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Arrived home to Fresnoland two days ago with a few fun pressies waiting for me. The first one was a new Amazon Kindle. I had asked Bob a few weeks ago to order it for me although I wasn’t too sure if I really wanted it. He assured me that we could return it if we didn’t like it. This in Bob code means that we can order it and if I didn’t like it, he would keep it and then not get in trouble with Mom for buying it. At least that is what I took that to mean.

I still wasn’t too sure about the Kindle. Mainly because I wasn’t that keen on the Whispernet wireless feature of it. Since I don’t live in the US this feature would be virtually lost on me except for this holiday week when I could actually use it. Also at $400 it isn’t that cheap and I could buy the Sony Reader for $100 less. I was sort of fighting for the underdog with the Sony Reader. It was definitely in the running for me purchasing it due to its slicker design and cheaper purchase price. But Bob and I went ahead and opened up the Kindle like two kids on Christmas morning. We couldn’t help ourselves.

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And what I found inside? I was pleasantly surprised. The Kindle is a nice size. About the size of one of those newfangled paperbacks (what ever happened to those smaller books?). It is also lightweight. The backing has a rubbery cover in grey plastic. The front is covered with white plastic with several buttons on each side for turning pages back and forth. On the bottom is a keyboard. I’m not such a fan of the keyboard and would probably have been OK with that functionality not being included. Granted, I understand that it makes searching faster in the shop and making notes feasible. Both of these features are things I think I could live without.

I’m really happy to note that the Kindle was fully charged. Nothing that I love more than being able to play with my gadgets from the start. I have been noticing more and more electronics manufacturers are doing this these days. Good call.

I turned on the Kindle and was off and running. The wireless connected with no problem. The Kindle was also already pre-configured with Bob’s Amazon account which is a really nice touch. I love things that “just work” – a hard feat in these days. Within a minute or so I was already on the Kindle store and surfing for a book to purchase. Within 5 minutes the Kindle had already downloaded its first book and I was reading.

The screen readability was absolutely amazing. I don’t understand why people complain that there is no backlight on the Kindle. Does your regular book have a backlight? Nope. The screen looks exactly like a book, ie easy to read. Plus you can change the font size which is really nice.

The usability of the Kindle is also pretty decent. Very easy to navigate through the functions. I like that the system is fairly simple. There isn’t too much extra functionality which I appreciate. I just want to be able to read and carry a lot of books when I travel and the Kindle works well for that.

As for content. As I said earlier I was a bit wary of buying a Kindle because of the non-ability to use the wireless connection outside of the US. The other issue has to do with licensing restrictions on the content. Amazon does not allow you to purchase content if you do not have a billing address for your credit card in the States. This is a bit of a pain, but nothing that I haven’t dealt with before in the likes of Itunes. Thankfully for me I have a very nice father who understands my need to purchase stuff and allows me to use his credit card. As for not being able to use the Whispernet to download content outside of the US, you can still purchase books on Amazon.com and then go to your digital download locker and manually download them to your computer and sync them up with the Kindle via USB connection. Voila! Problem of getting new books solved although it is too bad that the Kindle doesn’t use a plain old wifi connection which could work anywhere worldwide instead of Whispernet. Oh well, I’m sure it is only a matter of time…

Another few things to note on content. Another deciding factor in choosing to keep the Kindle was the amount of content available. The Amazon store has 90,000 titles available for the Kindle and I suspect that number will grow exponetially as long as the demand for the Kindle continues. This compared to the 20,000 titles available on the Sony site had me pretty much convinced to go with the Kindle for the support alone.

There have also been complaints about DRM and pricing of the content on Amazon. I don’t mind the DRM so much, but I do think that pricing should be reduced. We aren’t killing trees anymore so the price should reflect this, but as with music we are still paying typical retail prices. Oh well. I can live with that given the fact that instead of paying for books in pound sterling, I can pay in dollars and save about 50% of the price. Whoohoo!

Also in regards to content and pricing. I came across a really great site that has e-books for free that are in Kindle format – Manybooks.net. This place houses an amazing number of great classic titles for free. All of it is made available from Project Gutenberg archives. Both sites are run free, but I highly suggest you donate to them. I ended up downloading at least 20 books from Pride and Prejudice to The Art of War. If you find an ebook that is in PDF, html or text format you can simply email your Kindle and Amazon will do a fantastic job of converting them into Kindle format for download for a mere $.10 – bargain!

Overall thoughts? So far, so good. I’m reading away – already finished half a book. I have also ordered a clip-on light for it for those nights in a dark bed while travelling. My recommendation? If you can afford to spend $400 on a gadget or you travel a lot and are sick of carrying books with you then order a Kindle today and impress all your friends.

More thoughts a few days in

  • The lookup feature is really cool and you don’t need to be online to use it. You simply select a line in the text and go to lookup and it displays dictionary results. Love that.
  • Highlighting and noting also nice features although I haven’t had a reason to use them yet.
  • I really like the fact that it uses mini-USB to sync to my laptop, but am bummed that it doesn’t also use mini-USB to charge. I am a big mini-USB fan and it would make my life perfect if all devices would adopt one standard charger and be done with it. My Blackberry charges AND syncs with mini-USB, so why can’t everything else? Come on!
  • The case/cover that comes with the Kindle is pretty much worthless when you are reading. You can only hold the book with your right hand and you can’t fold the flap over or get to the previous page button very easily. I end up taking the Kindle out when I use it because I also like the feeling of the rubbery slip proof back.
  • Not too sure I agree with the previous page button placement. I find that the next page button on the right is so big that you accidentally click it quite a bit, then when going back it isn’t as easy to click the previous page button because it is strategically placed out of the range of my left thumb.
  • I wish that the Kindle had an adjustable kickstand on it. I read a lot in restaurants and at tables and my main issue is trying to eat with two hands and read at the same time. I can lie the Kindle down flat or attempt to prop it on something, but being able to have it stand up would be pretty cool.
  • I still haven’t tried the other features like mp3 playing and web browsing because frankly I don’t give a damn about them.

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