Kindle: It’s About More Than Just Waffles.

An edited version of this column first appeared in The Chicago Sun-Times on November 29, 2007.

So here’s what Amazon went and did. Metaphorically, they invented a humanoid robot capable of autonomous action. Every morning at 4 AM, it gets in your car and drives all over the state, buying fruit, milk, butter, eggs, and other staples straight from the farm. By the time you wake up and trudge into the kitchen, there’s a steaming plate of waffles waiting for you, made from scratch and topped with fresh-picked strawberries and whipped cream.

It’s one of the most awesome consumer products ever. It might even be a landmark moment in technology.

…And Amazon is promoting it as a $399 waffle maker. You can sense my concern.

I mean, yes: the $399 Kindle is indeed a swell electronic book reader, as advertised. I bought David McCullough’s “1776” from Amazon’s Kindle Store and hey, cool, I read it just fine. You can have various periodicals delivered to its internal storage as soon as they’re published. You never even need to connect it to a PC or a Mac if you don’t want to. All content is delivered wirelessly and you can purchase stuff straight from the device.

But really…you couldn’t care less about the waffles. Because:

1) The wireless connection isn’t WiFi. It’s a direct connection to the Internet via Sprint’s high-speed EVDO network. If you’re anywhere within Sprint’s national cellular coverage area, your Kindle can reach the ‘net.

2) The Kindle also includes…a web browser.

3) This browser works great with the mobile editions of Google Reader and Bloglines. You know…those free services that automatically track, organize, and display the freshest content from any blog or website you care to bookmark there.

Deep breath, now:

4) There is absolutely no additional monthly fee of any kind for using the Kindle or the Internet connection.

Wow. All told, the Kindle moves blogs and websites into the real world (the bus ride to work, the table where you eat your lunch every day, the back pew during an exceptionally dull sermon) like no other device can. A laptop’s design isn’t optimized for reading and its mobile Internet connection is usually pretty fussy to activate. And a smartphone is such a cut-down device that honestly, you’re thrilled to be surfing the Web on it at all.

But with the Kindle, reading a blog post is like reading an essay in a magazine. You pick it up and the pages are more or less right there. All of the Flash [ed note: keep capitalization] and froofery of the webpage have been stripped away, leaving just text and the pictures flowing on a full paperback-sized screen. You turn pages with two big fat buttons that are located precisely under your thumb.

You don’t need to be conservative about using it, either. I found that a full charge supported at least 7 hours of Web browsing…roundtrip from Boston to New York on Amtrak, with no gaps in service.

It feels historic. The Kindle is almost certainly the first bona-fide Internet appliance. Buy someone a $399 Kindle and you buy them the Web, wherever they go, for life (well, so long as Amazon never cancels or changes the service).

And give Kindle ten points out of ten for showmanship. It sports built-in search tools for both Wikipedia and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (real humans do a websearch and select the most relevant webpage to send back as an answer, in the form of a new “book”). You can also load your own desktop documents onto the device via an email conduit.

It’s just a shame that the Kindle isn’t a superlative device for reading electronic text. The experience is like a fast-food meal. It’s not great, but you’ll get it down just fine.

I downloaded a free book from the Project Gutenberg site and spent an hour on my sofa reading chapters on the Kindle and then on my iPhone. I can’t say that the Kindle was a superior experience. I preferred the Kindle’s larger display and its page-turning buttons, but I had the usual gripes about the screen’s E-Ink technology. It’s black text on a gray, non-backlit background, so you don’t get the same crisp, black-on-white contrast of the iPhone’s backlit screen. You’re also dealing with the satiny glare from your reading light.

Worst, E-Ink needs to “flash” the screen every time it’s redrawn, which means there’s a huge visual fart every time you turn a page.

But who cares? The Kindle is an incredible product. It’ll be widely compared to the iPod, but that’s a cheap analogy. The Kindle isn’t merely an entertainment device: it’s an information device. A generic, empty book that can be used to read anything on any subject from any source, whether it’s a DRM’ed copyrighted novel, a file from your desktop, or text published on the Internet.

It’s not an iPod. Kindle is the closest we’ve come to the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

After The Show

Ach, there was way too much to say about the Kindle, and way too little space to say it all in print.

I think the most efficient and peppiest way to sum up my reaction is that before it arrived, I was serenely confident that the iPhone would be my favorite bit of tech from 2007…but now the sash and tiara are up for grabs.

Okay, so let’s start in with some more verbiage on that iPhone versus Kindle comparison. I’m not saying that the Kindle is a poor reader. It just isn’t better than many alternatives, the iPhone included. It isn’t really a fault of the device. It’s a weakness of the display technology.

I think I’m prepared to say that E-Ink simply isn’t a great display medium. Its advantages (crisp detail, low power) make it an obvious choice for en ebook device but it has its own share of problems. Most of the complaints I have about the Kindle and its user interface come down to “Yes, but with E-Ink, there’s really no way around that problem.”

If the Kindle had a display like the iPhone’s, I’d be a lot happier. And a lot poorer. I don’t even want to guess at how much a Kindle-sized edition of the iPhone display would run.

But I’ll balance that out by telling you about another little head-to-head comparison: the iPhone’s built-in Google Maps app is damned nice but in a (very) casual test it wasn’t all that much better than the Kindle at helping me find a comic book shop in New York City…!

I was on 57th Street and wanted to visit Midtown Comics down on 40th. A pal of mine thought there was a second location that was closer. I’d been telling him all about how nifty Kindle’s NowNow service is and I thought this was a great opportunity for a live-fire exercise.

“Does Midtown Comics have more than one location in NYC?” I typed, and sent off the query. Then I unpocketed my iPhone and sought the same answer via Google Maps.

I got an answer from the Kindle only about a minute after I got it from my iPhone.

Yes, it’s an unfair and unscientific test. It didn’t include the time I spent submitting the question. The iPhone also lost another a minute or so because I’d left the Map app in “route” mode. One of the few terrible design flaws of the iPhone software is that if you’re in “route” mode there’s no obvious way to get back to “Where is this location on a map?” mode.

I’ve had my iPhone since the first day of release. I’ve written a book on the thing. And yet to this very day, I can only switch from one mode to the other via blind luck. That’s bad design.

So let’s make adjustments and say that the Kindle took 5 minutes and the iPhone found the second location in a minute flat. The answers that NowNow returned were way better and more than made up for the time deficit. The iPhone showed me the two Midtown Comics locations on a map, along with phone numbers, addresses, and a URL to the site. When I checked the Kindle and opened the new “book” that contained the answer to my question, it lacked a map but also included subway directions plus driving directions plus store hours. Not bad at all.

In fact, I spent the whole weekend playing with the service. “How does meat become pastrami?” I asked, after ordering a deli sandwich. And a few minutes later, an article from “How Stuff Works” arrived, describing the whole process. I actually got three answers (same info from different sources) by the time my sandwich arrived.

I imagine a feature like that will truly prove its mettle when I need to ask it a question like “A cop has just asked me for permission to search my backpack. Do I have the right to refuse, and if I do, does he have the right to run me in just on general suspicion? Please hurry.”

It’s these little things that make the Kindle such a seductively cool device. It’s nice to have a phone with Internet access but my iPhone (and other smartphones) are jack-of-all-trades devices. Your relationship with the Kindle consists solely of reading information. Any other features it might contain (like NowNow) are just mechanisms for getting more text to land on the screen.

At its core, the Kindle is a light, compact device that (metaphorically) contains the Wikipedia in its entirety; the complete text of every RSS-enabled site that you care to follow through Google Reader or Bloglines…as well as tens of thousands of commercial titles.

The context in which a resource operates has a big influence on how you come to regard that resource. I’ve been using Bloglines and Reader for years. I’ve even been using them in a mobile context (on laptops and smartphones) for years. But the Kindle is the first device that feels like a conventional book which constantly refreshes itself with content published on the Internet.

Truly. I did hear Ford Prefect saying “Don’t worry, the Guide will have something to say about that” as I keyed in my Pastrami question.

Plenty of folks are raising a huge stink about the Kindle Store’s DRM. This is probably just a knee-jerk reaction. Yup, it’d be swell if I could buy any Kindle book in a format that I could use on any device. It’d be even cooler if all of these books were free. And delivered to me personally by Uma Thurman wearing her “Baron Munchausen” costume. You know…the first one.

But look, if you hate the DRM, then just don’t buy any DRM’ed content. I did buy a couple of books and a newspaper through the course of testing, but 99.99992% of all of the time I spent with the Kindle was spent reading free content…either stuff online, or free content that I’d downloaded and installed myself.

My big fear when I first heard about the Kindle was that it’d be one of those sucker’s deals where you give $399 to Amazon and in return, you get the right to keep giving Amazon more money, $10-$15 at a time. Lots of these useless products have shown up on the market over the years.

But that’s certainly not the case here. You can do pretty much whatever you want to do with your Kindle. It’s such a flexible device that it really doesn’t seem expensive…not even at $399.

There will indeed be lots of analogies to the first iPod…which also cost $399 when it was first released. And some of that sticks. I do think in a year or two, Amazon will have a radically different product that’s a whole lot slicker and cheaper and which more people will relate to.

But I actually think it’s more similar to Apple’s Newton MessagePad. It, too, was a transformative, groundbreaking device without an accurate precedent…something likely to be miscategorized and misunderstood by the public. It was a fab machine but it didn’t find its feet by the time the CEO who championed its development left the company. He was replaced by a typical short-sighted bean-counting stooge who wouldn’t know innovation if it bit him in the butt. He immediately canceled the whole Newton division. Moron!

(Oh, wait…it was Steve Jobs.)

That brings up what is probably the Kindle’s biggest advantage over Sony’s ebook reader and every other attempt to bring a device like this onto the market. It’s not the technology or the 80,000-title Kindle Store or even the lifetime of free coast-to-coast high-speed Internet:

It’s the simple fact that Amazon is willing to eat it for a few years until the Kindle becomes a permanent and familiar part of the landscape.

Jeff Bezos is investing billions in building his own private spacefleet, for God’s sake. You don’t think he’s willing to keep Kindle afloat for as many years as it takes?

A few final details that didn’t make the final column:

  • Yup, it’s damned ugly. But it’s ugly in the same way that a Stealth fighter is ugly. All of those weird angles and edges have purpose. In the fighter, the edges are to force incoming radar to bounce off in harmless directions. In the Kindle, they help make it more comfortable to hold. Each edge seems to fit comfortably into a crook of your hand.
  • That said: yeah, the only way you’d ever see a prototype as clumsy as this on the Apple campus would be if it were clenched between the buttcheeks of the engineer who presented it to Steve Jobs. If the guy completes a lap around the entire Apple campus without dropping it, he gets to keep his job. At half-salary.
  • Yup, you can put your own docs on it, and you can install free ebooks available hither and yon. The Kindle uses a proprietary ebook format but if you use the Kindle’s email conduit to install your docs, Amazon will happily convert popular file types (text, HTML, Word, JPEG, etc.) to native .AZW format. The book I mentioned in the column was Mark Twain’s “Innocents Abroad” and it installed just fine.
  • PDF support is “Experimental.” That is to say…they’re still working on it. I was hoping that I could load up .PDF editions of a few comic books, but apparently they were too complicated. A simpler PDF of a set of travel confirmations worked just fine, though.
  • Speaking of “experimental,” the web browser I mentioned is also an Experimental feature. I did ask, nervously, if this meant that these Experimental features might be so designated because Amazon isn’t really committed to keeping them. Nope, the designation is just a warning that the feature might not work flawlessly under every circumstance.
  • Followup: but given that Amazon has a certain amount of control over the device through that steady Internet connection, could Amazon “remove” features for whatever reason? Answer: well, technically, sure, but as a general rule if a feature is on the Kindle you can expect that it’s there to stay.
  • 256 megs of built-in storage. That’s plenty for most purposes; each book is just a meg or two at most. When you connect it to your desktop via USB, it appears as a standard mass-storage device and you can access its internal folders. But the only time you actually “need” to dock the Kindle is when you want to put Audible audiobooks on the thing. There’s also an SD card slot under its back plate for expansion.
  • The Kindle is wrapped around a rich, nougaty center of Linux.
  • It comes with a cover that’s supposed to make the thing look like a hardbound book. I thought it was silly and “precious” and wish they’d included a simple slipcover or even just a plastic snap-on top that protected the screen. In fact, I don’t think I even managed to get that cover on the way it was supposed to go.
  • The page-navigation buttons are great when you’re reading something but a bit of a nuisance otherwise. It’s impossible to pick up the Kindle (to move it from one corner of your desk) without nudging one of these buttons. So unless the Kindle is asleep, picking it up off the sofa and continuing to read where you left off before you answered your phone is a two-step process: picking up the Kindle, and then undoing the page-turn that happened when you nudged one of the buttons.
  • I wish I knew why the Kindle even bothers to sleep itself in the first place…probably to avoid random keypresses during transit, I suppose. After being ignored for a while, it wastes power replacing the text you were reading with a picture of Emily Dickinson or somesuch, and you can’t get back to your text without executing a two-handed buttonpress. The Kindle might therefore be the first electronic device to consume more power via Sleep mode than if it just waited patiently for you to pick it up again. Even if a Sleep mode is important, a two-handed buttonpress isn’t an elegant answer to anything.
  • The blog subscriptions is a pretty pointless exercise. You can get the same content for free via the Web. It’s only of use if you want to carry the blog with you onto a plane or something, where you can’t use the wireless.
  • Good news: you can buy newspapers by monthly subscription but you can also just buy today’s edition. I can see doing that a lot on my way to board a plane. Fifty cents is cheap; you can buy it blindly and be sure that there’ll be something interesting in there.
  • Bad news: the newspapers you buy don’t contain any syndicated content. I bought the San-Jose Mercury News because it has a terrific comics section. Nope, no comics to be seen in the Kindle edition.

What else, what else…well, the answer to the question “Can I use the word ‘fart’ in The Sun-Times?” turns out to be “Sure, just not in the lede paragraph.”

35 thoughts on “Kindle: It’s About More Than Just Waffles.”

  1. I was really interested in how comics would work on the kindle. I have been looking for years for a good device to read online/PDF/cbr comics and I heard you briefly mention comics and the kindle on TWIT this week. Now that Marvel is releasing 40 years of Spidey on CD and monthly comics via the web, I’m sure DC (my preferred universe) is not far behind. Maybe PDF support will improve on the kindle or tablets (with built in Silver Age paper smell) will come down in price.

  2. Andy,

    I can’t thank you enough for your thorough review of the Kindle. I had been holding off on purchasing one until I heard from someone in the tech journalist field properly review it. You are the one reviewer that I always go to (due to your love of tech, comics, and strange Biblical allusions). This was seriously one of the best posts that I’ve ever read on any product; not only was it complete and thorough, but you definitely had the end-user in mind when you wrote this. I enjoy your commentary on Macbreak Weekly and the Apple Phone Show – I’m always bummed when you’re not on. Thanks as always, Andy!

  3. @chip – A laptop screen held sideways is still the best portable comic reader, I’m sorry to say. The Kindle does a decent job, but the monochrome screen plus the lack of real agility in the user interface makes it a subpar experience.

    It’s perfectly swell for reading webcomics, though.

    @Jeremy – Thanks!

  4. Hmm. Probably DC. These days, there’s too much going on at Marvel that makes me say “Nope. No way. I don’t buy that characterization or that plot development for a moment.”

  5. More than just agreeing with you on Marvel’s convoluted crapfest. I stopped reading comics about 3 months ago because I was just so depressed. Nothing seemed fresh; it was a lot of old plots rehashed to a younger generation that had no point of reference. The worst was “Spiderman: Reign” which was nothing more or less than “The Dark Knight Returns”. And I was really starting to enjoy “Superman Confidential” if for nothing more than Tim Sales art. Anyway, I follow your Twitter feeds, so if you see someone reply or direct a message to you from jeremypihl, that’s me. Oh, and if you don’t have them, here are a couple of “Kindling” links for you:

    http://manybooks.net//

    http://www.feedbooks.com/

    and this last one is due to your many mentions of things Biblical in nature – http://www.ccel.org/

    Have a great one, Andy!

  6. @Jeremy – I kind of wonder how I’d react to “Civil War” and “World War Hulk” and all the rest of Marvel’s big events if I’d never read a Marvel comic before in my life. I’m pretty confident in my opinion that these storylines really make little sense, aren’t terribly consistent with what’s gone before, and require that nearly ever comic that comes out afterwards includes an implied note from the editors saying “For the purposes of this story, please assume that all of the huge ‘nothing will ever be the same again after this’ stuff that’s happened in the past couple of years had no far-reaching impact whatsoever.”

    Superman Confidential is a treat, but “All-Star Superman” is one of the best series of the past ten years….

  7. Andy,

    I read “Civil War” in its’ entirety, as well as the prequel to “World War Hulk”. I can honestly say that once I finished those series’ (along with “House of M”), my first thought was, “Who cares?” I was looking for the really good stand-out stories, and just couldn’t find them. I’m taking wagers on when Steve Rogers will be back in the flesh. But hey, the grist-mill says that they’re going to kill Bruce Wayne this year!

    Sadly, I’ve come to the conclusion that there just aren’t too many lightning rods left. I have glimmers of hope in “Invincible” which I read and will re-read, because it is that good. And I’ll go back to “Hush” and the Loeb/Sale Batman graphic novels. I make a habit of reading “Watchmen” once a year, and “The Dark Knight Returns”. And by the by, I too enjoyed “All-Star Superman” – Quietley’s art is so unique and lends itself to that title so well.

    All that said, what is the AIPotW (the Andy Ihnatko Pick of the Week)? Or year? What are you reading right now that you would be radically bummed about if production was stopped on the title?

    Enjoying the banter, Mr. Ihnatko!

  8. Great review, but:

    1) Blogs aren’t free.

    2) A lot of people are saying that with the Kindle placed in the cover properly, they’re not having any problems with accidental button presses.

    P.S. The only Marvel book I bother with anymore is The Punisher. And not the goofy superhero one, either.

  9. @Jim – Blogs are free, free, free when you view them directly, through the browser (or via Google Reader or Bloglines). The only blogs that cost money are the ones that Amazon packages and uploads to your Kindle as electronic books.

    Regarding the cover — it’s fiddly to put on, it adds bulk and weight, and it makes the Kindle harder to hold in one hand. Piece o’junk…again, the Kindle would be better off with a hard, snap-on plastic protector for the screen.

    It’s been a long time since I checked out The Punisher. Seems like a good comic to check out in trade form…take in a whole arc and then put it down for another few months.

  10. Andy,
    Just curious, since you like the Kindle so much, is there any chance of getting any of your books on it anytime soon? (No, that Xcode book does not count)

  11. @Jim – I can’t put it any more plainly than this: you’re completely wrong. You open the Kindle’s web browser. You tap in the URL of the blog you want to read. Kindle opens the blog. You bookmark it. Done. Or, you use it to access Google Reader or Bloglines or somesuch. You don’t pay a penny.

    Again, blogs only cost you money if you subscribe to them via the Kindle Store. Each morning, the blog will be uploaded to your device as a new book, which means you can read it on a plane or anywhere else, whether you have access to the Sprint wireless network or not.

  12. @Jason – I’d like to. Those decisions are made a few pay grades above my head, though.

    One cool think about Kindle that didn’t make print — Amazon will let just about anybody add content to the Store. So if I wanted to self-publish a book of Norse brunch recipes, I’d just have to create an account, upload the necessary files, set a price, and just sit back and wait for the cash to start rolling in.

    The bad news is that Amazon takes a fairly huge share of the proceeds. But I think lots of people will see it as a revenue source that they didn’t have before. “Information wants to be free” but “authors like to get paid.”

  13. Free, blogs aren’t. Blogs are free? Not!

    Was your computer free? Is your Internet connection free? Is the electricity you use free? Even if you’re not paying for it, somebody is. And that’s putting aside having to ignore the ads that a lot of the big blogs have. Just because you’re not paying per blog, that doesn’t mean you’re not paying anything.

    Blogs aren’t free.

  14. After about a month with the Kindle (or since your review), do you still use it? Is it still more than just waffles? I would like one but still am not sure. I tend to be an almost early adopter – except for the iPhone, I ordered it on the night of release at 6:01 local time.

  15. Yup. As someone who needs to keep on top of a hell of a lot of blogs every day (for business and pleasure) the Kindle is a real one-of-a-kind. I gotta send my loaner unit back and I’ll probably be buying one in the future.

    (What I’m NOT doing with it is buying content online. Still can’t get into the idea of purchasing digital books instead of the traditional kind.)

  16. Thanks, Andy, for your thoughts on the Kindle, both here, in the Sun Times, and on MBW. I think you nailed it with the automagic waffle maker metaphor. I finally ordered a Kindle, though it’s on back-order so I have no idea where I am in the queue.

    It’s been said that the Kindle has the potential to be for e-reading what the iPod was for music. I agree with that, but I think we should never expect the ubiquity of the iPod. This isn’t a reflection on the Kindle itself but instead a comment on the fact that most people just aren’t readers. What are the stats on the average American reader? Something like *one* book per person post high school? Dreadful but true. Almost everyone listens to tunes and watches video, but the number of readers will never approach that. Just compare book sales to DVD sales. For those of us who do read, however, the Kindle is the first realistic step toward a ST:TNG pad.

    Thanks again for the review. Please keep us posted on how the Kindle is working for you.

  17. Yes thanks for the review and updates. As one who has moved several times and gets tired of paying to move countless books, paper and hardcover, I would dearly love to be able to keep them all with me on a single device and/or SD cards. I can’t imagine owning one and not downloading digital content. The Kindle seems like it will be a massive improvement over the Palm Treo e-reader experience, now if I could only transfer them to the Kindle (when I get one..)…

  18. It’ll be interesting to see how Amazon chooses to define this business. Is the Kindle a way to build their market for electronic books, or are electronic books a way to build a market for the Kindle?

    There’s an obvious reason why Apple’s willing to make just a couple of pennies’ profit on every iTunes track. Because the Store helps sell iPods, with their delightful high double-digit profit margins! If Amazon licenses their DRM to Apple and other makers, then we’ll see a real ebook revolution.

  19. To my (probably misguided and naive!) way of thinking, it would make sense for Amazon to open the Kindle platform to all comers so that purchasers of any type of ebook can move content to the Kindle; thereby enabling everyone to get at least a small piece of the ebook pie. Alas, I suspect that like Apple, Amazon will want to control as much as they can in their own ecosystem for as long as the market allows. ebooks seem to be in the same spot that music was a few years back before the increasing demand for DRM-free tracks. I wonder whether the ebook market is large enough to lead to a comparable move to remove DRM. Time will tell.

  20. I have yet to hold Kindle and am quite intrigued but I don’t think I’ll be rushing out to buy one just yet. In Nov ’07 an acquaintance on the mythtv-users list pointed out that the Nokia N800 dropped to US $200. The very first app I installed on it was FBReader which was quickly followed by the Guttenburg feeder. This functionality alone makes the device worth the cost IMHO with the added bonus of the web, email, IM and many more linux widgets that are flowing into the repositories.

    The N800 is the second hardware incarnation of Nokia’s grand experiment in producing the ‘perfect’ internet tablet (the 770 and N810 round out the family). Rich and creamy Debian linux draped in a Hildonized GTK frontend (an adventurous lad has even ported the entire KDE framework to it) yet this device is probably the single most frustrating piece of hardware I’ve ever owned — and I bought a Newton way, way back.

    It’s closed-source base applications are fundamentally deficient in one manner or another which will drive you to the repositories to see if there is a worthy replacement. There nearly always is but stuffing that app into the device, learning it’s intricacies/foibles, and the realization that all the time I spent to come up with a better solution was for naught has driven me to tears on occasion.

    As an ebook reader (which DOES handle PDF’s quite fine, thank you very much), the Nokia tablets have the Kindle on the mat in a full-Nelson but I dare you to use it as a laptop/UMPC replacement.

    I double-dare you.

  21. Andy,

    I just received my Kindle – which I purchased based on your comments here and on podcasts – and I was wondering, where is iPhone fully loaded? Wouldn’t you be making some extra Kindle Kash if I could download your new book? Or is there other reasons not to have it in Kindle format?

    Keep up the good work. You make the Apple Phone Show & MacBreak Weekly worth listening to. Can you help Leo out on TWIT? It’s getting painful to listen to.

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  23. I just gotta say I love my kindle and the cheap books.

    My taste is a bit rough but I enjoyed “The Misogynist” by Emily Downs.

    It can be a bit vulgar at times. Be warned. But it’s cheap.

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Misogynist/dp/B001V5J4VO/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1246301307&sr=1-2

    She is the bestselling author of “Lisa Loves Girls”

    http://www.amazon.com/Lisa-Loves-Girls-ebook/dp/B002EZZJ4Q/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1246298800&sr=1-7

    2 books for under 2 bucks. THe kindle will own publishing.

  24. First, let me say that the Kindle 2 is my first dedicated ebook reader (previously I’ve read ebooks on my computer). So I’m not approaching the new Kindle from the standpoint of whether it’s worthwhile to upgrade, but whether it’s worth it for a new buyer.

    My conclusion: It definitely is. I love this device!

    I love the lack of eyestrain. I’ve read steadily since I got it (four and a half long books thus far), and it doesn’t strain my eyes any more than print reading– less, really, since I need bifocals but haven’t quite gotten around to getting them yet, and the Kindle lets me adjust the font size. Reading novels on my computer made my eyeballs feel like they were going to pop out after a while. Reading on the Kindle, on the other hand, is a pleasant and easy experience. The lack of backlight is not a problem for me, as I read it just as I do any other book.

    It’s just as lightweight and easy to handle as promised. I’ve read it lying down in bed, lounging on the couch, sitting in the carpool line at preschool… I find it awesomely convenient to be carrying around a library of twenty-five books (hey, I’m just getting started here!) on a device that’s smaller than a trade paperback. I’ve already gotten to the point where my Kindle goes everywhere I go. If I have to wait in line at a restaurant or a doctor’s office, it’s great to be able to grab my Kindle and start reading whatever I feel like reading at that moment. The buttons are self-explanatory and easy to handle, and yes, after a while the device really does seem to “disappear.”

    I love the automatic bookmark feature. The fact that the Kindle remembers where I was reading, so I don’t have to, is nice. Also, the built-in dictionary is very useful and will probably improve my vocabulary, as it enables me to look up the word instantly, rather than trying to remember to look it up later (and usually forgetting). I also enjoy the ease of ordering books– I do tend to do my surfing of Amazon on the computer, because it’s faster, but if I’m in the bookstore and spot a book I want to read, it’s nice to be able to order it directly from my Kindle.

    The selection of Kindle books is good. I have found a few I couldn’t yet obtain (Catch-22 is not yet available in a Kindle edition, go figure!), but I do realize that’s in large part a publisher issue– some publishers may not be willing to have their books put into e-format. So I don’t blame Amazon for that. Overall, the pricing structure seems reasonable– $9.99 for a book that sells for much more in hardback doesn’t bother me (I do draw the line at spending any more, however), and many books are cheaper than that. I’ve also found plenty of free or almost-free older books, which has allowed me to pad my library with comfort reading like “White Fang” and “Little Women,” as well as classics I’ve never gotten around to reading somehow.

    The device itself is certainly not cheap, and even in the long haul, I don’t expect that it’s going to save me significant money. I don’t have a problem with that, as it’s a luxury item. It’s like buying an iPod– no one HAS to have an iPod, but it’s a great thing to have. I am getting a great deal of enjoyment out of my Kindle, and don’t begrudge the price at all. I bought the standard leather cover, since I carry the Kindle with me in my purse, and I like the way it folds back out of the way when I read.

    The one thing I would like to see in the next generation of Kindle is a larger screen. If the designers could figure out a way to have the screen extend all the way down the front of the device, I think that would improve the reading experience just a bit. But that’s not a complaint, just a suggestion. Overall, I’m very pleased with my Kindle 2. In fact, after only a couple of weeks, I’m already addicted to it!

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