just don’t work at all.
  • The Fire is a nice video player, but the limited storage space (6.54gb usable space) means relatively few movies or tv episodes can be stored for offline viewing.
  • If purchasing an app directly on the Fire, you must first link your account to a mobile phone number. Even for ‘buying’ a free app. I can’t think of a reason why this would be necessary other than to gather more personal info. This is also an annoyance, as the library I work at doesn’t have a mobile number to link it to. In addition, purchasing an app on the Amazon.com website from a PC requires no phone number. It’s a weird inconsistency.
  • We don’t have Overdrive books, and neither does my local public library, so I’ve been unable to test loading one of them on the Fire. Can anyone confirm that it works?

It’s possible I’m wrong on some of these points – I only experimented with the Fire for about an hour today. But I think these are a number of issues important to library use of a Kindle Fire. Is there anything I’ve missed?

16. November 2011 by Chad Haefele
Categories: eBooks, General, Libraries/Info Sci, Ramblings, Reviews, Tech | 12 comments

Comments (12)

  1. Chad,

    As far as loading from OverDrive, I can’t confirm, but it makes sense that it would. There is no Amazon App like on most Android, ios and pc devices, so I can’t say. maybe there is the option to send the book to the Kindle Fire like a “regular” Kindle.

    You could let me borrow yours and I will try it!

  2. Yes, Kindle Fire works with OverDrive. Instead of downloading via USB to computer, you download via “Deliver to Kindle” action from your amazon account. If you don’t see the new OverDrive ebook on your bookshelf immediately after downloading, turn off your Kindle Fire. The new ebook should show up on your bookshelf when you turn it on again. [Note: you have to pre-register your Kindle Fire on your amazon account before you can download ebooks from OverDrive.]

  3. Thanks for the confirmation, Ruth!

  4. We have a patron here at my public library who just brought in her Fire and we went through all the steps to download it through our Wi-Fi; we got through all the steps, including the “deliver” action (which we tried several times) but to no avail. On the bookshelf no books would show up. We were very hopefully about Ruth’s suggestion, but alas, that did not work either. Has anyone else encountered this problem or know of any other suggestions to have books show up on the bookshelf?

  5. You can load a kindle format overdrive book onto an unregistered (or registered but without credit card info attached) kindle fire via usb but not over wifi. That makes me feel that that I won’t be circulating them from the library. Other, cheaper readers are better for that purpose. For an individual, with a real amazon acount (credit card attached) the wifi download works seamlessly with overdrive. The amazon prime streaming video is quite good though sound quality is poor without earphones.

  6. I own a Kindle2 and a Kindle Fire. I checked out two library books through my public library, and was then led to the Amazon website to complete the download process. I chose the option of downloading the books to the Fire – which did NOT work. I got a DRM error that tells me I need to remove the book from my device!

    I then tried to download the books to my Kindle2 – and it worked just fine.

    I also tried transferring the books via USB to my Kindle fire. FAIL.

    Looks like the Fire isn’t fulfilling it’s primary function as well as it could. After all, aren’t the Kindle products for READING?

    I’m considering returning the Kindle Fire as I am hugely disappointed at not being able to read so many of the books I’ve previously downloaded (all LEGALLY, I might add!) – it’s frustrating.

  7. The Kindle is much harder to use for e ARCs or library e books. The Nook seems to be a better way to go for things that are not purchased, but I’m still struggling with the best way to provide digital content for students on any platform.

  8. You can get library books onto your fire quite easily. Once you have checked out a book at your library’s website, you will be directed to Amazon. Then you choose to “send it to your (kindle fire name)” and it will appear in a few seconds. If you want a non-kindle book, you will need to put the overdrive media console application on your fire, and then read e-pub books in that application. You’ll have to get the application from the overdrive website, since Amazon does not include it in their applications’ store.
    I have not tried getting audio books, but both kindle and e-pub books work just fine. Just be sure that your kindle is registered with Amazon, and authorized.

  9. Thank you! The first review I’ve read by anyone interested in reading books/PDFs/Journals and not only looking at FB/Twitter/Skype/Angry Birds. Very helpful, considering the only reason I would have bought one is to store and read pdfs for school. Librarians rule!

  10. Downloading a book from my local library system to my Kindle Fire via Overdrive was fairly easy and straightforward. Once the book (s) are chosen you are taken to Amazon which asks if you want to check out the library book. The book appears in the Kindle immediately, just as it does when purchasing a Kindle book. 3 days before the book is “due” Amazon sends an email indicating that the book is due to expire. (I am given an option of checking the books out for 14 or 21 days.)

  11. I second ‘student’s comment! I’m a tech neophyte testing a tablet out for school and mostly would like to use it for journal articles and other pdfs. Could you recommend any of the ‘compatible readers’ available for download so I can highlight pdfs? Thanks so much!

  12. While I haven’t tested it on the Fire, I use RepliGo Reader on an Android Xoom tablet and that works pretty well. I’d give that one a look if I were you.

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *