My new Kindle Fire

by on November 15, 2011 at 4:40 pm in Books, Web/Tech | Permalink

I have no idea what it does, rather I bought it out of rational Bayesian inference.  It looks and feels cool; at first I thought Apple had sent me a new product by mistake.

Unfortunately, other than turning it on (itself a struggle), I cannot figure out what to do next.

Yana will be home later.

1 Silas Barta November 15, 2011 at 4:44 pm

rather I bought it out of rational Bayesian inference

No, just … just no.

2 Abe November 15, 2011 at 5:00 pm

That might be one of my favorite MR sentences of all time.

3 JVM November 15, 2011 at 5:24 pm

I believe he was joking.

4 Franklin Harris November 15, 2011 at 6:45 pm

That’s just what he wants you to believe.

5 bunker brown November 15, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Can someone please translate this into layman’s terms?

6 NRPS November 15, 2011 at 10:37 pm

“rational Bayesian inference” probably means that he held a prior belief that Amazon makes good gadgets (e.g., the Kindle) and/or that gadgets that get a lot of positive buzz are usually worth buying, and therefore it was best to just buy the Kindle Fire now rather than take a lot of time to research and deliberate, because the probabilities favored it being worth buying.

Anyone getting in line to buy the next Apple release are doing the same thing.

7 Andrew' November 16, 2011 at 7:54 am

A while back all the rage was these little old-fashioned lab notebooks. I’m not sure what the must have academic accessory is right now, I guess a Kindle Fire.

8 Cristobal November 17, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Also I think there is a feedback loop implied in Bayesian inference. As in he has believed that Amazon made good gadgets, has bought them and then reinforced his belief and possibly iterated through this loop multiple times…each time increasing likelihood of further Amazon gadget purchases and/or usage.

9 Ryan Cooper November 15, 2011 at 4:46 pm

“Yana will be home later.”

I’m still giggling.

10 Dave Barnes November 15, 2011 at 4:55 pm


11 Andrew' November 15, 2011 at 4:59 pm

It’s like these people, MP3 players, books, video devices, haven’t figured out that they have the ability to put instructions on something other than a 4 by 6 foot foldout with 12 languages.

12 JWatts November 15, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Sorry, your completely wrong in this case. The Kindle Fire ships with minimalistic instructions. The exact opposite approach, though you would have been right most of the time 😉 Maybe the instructions are minimal because Amazon is competing directly with Apple who are well known to follow a minimalistic approach.

“The Kindle Fire is packaged simply in a cardboard box inside a sleeve. The only items inside are the Kindle Fire itself, a charger, and a card in a slot printed with the briefest of instructions. ”

From ArsTechnica’s review –

13 Sigivald November 15, 2011 at 7:14 pm

The foldout with 12 languages is an example of minimal instruction, despite the hyperbole about the size.

His complaint (which I take as probably tongue in cheek, though it’s hard to tell on the internet) is exactly that the instructions are minimal, and thus Tyler had trouble turning it on or knowing what to do with it.

(Though, again, I’m 99% sure Tyler is not … entirely serious about that.)

14 Andrew' November 15, 2011 at 9:03 pm

No, my complaint is that an I-Pod comes with an instruction sheet rather than an instruction audio.

15 eddie November 16, 2011 at 3:39 pm

I like to listen to music and read instructions. Perhaps you’re the other way around.

16 Jason November 15, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Really? There’s so many things wrong here…

Tyler, I think you’re brilliant on culture, current events, and economics. I think perhaps you shouldn’t branch into tech discussions.

17 tkehler November 15, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Why not? If Tyler only pronounced on things he knows a lot about, this blog would be a more boring place to visit.

18 Alan November 15, 2011 at 5:13 pm

My grandfather (born 1905) once said to me “My grandfather knew how everything he owned was made. Now, people buy things even though they don’t know how it’s made, don’t know how to use it and don’t know what it can do. Sometimes they don’t even know what it’s for.”

19 joshua November 15, 2011 at 6:17 pm

The loss of knowledge that comes with modern technology has a cost, to be sure, but the benefits (usually) seem to outweigh them. The things that I own can do far more for me than anything your grandfather owned, even if I do occasionally have to pay for replacements or repairs.

20 Deman November 15, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Nice reply, I was about to go into my ‘things were better in my days’ mode.

21 Ari T November 15, 2011 at 6:57 pm
22 doctorpat November 15, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Really? He knew how wheat grew? Or just in vague general terms like “You put the seeds in the ground and they just grow.” Which means he really didn’t know any more than the guy who says “you just put steel and rubber into a car factory and they make a car”, but we’ve outsourced the magic part to a plant rather than other humans.

23 Alan November 16, 2011 at 1:46 am

I never met my grandfather’s grandfather but I know he was a flour miller in Herfordshire. So, yes, I am pretty sure he knew quite a lot about how to grow wheat. My point is that, 150 years ago, most people (and most people did not live in cities) would have known the person who built their house, made their clothes and grew their food. Most of them, given the tools, could have made a serviceable if inelegant version of nearly all their (few!) possessions. On the other hand, I don’t even know how to make a pencil and I suspect that no-one here knows either.

No, I do not lament the good old days. I would not prefer to have this discussion by posting a letter 🙂

24 Slocum November 16, 2011 at 7:16 am

My point is that, 150 years ago, most people (and most people did not live in cities) would have known the person who built their house, made their clothes and grew their food.

No. 150 years ago was 1861, and the industrial revolution was already nearing 100 years old at that point. There were international markets in all kinds of products (hell, there were international markets in mass-produced goods — wine, oil, grain, pottery — during Roman times). In 1860, if people knew who sewed their clothes (possibly themselves), they did NOT know who grew the cotton, or who wove it into cloth or who designed and manufactured their sewing machine. If they knew who built their house, they didn’t know who felled the timber, or cut it into lumber, who made the glass for their windows, or the nails and screws, or who produced their stove, or their pots and pan, or pottery, or tools, or …

25 NAME REDACTED November 16, 2011 at 5:26 pm

The 19th century had an incredible amount of international trade. Chances are you didn’t even live in the same country as the people who grew the cotton for your dress.

26 Anonymous November 15, 2011 at 5:21 pm

“I have no idea what it does, rather I bought it out of rational Bayesian inference.”

Isn’t this the epitome of crass consumerism?

27 Anonymous November 15, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Yes, but that’s Tyler for you.

28 mrpinto November 16, 2011 at 7:23 pm

I think you guys have been trolled. I guess… that’s Tyler for you.

29 Bill Harshaw November 15, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Somehow I’ve turned into a late-adopter, so I eagerly await Yanna’s conclusions on its value.

30 affe November 15, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Basically, you buy sh*t.

31 Deman November 15, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Basically, your comment is the same.

32 affe November 15, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Basically, your mama dresses you funny.

33 Deman November 15, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Basically, it seems we have too much time.

34 affe November 15, 2011 at 11:41 pm

Touche, sir.

35 Andrew' November 16, 2011 at 3:48 am

You could be gazing on a new Kindle.

36 Andreas Moser November 15, 2011 at 5:55 pm
37 Tom Jackson November 15, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Any chance of a link to define terms such as “rational Bayesian inference” for the journalism majors in your audience?

38 Kumar November 15, 2011 at 7:10 pm

Might be Tyler’s tongue-in-cheek sarcasm of Jeff Bezos’ letter to shareholders which starts with this geeky blather:
“Random forests, naïve Bayesian estimators, RESTful services, gossip protocols, eventual consistency, data sharding, anti-entropy, Byzantine quorum, erasure coding, vector clocks ..”

39 Andrew' November 16, 2011 at 5:14 am

Well, the “rational” part refers to wishful thinking.

40 Nylund November 15, 2011 at 6:06 pm

My reading list of academic papers is getting out of hand. For everyone one I actually read, at least two more get added to the list. It seems like a waste of resources (and physical space) to print them out (especially the ones I know I’m not gong to read in detail), so they just get added to a folder on my computer where they sit until I have the free time to read them. Often, when I find myself with the free time to read such things, I’m nowhere near my computer (like waiting in a doctor’s office, or when I crawl into bed). Recently, I’ve been thinking that if I had a device like the Kindle Fire that I could more easily travel with, I’d be more likely to read that ever-growing list of pdf’s. Heck, maybe I could put the Kindle Fire on the little magazine shelf on the elliptical machine at the gym and I could read papers while I work out.

Or maybe I’m just creating an excuse to buy a new gadget. I really can’t tell. I do know that the iPad seems too expensive to justify solely for the purpose but that the simpler Kindle/Nook things just don’t seem “fun enough” to get me excited enough to buy one. I’m thinking the Kindle Fire (or the new Nook) might hit the sweet spot of being potentially useful and also “fun.”

I’d be curious to know how it works out for you.

41 Deman November 15, 2011 at 6:31 pm

I had the same issue – use Kindle or Kindle DX not fire. Problem solved. Your addiction will get worse though.

42 A. November 15, 2011 at 6:49 pm

I wish they updated the Kindle DX, you really need the big screen for pdfs

43 Claudia Sahm November 15, 2011 at 7:20 pm

An iPad with the Papers app works wonderfully…you can tag papers with information about the authors, journal, etc. You can also create your own collections and file one paper in multiple collections. Finally, you can highlight text and type exportable notes…which then makes writing referee reports a “breeze.” Plenty of other excuses to buy an iPad.

44 Rahul November 15, 2011 at 11:26 pm

I tried with a regular Kindle and was a fail. Like A. says one needs the big screen for pdf’s. Also, I found that reading a paper without being able to annotate it was a bigger handicap than I realized. The images and graphs rendered pretty bad too.

45 Urstoff November 15, 2011 at 11:56 pm

This is pretty much the only reason I’m interested in it. The ipad is way too expensive if the primary purpose is to read pdfs, and there’s no really good program that converts .pdfs into Kindle format and makes them look remotely readable.

46 John Voorheis November 16, 2011 at 1:40 am

The 7″ form factor is just plain too small for PDF reading for any length of time – the extra couple inches of space you get with a 10″ tablet (iPad or the by now significantly cheaper 10″ Honeycomb tablet – Galaxy Tab, Iconia, Transformer, etc.) is worth at some of the extra cost. Plus the Fire seems pretty locked down.

47 Andrew' November 16, 2011 at 4:10 am

Difficulty reading PDF on e-paper…Howard Roark just barfed in his grave.

48 Jacob Felson November 16, 2011 at 5:37 pm

I’ve found that my reading life has been transformed with the Kindle w/ 3G access. One can annotate and highlight passages, and then export them to an Excel file using the free service at Also, one can tweet passages. I use twitter now to keep a collection of excerpts that I find particularly compelling.

Several extensions to the Chrome browser allow you to quickly send PDFs and HTML files to the Kindle. PDFs are converted. True, sometimes this doesn’t work out well — some graphics don’t come out very well. But I’ve been satisfied on the whole. I didn’t get a Kindle DX because I wanted something relatively small that I could read on the subway, on a walk, etc. Also, I know that a device that I carry with me all the time is eventually going to break — probably within 1 or 2 years. I don’t want to pay $380 for a device that I know is going to need replacement within such a short amount of time. I think the $140 Kindle 3G — with a $30 case w/ light is perfect.

49 jkl November 16, 2011 at 6:27 pm

to quickly send PDFs and HTML files to the Kindle. PDFs are converted
Amazon do that for free. But graphics pdf does not convert. Google books for example.They could be converted until one month ago. Even if the format contained mistakes

50 Trebbers November 16, 2011 at 7:10 pm

This may not hold for the older Kindles, but the new ones display PDFs natively. However there’s no option for text re-flow, so you have to manually zoom in/out of a static PDF. Depending on the PDF, this can be a giant pain in the ass.

51 Franklin Harris November 15, 2011 at 6:43 pm

I submit that if you can’t use a Kindle Fire without help, you may not be equipped to live in this century.

52 Bill November 15, 2011 at 7:12 pm

There may be an Ipad App that can show you how to use your Kindle Fire.

53 Andrew' November 16, 2011 at 5:15 am

Siri is going to be despondent.

54 dearieme November 15, 2011 at 7:48 pm

I’d have thought that the words “kindle” and “fire”, coupled with the onset of cool weather, might have been a clue.

55 Brandon Robison November 15, 2011 at 8:08 pm

Yes, I suppose pressing the button on the top could be considered a struggle.

56 anon November 15, 2011 at 8:59 pm

The power button is on the bottom.

I work with tech all day and have loads-o-gadgets, and it took me a few minutes to figure it out.

Make sure your hands are clean – it is a fingerprint magnet.

57 Dan November 15, 2011 at 8:42 pm

There’s something Cowen can’t do? That’s inconceivable!

58 Andrew' November 16, 2011 at 7:36 am

One must signal effective use of graduate students from time to time.

59 John November 15, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Rational Bayesian inference, aka “The Next Big Thing”:

Millions of consumers proceeded to their nearest commercial centers this week in hopes of acquiring the latest, and therefore most desirable, personal device.

“The new device is an improvement over the old device, making it more attractive for purchase by all Americans,” said Thomas Wakefield, a spokesperson for the large conglomerate that manufactures the new device. “The old device is no longer sufficient. Consumers should no longer have any use or longing for the old device.”

Added Wakefield, “The new device will retail for $395.”

Able to remain operational for longer periods of time and occupy a demonstrably smaller three-dimensional space, the new device is so advanced when compared to the old device that it makes the old device appear much older than it actually is. However, the new device is reportedly not so radically different as to cause confusion or unwanted anxiety among those familiar with the feel of the old device.

“Its higher price indicates to me that it is superior, and that not everyone will be able to afford it, which only makes me want to possess it more,” said Tim Sturges, owner of the old device, which he obtained 18 months ago when it was still the new device. “I feel a strong urge to purchase the new device. Owning the new device will please me and improve my daily life.”

60 KenF November 15, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Playing with it for a while, it’s obviously worth $200, but it makes you realize that the iPad 2 is worth $1,000.

61 anon November 15, 2011 at 9:23 pm


62 Deman November 15, 2011 at 9:30 pm


63 anon November 15, 2011 at 9:53 pm


wrong again

64 Deman November 15, 2011 at 10:15 pm

My comment was based on the logic behind comparing the utility of a product with another product three times the price.

65 mrpinto November 16, 2011 at 7:31 pm

@Deman, yours was bad logic. Irrespective of the price, the Kindle and iPad have overlapping functionality. The price doesn’t have anything to do with it.

Similarly, I drive a nice car. There are cheaper cars. Far cheaper in fact. Driving though, I tend to value my car more – perhaps even more than the premium that I paid to own it in the first place. Rephrasing – my experiences with other vehicles have left me in a spot where I wouldn’t trade you even if you gave me the difference in sales price, plus a bit.

You weren’t using logic, you were making an ad hominem attack. Basically, you were suggesting that the OP was blinded by his love of Apple and unable to form an informed opinion. This despite the fact that OP has (or had possession of a Kindle Fire), which suggests that his opinion is more informed than yours, if not more so.

66 Deman November 16, 2011 at 11:25 pm


I wasn’t disagreeing with OP. I know the Ipad is the best tablet out there even though I don’t have one – it seems to be the gold standard. However, I suspect my ‘logic’ will only be apparent to non-apple fanbois i.e. the relevance of comparing different classes of products as evidenced by other fanboi comments. I suspect this comment will also fall on apple-deaf ears.

67 anon November 15, 2011 at 9:56 pm

After a bit of use, I actually prefer the Kindle Keyboard 3G with offers for $139.

Also see

68 Deman November 15, 2011 at 10:58 pm

Err..the Kindle Keyboard 3G is an E-reader – something completely different from a tablet (Ipad or Fire).

69 Andrew' November 16, 2011 at 8:55 am

I applied to be an Apple Fanboi one time. I got an e-mail reply that said “Please leave us alone.”

70 michael November 15, 2011 at 9:41 pm

what do you do with an ipad?

71 question the question November 15, 2011 at 10:00 pm

About 100 times what you can do with a Kindle. Though if you’re only interested in reading books, the Kindle’s nice.

72 Deman November 15, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Yes it makes complete sense to compare a e-reader to a tablet. Bravo Fanboi.

73 mrpinto November 16, 2011 at 7:34 pm

The Fire is more than an e-reader. Further, the iPad IS an e-reader, among other things. The two devices are competitors among some classes of consumers. If even the so-called fan boys realize this, why can’t you?

I’ve rarely seen the term fanboi wielded intelligently. You’re just making the “rarely” even rarer still.

74 Deman November 16, 2011 at 11:28 pm


You are confused. For your benefit:

Kindle Fire = Tablet
Kindle/Kindle 3G/DX/Keyboard = E-Reader

75 Andrew B November 15, 2011 at 10:41 pm

One major thing you can’t do on an iPad is read a book with anywhere near the physical and ocular convenience of a Kindle. Read a book on a Kindle while riding the subway and you will never read a book on the iPad again. This probably is not true for the Fire.

76 Claudia Sahm November 16, 2011 at 7:09 am

Andrew B. I would disagree about reading books on an iPad… I use a Kindle app for reading books while commuting on the metro. Standing on packed metro trains, I hold my iPad in one hand sideways. It took some practice, but I can comfortably flip pages with the same hand and not drop the iPad. Sure a Kindle may be easier for reading e-books, but there are costs to hauling around and keeping track of one more gadget. Plus on my iPad I can switch easily from books, to PDFs, to blog posts (which BTW are nicely viewed in the Flipboard app).

77 anon November 16, 2011 at 8:24 am


78 Deman November 16, 2011 at 7:04 pm

I hate carrying any extraneous stuff on short trips, so use the Kindle App on my Droid phone – its synced to Kindle so opens to the right ‘page’ where I left it on the kindle. Also I can use the phone to check gmail, surf the net etc. It would be a bother to carry anther gadget – e-reader or tablet.

79 mrpinto November 16, 2011 at 7:36 pm

@Deman, lol. You have an Android?


Am I doing it right?

80 Deman November 16, 2011 at 11:32 pm

Yes I have a Droid Phone. I also have a symbian smartphone and a Kindle. I also have a dell laptop and a desktop running Ubuntu. I hope you find this information useful.

81 Borealis November 17, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Half the videos on the internet cannot be watched on an iPad because Steve Jobs has a feud with Adobe.

82 Steve M November 15, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Ces Fanboises, ils sont fous.

83 Rahul November 15, 2011 at 11:29 pm

Can one write on the Fire like one does on some tablets? i.e. Handwriting recognition?

84 EdH November 16, 2011 at 7:39 am

don’t see why you couldn’t write on it, the only question is if there’s an approved Android app for that. For now it’s essentially a media device for consuming Amazon content. So . . . 1) open box 2) charge battery 3) turn on 4) connect to wi-fi 5) navigate to Amazon 6) buy Amazon Prime 7) watch endless reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show.

85 Jenny Davidson November 16, 2011 at 12:51 am

It is possibly the case that the Touch would have been preferable to the Fire! But – a practical suggestion. Download a copy of Siddhartha Deb’s “The Beautiful and the Damned: Portraits of the New India.” I guarantee you that you will enjoy it. (Ignore if you already have a ‘real’ copy!)

86 Andrew' November 16, 2011 at 4:31 am

At this point I will never need to buy another doorstop. Do you liberate gadgets?

87 xenophiliuslovegood November 16, 2011 at 6:33 am

Tyler, can’t believe you are technologically inept.
You have to start learning programming, now.

88 Marked to Market November 16, 2011 at 7:23 am

Doesn’t he already have an iPad? Why buy a fire as well?

89 Slocum November 16, 2011 at 7:41 am

At $200, the Kindle Fire is almost an impulse purchase, and it’ll do everything that 90% of people do with their iPads (web, ebooks, Netflix, play angry birds). One important drawback is no android marketplace and no google apps (gmail, maps, earth, docs) — at least not without some hacking. And there is no camera, no GPS, and no microphone (so no Skype calls); it’s really a media consumption device, not a general purpose tablet. The main potential advantage is the Amazon ‘ecosystem’ — streaming video included with Amazon prime and their new Kindle lending library, for example. The Fire will live or die depending on the appeal of the Kindle ecosystem — but the device itself is, by design, nothing special (it’s actually less capable than the B&N Nook Color tablet).

90 Borealis November 17, 2011 at 10:37 pm

How can one live without a GPS and 5G camera in your computer?????? It almost makes you think Americans could have been wiped out by Big Foot when he sneaks up on lost hikers without cameras.

91 wedding dresses November 17, 2011 at 4:21 am

Anyone getting in line to buy the next Apple release are doing the same thing.

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