UPDATE TWO MONTHS LATER: Now that I've had the Kindle for two months, I still think it's horribly ugly, but I use it EVERY DAY. I subscribe to the NYTimes, to Newsweek and a few blogs. I've purchased 12 books so far and converted/downloaded 20 free ones. The battery life is very good as long as you only turn on the Wireless when you need it. Additionally, I've started using the Kindle as my primary Audible audiobook device and love it. I just slapped a 2gig SD card in and I've got 50+ hours of audio. It's the only device I need for long plane rides.
A year ago I had a Sony Reader for a month and reveled in its awesome screen. It's true, in case you haven't heard, e-ink looks like paper. At least, as close to paper as anything that's not paper can look.
I finally broke down and got an Amazon Kindle for my birthday.
If you are already bored with this post and want to stop here, here's the conclusion. I love it.
The Good Stuff
This device exists for one reason and one brilliant reason only, for Amazon to more easily extract money from my wallet. It's an entire device built around the concept of "One Click" ordering. You do get a second chance if you accidentally order a book, but it's designed for the impulse buyer. If I hear about a book on NPR or The Daily Show, I can get it immediately. If I read a nice book cover at the Airport bookstore on a long layover, I can buy it.
Once you realize its purpose and accept it and are OK with it, you'll like this as well. I like the "any book in the world in one minute or less" (and Bezos is not kidding, the books show up FAST) that I'm disappointed when a book isn't available.
The screen interface is clean, if slow to redraw (because of the e-ink), with just a few obvious usability things that I'm sure they'll fix with regular updates.
I was also thrilled to see that it integrates with Audible, so I popped a two gig SD card in and grabbed a gig and a half of books (about 2 weeks of audio) from my Audible subscription. Why not use a MP3 player? I have had a love/hate relationship with my iPod and consequently have faded away from using it. I find myself listening to XM Radio more often, or using a Zune with the All You Can Listen To Zune Pass, so my iPod has kind of laid fallow. At this point, I just really like the idea of all my books, audio or otherwise, on this one device. It also has a surprisingly loud speaker so I can listen to books without headphones which surprised me.
The Kindle also has an experimental mobile web browser. I say Mobile, because you should consider the Kindle like a really slow Mobile Phone with a slow to redraw grayscale screen. My blog recognizes the Kindle as a mobile device and renders nicely, even with pictures.
This discovery was just an added benefit. I can also check email (painfully) with Gmail's mobile interface. This alone justified, to me, the Kindle's keyboard that I'd previously written off as silly. The Kindle has the potential to be quite the handheld computer if Amazon allows it. For now, I'll just bookmark my new Mobile Home Page http://cantoni.mobi and be happy.
It works great with PRC Mobile eBooks (a standard) and as such the whole Baen Free Library (and many other similar ones) are available to me.
The Kindle has its own email address so I can send myself PDFs for 10cents and they'll show up pretty nicely. No, I haven't done PDFs with big images or code, but I can tell you that technical books looked lousy and hard to read on the Sony Reader, and I have no reason to think that the Kindle would be better.
There's a collection of newspapers available, so I got a trial subscription to the NYTimes. I love it. It shows up every day and it's got pictures and everything. Reading the newspaper has naturally fit into my day much more cleanly now, and I'm not in front of a browser for 30 minutes reading. It's more linear in that respect and I prefer it.
It's also got blogs, but they cost a buck or two and I'm not in there so phooey on them. ;)
When you're in an EVDO coverage area, the wireless is surprisingly fast.
The "Meh" Stuff
The Next Page buttons run almost the length of both sides of the thing so I keep accidentally turning pages. Also, I've fallen asleep holding the buttons at least twice and found myself with a dead battery and on the last page.
It's ugly. From a design perspective, it's just not sexy. That said, the Sony Reader wasn't exactly clever either. If I were Amazon I would have gotten the iPod designers on board to help. I will say that it's design is more thoughtful than the Sony Reader's and after a few days I stopped caring. It just works.
The screen is paperback book sized, and I wish it were about 30% larger. There's just too much bezel framing it.
It's still $150 more than I'd like it to be, but I bought it anyway because I KNOW I'll use it. I use it every day to read the newspaper, which was also a surprise. (see above)
Do be warned, there isn't coast-to-coast coverage. If you live outside the US, or outside a decent-sized city, you won't have coverage. That said, I still live an hour outside of Portland and I have coverage and I likely will have coverage everywhere in the US that I'd visit on a business trip.Be sure to check the Kindle Coverage Tool.
I'm thrilled with the purchase, overall. The wireless ability is the key. I didn't want YET another device to dock to my machine. I am so sick of syncing things and looking for tiny USB cables. I even think I could get a device like this for an elder relative and they'd be able to use it without trouble. I suspect that the Kindle will have me reading more often (and I already read a lot). Recommended.
Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.
"And it is for a reason..you don't want to be admiring how good the device is, but rather read the content on it. Bezos says something to that effect in the intro video."
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.