First the confession: I am a moderate technophile. Moderate because I don’t find myself NEEDING technology and I don’t run out for the new hot thing. Technophile because I do love gadgets and devices.
I tend to do a lot of research and hold myself to a 30 day wait period on tech purchases. I have been eyeing up this sleek white ebook reading machine since the original came out in 2007. At that point I couldn’t justify the price of the Kindle and was unsure whether or not it was for me. Further, I tend to shy away from first releases because I play the role of tentative consumer.
This November I began the research again and I wasn’t quite sold on it. But the firmware update of December made it start to make a lot of sense (more on this in a bit).
Two final notes I’ll make before I get into the 10 Things I Love About the Kindle. First, one of the initial reasons I didn’t buy is because I have a bookseller who is a friend and is AMAZING at his trade. To many booksellers the ereader movement is the bane of their existence and I want the existence of my friend to be as beatific as possible. I will continue to purchase text on tree pulp from him forever.
Finally, I should note that I am on my second lil’ machine. I have a penchant for buying refurbs, and although I have had good provichance with these in the past, the first Kindle I got was not “structurally sound.” No biggie. I used it for a month and returned it. Although the $219 price for the refurb was rockin’ I decided on the second time around to purchase it new ($259).
OK, enough of the prelims. Onto the nitty gritty.
I will follow this up with 10 Things I Don’t Love About My Kindle. Also, fellow Kindlephiles please feel free to correct any of my errors. I am still getting the hang of the little beauty.
In no particular order:
1. It feels good in bed (snicker, snicker):
Naysayers, skeptics, and luddites argue that holding an ereader device just isn’t like the feel, smell, and over-all experience of a good ol’ fashioned book. I was in this fold once too. But lo and behold when I finally purchased the little thing I fell in love (irony of ironies: my first purchase was a Wendell Berry book). The Kindle2 measures 8″ x 5.3″ x 0.36″ and weighs 10.2 ounces. The six inch screen is ample size for reading, while maintaining portability. Although thin as a pencil, the Kindle still feels sturdy. Oh, and it holds over 1500 books. My back says thanks.
I have found myself reading the Kindle sitting, standing in line, walking to work, but the ultimate in comfort reading is laying in bed. Some of my colleagues claim (in good Berryian fashion) that technology disconnects you from the act of reading. My response is: a book is technology. The clumsiness of the pulp-text is overcome by the little book machine, ultimately making one closer to the text–not further away (insert philosophical arguments here).
2. Free 3g:
I will admit the proverbial camel’s back-breaking straw was the free 3G service (provided by Sprint). The 3G connection allows the Kindle to connect to Amazon’s site via Whispernet. Browse for books, preview first chapters for free, and with a quickie-clickie you’re reading in under 60 seconds. Cool. Not really necessary, but cool. But wait there’s more!
I love the internet. And most of what I love about the internet is accessible on the Kindle (this may not apply to most).
I am able to read most text based sites, write emails, and check the weather. I read the news in the morning, read RSS feeds, tweet, and search wikipedia. Among the preloaded bookmarks are CNN, MSN Money, Fandango, ESPN, Google, and AllRecipes. And although you can purchase blog subscriptions that are wirelessly delivered to your device, most of these blogs have mobile versions that are readily available via the wonders of the world wide web. Although not lightning fast, the speed is fine by me (it took six seconds to load my twitter feed).
If you are going to buy the Kindle because you want free 3G service you might be disappointed (although I don’t believe there are other devices that offer this free). It is limited. But I have found it sufficient for my purposes. And I am far too cheap to pay 30 bucks a month for a data plan.
Ah, the Experimental Features (yep, they call them just that). One of these is the basic web mentioned above. The other features are a bit lackluster. The Kindle has a basic MP3 player (a bit of a disappointment in the navigation department… although you can “trick” the Kindle into thinking songs are audio books for better searching) and Text to Speech. I listened to Don Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years on a long solo road trip. By the end of my time the mechanical text to speech feature had me saying, “Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto” to the fair memoirist.
Remember, the experimental features are just that: experimental. The Kindle won’t replace your MP3 player of choice… today. But the future is bright for these and other possible applications.
4. There’s an app for that:
Speaking of potential and applications, in January 2010 (allegedly in response to the announcement of the IPad) Amazon opened their ereader to 3rd party application developers. You won’t be playing the latest version of your favorite first person shooter on this machine (let alone Ms Pacman. I’m currently pulling for Oregon Trail), but I am looking forward to the creative programs that are on the horizon. Again: potential, potential, potential.
5. PDF Viewing:
This was a deal-breaker ladies. When I first looked at the Kindle it had a rather cumbersome (and potentially costly if you want it through Whispernet) process for loading PDF’s. You could email PDF’s to your Kindle email address and they would be uploaded to your machine. Thankfully a firmware update made it so PDF’s can now be loaded natively. Although it is still lacking some features in PDF (annotations for one), it is a giant leap in the right direction. I will write more on this when I get to my review of Kindle2 for the Humanities Academic.
6. Excellent selection:
OK, I don’t buy many books. I haven’t bought many books for some time. I buy the pulp-texts that I really want to hold on to or lend. But overall I have been a library/ILL man. That being said, Amazon’s selection and price (in most cases) is above and beyond other ebook sellers. Now, the best part regarding selection: free public domain books! As a philosophy student and classics nerd this makes the Kindle worth the price tag. I have downloaded Dovstoevsky, Twain, Joyce, Calvin (and I could choose Hobbes), Nietzsche, Descartes, Plato, Kant, and more! If it be your persuasion, you could purchase the Kindle, read forever, and never buy a book for it. There is plenty of PD content (and free posted books) to keep you busy.
7. EPaper Technology:
Listen, believe me, the epaper works. No, really, it works. I tried to read for pleasure and research on other devices in an attempt to sidestep the dedicated ereader. I tried my Sony sj-22 PDA and my netbook. After an hour of reading on an LCD I would be done (and feel like I was working). Neither read nearly as nicely as the epaper screen (nor will the IPad). I adore it. Really, it makes a difference. One little warning. You should know there is no backlight to the Kindle. Reading in the dark requires a light (and that is a very ridiculous thing to say, but you get the picture).
The controls on the Kindle work well. They are simple and intuitive. Flip pages with the push of a button and use the five way toggle to navigate the screen. It also has a volume control (for a not very impressive speaker), and a sleep/power switch. One thing I expected not to like is the changing of the pages with a button push. On the contrary it gets intuitive and is, in the end, less “interruptive” than the turn of a fibrous book.
9. Qwerty Keyboard:
OK, I tried to like the sony PRS model that features a touch screen with note taking via stylus. I just couldn’t. The qwerty keyboard is very responsive and keys are adequately spaced for my sausagesque fingers. The keyboard features letters, numbers, caps button, alt key, and a symbol select button (I would prefer a shift key for symbols to share the number spots). The keyboard is excellent for sending messages 140 characters at a time, making annotations in books, and for the more adept, crafting emails on the fly (me and my sausages keep this to a minimum).
I absolutely would not buy an ereader without this option. The Kindle allows in-text annotations, highlighting, and bookmarking. An added neato-burrito feature is that all of your annotations etc are brought together into one document called “clippings” for one big note pad party. Very nice for this dissertation writing weakling.
The Kindle is not all grins and giggles. There are drawbacks. My next mini-review will note the things I do not love so much about the kindle.