I’m a geek and I admit it. For Christmas I asked for (and actually got) a Kindle from Amazon. Its billed as an e-book reader on steroids. The basic idea is that you can get your books on this electronically and have them in one handy and portable device. In the past, I have avoided e-book readers because they were hard to use, had horrible glare off the screen, weighed about as much as a laptop, and quite frankly, they distracted from the enjoyment of reading. Amazon seems to have gotten it right with the Kindle, though, plus they added a number of great features.
The features included on the Kindle are numerous, but Amazon focused on the basics first. Reading is easy on a screen that uses what I refer to as electronic ink. The screen looks like glass at first, but has none of the glare problems you might expect. In fact, when you’re reading, it looks so much like paper you might be fooled.
To turn a page, you press the side of the kindle, which is like flipping the page on a real book. In fact, the Kindle feels so much like a real paperback in weight and design (its thicker on the right and thinner on the left) that it actually pulls you into the book you are reading. The exact opposite experience of other e-book readers I have tried.
You may notice from the picture that the Kindle has a full keyboard. This makes it so you can easily search for books. Using Amazons “Whispernet” , which piggy backs on Sprints data network, you can search all of Amazon’s 20,000 or so Kindle-ready books.
The great thing about Whispernet is that it’s “free”, meaning its use is rolled into the cost of the e-books you buy. They are reasonably priced and average about $9.99 each. You will find books for a wide range of interests – both fiction and non-fiction. While the books are great, that’s not the only thing you can read on the Kindle.
Amazon has deals with a number of Newspapers to publish Kindle versions of their papers. Publishers like the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post all are publishing to the Kindle. Every morning, the Kindle will download the most recent edition to your Kindle reader. A subscription costs between $6.00 to $14.00 a month. Not bad when you consider you would pay more for it to be delivered, you don’t have to sit in front of your computer to read it, and you won’t have a stack of papers collecting dust in the corner waiting to be recycled.
At this point, you are probably saying to yourself “his article mentions something about Web 2.0 and so far I haven’t seen anything 2.0ish yet”. Well, now we get to the good stuff – blogs. Using the Kindle through Amazon, you can subscribe to blogs and have new articles downloaded onto your Kindle the minute they are published. At $.99 a month for most blogs you can read everything from humor to political commentary. They even have a number of travel blogs to choose from. If you don’t want to pay to read the blogs, though, the Kindle has one last surprise in store for you – internet connectivity.
The Kindle can actually surf the internet. Being black and white and made for text, the Kindle doesn’t handle images very well, but thats not what its designed for. If you want to go and read your favorite blogs you can – easily. Just type in the URL and you will be taken straight to the site. It doesn’t cost anymore than the “free” that we already talked about and it makes a respectable showing of displaying fairly complex websites. So far, there is no support for subscribing to RSS feeds from blogs other than those offered by Amazon, but what do you really expect using a “free” connection?
With a host of other features like an expandable memory, MP3 support, instant Wikipedia and dictionary searches (with just a click), free backups of all your purchases on Amazon’s website, and a pretty dandy little carrying case, the Kindle is easily the best e-book reader on the market right now.
Amazon has gotten it right with this one. If you are an avid reader like I am ,you would do yourself a favor by getting a Kindle and getting rid of all your book cases.