Kindle Fire — Power Failure In A Fancy Box

UPDATE, NOV. 16, 2012:  Happy to report that I’ve received two emails from Amazon in response to my phone calls. Bottom line:

“In order to resolve this issue please de register and re register your Kindle Fire HD to the same Amazon.com account. In order to De register and Re register please follow the steps:

Swipe your finger down from the top of the Home screen and tap More . . .”

I followed the directions and re-registered my Kindle, which wasn’t hard. Presto, my material was again visible on the carousel. Using the information I’ve learned in the last two days, I made sure everything was downloaded from the “cloud” to the “device.”

I also browsed through the apps store and downloaded several interesting apps. Most of them were free, and I paid 99 cents for one. The Kindle can do a lot of stuff, and I’m slowly learning how.  – John

END UPDATE

__________________________________________

WHAT COMES IN THE BOX?

I titled my first product review (of a digital camera) “Power In A Box.” The first and most important information I want to know when purchasing a new high-tech device is: WHAT COMES IN THE BOX?

Regarding the camera,the answer was: “Everything you need, and it’s a powerful product.”

Regarding the Kindle Fire, the answer is: “Not so much.”

In the photo above, you can see the fancy box for the Kindle Fire HD 7″ and EVERYTHING THAT COMES IN THE BOX. It’s exactly as stated in the small print on the back of the box:

“USB charging cable included. Ask for the Kindle PowerFast accelerated charging accessory for even faster charging times.”

This latest consumer technology is pretty much ready to go, right out of the box. Or so I thought.

I followed the directions on the black card you see in the photo above, which constitutes the entire written documentation and instructions included in the box.

The black card is nearly five and three-quarters inches long and nearly three and one-quarter inches wide. It’s titled “getting to know your kindle.”

The black card contains a drawing of the Kindle device, showing the location of the:

  • Power button
  • Volume up / down
  • Headphone/ input
  • Slide to unlock
  • HDMI
  • USB charging cable

That’s the full list of controls and ports. I’m thinking, “Wow, this must be really easy to use.”

The full text of the instructions on the black card follows:

“To charge your Kindle, connect it to the power cable as shown. Connect the opposite end of the power cable to a Kindle PowerFast accelerated charging accessory (sold separately), or other USB power adapter. To learn more about charging accessories, visit http://www.kindle.com/support/charging.

“To start your Kindle, press the power button. To unlock your Kindle, touch the lock icon and drag the shaded bar across the screen to the left. To learn more about your Kindle,  open the Help & Feedback app.

“For Kindle customer support, visit http://www.kindle.com/support.”;

That’s it, the complete instructions for the Kindle Fire. For comparison, the digital camera I reviewed previously comes with a “Getting Started” pamphlet containing 32 pages of basic info in both English and Espanol. How extravagant! The camera also comes with a full manual on a disk, to be loaded on your computer.

I admire the brevity of the Kindle “getting to know you” card. Very encouraging! Obviously, this device must be super user-friendly with an intuitive interface.

BTW, the little white slip of paper in the photo above says: “Danger — to reduce the risk of fire or electric shock . . .” and so on, in English and French. Just so you know.

I pressed the power button on the Kindle and up came the “unlock” bar. With a few tries, I stumbled on the trick of unlocking the thing. I read the welcoming message and clicked through an introductory slide show (which I promptly forgot) and tried to access the manual. I explored a bit, and I can report that the screen is beautiful and easy to read.

Pretty soon the battery ran out.

So I plugged the USB charging cable into the bottom of the Kindle, plugged the other end into the USB port on my Mac, and left it overnight. In the morning, it was still dead.

I fired up the Mac and went to the Amazon Kindle page to learn how to charge the Kindle. Lots of information on different models of Kindle, prices, and how to buy them. But no how-to info. Fortunately, Amazon has a “customer service link.” You type in your phone number, and they call you. They call quickly.

I ask customer service about charging the battery, and she says it takes at least 14 hours using the USB cable. For reliable charging, you need the PowerFast accelerated charging accessory (sold separately).

I ask her if I can find this information anywhere on the Kindle. A silly question.

“OK,” says I. “I’ll buy the PowerFast.” The Kindle is open in front of me. Across the top of the screen is a list of options, with the first and most prominent being “Shop.”

Ms. Customer Service walks me through purchasing the PowerFast accessory. Nothing seems to work.

“Oh,” she says. “You have to be on the Internet.”

“I am on the Net. I pressed ‘Shop’ and I’m connected to the Amazon site.”

“No,” she says. “You’re only connected to the Kindle store. You have to go online and go to the real Amazon Website.”

“Sorry, I thought I was on the Amazon site.”

I ask Ms. Customer Service to convey to someone in authority that the Kindle is neither intuitive nor user-friendly.  Customers like me could benefit from some written information, either on paper or on the device itself. She didn’t seem to understand.

How intuitive and user-friendly is the Kindle Fire? Well, the only two buttons on the black plastic case (the Power button and the Volume button) are tiny and flat. The case is black. The buttons are black. They are invisible to the naked eye, and nearly impossible to feel with your finger.  Since the case is black, could they make the power button white, so you could see it?  How many engineers would be needed to figure that out? Here’s what an authoritative book says about the power button:

“On/off switch. This nubbin . . . is about as big as a candy dot.”

The above quote is from “Kindle Fire: the missing manual, The book that should have been in the box,” by Peter Meyers. I stumbled on the “missing manual” in the new-books section of the public library today. It probably saved me from throwing the Kindle in the trash.

WHAT DOESN’T COME IN THE BOX

(ABOVE: The USB cord at left comes in the box. The small “PowerFast accelerated charging accessory” does NOT come in the box. Also not in the box, of course, is “the missing manual.” You can find it at your library or your book store.)

I flipped through the book, and it appears to explain everything I couldn’t figure out about the Fire through trial and error.

I learned that I can put my Kindle to “sleep” by touching the power button for a mini-second. I can completely power off the Kindle by pressing and holding down the button. I challenge you to find that information anyplace except in the “missing manual.” Kindle must think the “sleep” and “power off” functions are “intuitive,” which is tech-speak for “obvious.”

I learned that when you buy a book, it’s downloaded to your Kindle, right? Or does it go to “The Cloud?” How would you specify whether you want your book stored in “the cloud” or on the Kindle? Can you transfer a book from the cloud to the device?

The missing manual has a section,“Cloud vs. Device,” pages 31-33. It’s a bit technical, and I haven’t had time to digest those three pages. I stopped when I got to the ominous sentence: “Now, of course, there are some catches.”

I checked the book out of the library, and I will study. I’m looking forward to learning how to organize my “bookshelves.” If there are instructions on how to do that on the Kindle, I can’t find them.

I’ve been using the Kindle for several weeks with some pleasure. I’ve discovered how to use the highlight function by trial and error. Haven’t seen it explained anywhere. Highlighting works well, once you figure it out.

So far I’ve bought at least one book, “You Can Buy Happiness (And It’s Cheap)” by Tammy Strobel. And I downloaded an “app” that allows me to listen to NPR interviews. The app works nicely. Last night, I bought a second book, the “daily special,” for only $2.99. I think it was a Jeffrey Archer book. But I’m not sure, because I can’t find it tonight.

When you turn on the Kindle Fire, the stuff you’ve bought or looked at recently is displayed on a “carousel” in the center of the screen. The carousel is nifty. For the past few weeks, the carousel has featured my book, “You Can Buy Happiness” and my NPR app. And the “West Wing” television series, which I stumbled upon while exploring. Did I buy the West Wing by accident? Or do they think I’m interested, and want to close the sale?

Also, the carousel keeps reminding me that my free month of Amazon Prime is about to expire. (I tried to use Amazon Prime, I really did. I couldn’t make it work. It kept asking me to buy Amazon Prime, but I only wanted access my free month. I couldn’t get past the screen that demanded that I buy it before I could use the free month.)

TRIAL AND ERROR BY FIRE

Tonight, I turned on the Kindle Fire, and my books were gone. The carousel was there, leading off with the promo for the free month of Amazon Prime, and lots of information about the “West Wing” — any season you want — and books Amazon sells.

I searched repeatedly for “Happiness” and my NPR app. Using what I’d learned from the “missing manual,” I tried searching on both the “cloud” and on the “device.” Nothing but empty bookshelves.

I searched for the user guide, but couldn’t find it. I tried “Help,” but it returned automatic answers that were no help at all. Whatever I did, I got more books or videos to buy.

Giving up on connecting to Amazon “help” through the Kindle, I signed on to my Mac. I couldn’t find answers at the Amazon site, but I did find Customer Service and typed in my phone number.

They called immediately, and after a minute or two of music, I got a live customer service rep.

“My books have disappeared from my Kindle.” I tell Customer Service about the carousel with Amazon Prime and “West Wing” and so on.

“Oh, you’re getting ads,” says Ms. Customer Service.

“I think there’s a way you can turn that off,” she adds, uncertainly. But she is stumped on how to proceed.

“I just want to get my books back.”

“Wait a minute, I’ll have to ask my supervisor.” Ms. Customer Service put me on hold.

As I listened to music for a few minutes, it dawned on me that Ms. Customer Service and her supervisor don’t know any more about the Kindle than I do. At least I’ve got the “missing manual.”

I wonder if I’ll ever get “Happiness” back? Or my NPR app? Or the book I think I bought last night?

“Good night, Customer Service.” I hung up on the music. I think I’ll plug in my PowerFast accelerated charging accessory. It really works. I recommend it.

I’ve heard that Amazon’s goal for the Kindle is to sell more books. And more videos. And apps. And other stuff.

The Kindle appears to be a very good merchandising machine. It probably is an excellent Ebook reader, too, if I could just figure out how to use it. – John Hayden

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7 thoughts on “Kindle Fire — Power Failure In A Fancy Box

  1. Bernie, I have the plain old Kindle and it is also annoying, though seemingly not as much as yours. I think that you will miss the “bricks and mortar” type of book. What I primarily dislike is that it is difficult to flip back to find something you might have missed earlier on in the book. Also, there are no page numbers. Don’t get me started! I don’t like paying almost the list price for a book and then having only a Kindle to hold in my hand. AARRGGHHH!

    • Yes, the original black-and-white Kindles and Nooks, designed for reading books, are much simpler to use. The color Kindle Fire, which tries to compete in the “Tablet” market, not so much.

  2. Just got the kindle fire tonight and impossible to figure out without directions. Called Kindle and after one hour we were nowhere, still don’t know if it is charging. Rep suggested we go back to best buy (where they know nothing). The rep knew nothing as well and kept asking for our order number. Ready to return and continue to enjoy our one step kindle.

    • You have my sympathy. The Kindle Fire should charge in about four hours using the PowerFast charging accessory. I highly recommend you get the PowerFast. Maybe they carry it at Best Buy. Charging the Fire using the USB port on your computer will take at least 13 hours.

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