I’m really enjoying my Amazon Kindle e-Book (http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Amazons-Wireless-Reading-Device/dp/B000FI73MA). I find the text display easy on the eyes. I find I use it just like a book. I read on planes, in bed, during solitary meals. For me, the most appealing capability of the Kindle is the ability to instantly download a book, newspaper, magazine, or article from Amazon at the drop of a hat. The result is that I’ve tripled my book purchases in the 3 weeks since I’ve been using my Kindle. This is great news for Amazon.
The Whispernet wireless connectivity is what makes this so easy. It’s virtually invisible networking. There’s no set up required. It just works. You can go to the Amazon store from the menu, navigate thru options (books, newspapers, magazines, etc.), or search for authors or titles. Then you can download a sample for free, and, if you decide you want to read more, you can buy it. The purchase is automatic. The transaction happens using your Amazon One Click settings. And it is possible to cancel the transaction if you change your mind or made a mistake. The selections available are good enough. There are a number of current and older books I would have liked to have on Kindle that aren’t available in this format.
Right now, I’m carrying around three novels, two business books and free trial subscriptions to a few newspapers. (The trial newspaper subscriptions will automatically convert to monthly subscriptions, so I canceled the ones I’d rather buy by the issue).
I’m also evaluating the Kindle for my vision-impaired Mom who, now 90, can read large print, but needs a magnifier for normal newspapers and books. She’s an avid reader. I’m hoping that the she’ll find the largest type size on the Kindle adequate for her needs and that she’ll enjoy the freedom of reading her treasured New York Times, Newsweek, and the latest books without a magnifying glass. I’m also hoping that she’ll find it appealing to listen to audio books via the Kindle. It may be more natural for her to hold a book and listen than it is for her to put on a CD to hear a book read aloud. I’ll be taking her Kindle to her in a couple of weeks. We’ll see. It may be too high tech to be comfortable.
Pros: For a voracious reader, the Kindle is really convenient. You can carry a library with you and you can add titles whenever someone recommends one. I value the “just-in-time” download capability. I can be sitting in an airplane lounge and grab another book without getting out of my chair. The form factor works. It’s handy, convenient, paperback-book sized and easy to throw in your handbag or briefcase, or just carry around. It comes with a nice leather cover and an elastic band to keep it in the cover when you’re not reading it.
Any digital books you buy are yours forever. They don’t expire. They won’t disappear. Amazon stores them on your digital library online, so you can always reload them. Or you can connect your Kindle to your computer to save files and/or to download your own files or music you want to enjoy on your Kindle.
Cons: I wish Steve Jobs had designed the Kindle. There are so many little touches his team would have done better than the Amazon team. For example, to navigate among options, you use a wheel that scrolls a strip of what looks like aluminum foil up a narrow slot along the right hand side of the page, and then press down on the wheel to select that line of text or that menu option. The silver strip is not as visible as it could be, and the up/down/select is a relatively clumsy navigational tool.
Although the Kindle comes with a nice leather cover, the little clip that’s supposed to connect the Kindle to the inside of the cover doesn’t. So you have to be careful that it doesn’t slide out of the cover when you’re reading it. It should have been easy to design a good mechanism for anchoring the Kindle into its cover.
You can download music/MP3 files to listen to music or audio books, but not directly from iTunes. Since many of us have our music libraries on iTunes, it would be nice to have a more seamless way to download directly from iTunes. (I imagine that Apple won’t see fit to partner with Amazon, but it would be great!)
It’s also surprising that the Kindle’s SEARCH functionality is not up to snuff. You have to be careful to specify whether you’re searching within a book or in the store or on the Web. It defaults to searching the world! And, even searching Amazon.com’s own bookstore, you’ won’t find things you would find if you used the online search. It’s very strange.
You can annotate, but only by typing on a pretty bad keyboard with small hard-to-read keys. A stylus interface for circling and scribbling would be much better. Once you’ve saved a piece of text or typed an annotation, you can keep these in an annotation section, but you can’t selectively delete or edit these. They’re either all there, or you delete all of them. Pretty klugey.
Finally, my biggest disappointment: The wonderfully invisible Whispernet (which is based on Sprint’s EV-DO network) does not roam internationally. So, here I am in Europe longing to read today’s copies of the New York Times and San Jose Mercury News on my Kindle over breakfast. I was hoping to open up my Kindle, click on the Amazon store and download today’s papers as I helped myself to the breakfast buffet at the hotel. But the only way to access them is to download them from my Amazon account onto my PC and plug my Kindle into my PC to synch the files. That’s much too much work to do before my first cup of coffee! There are rumors that Amazon is in discussion with Vodafone to provide wireless connectivity in Europe. I hope that happens soon! For non-U.S. customers, you should be aware that not only doesn’t Kindle’s networking work outside North America, you can’t purchase a Kindle or download content unless you have an American Amazon account (with a U.S. billing address). I believe the obstacles to making the Kindle content available internationally include digital rights issues as well as communications infrastructures.