I’ve finally had a chance to play with the Amazon Kindle. I won one for my company t-shirt design contest about a month ago. I have to say I was really skeptical at first about owning one. First the price tag was too high. $300 buys me a lot of books so I have better things to do with $300 than to drop it on yet another electronic device which comes with no books. Sure I can download some free public domain books but we’ll get to that. I even bought a leather cover made specifically for it since the Kindle looks like it would get dirty and scratched really easily.

First and foremost, the Kindle is thin. When I first opened the box, I was amazed by how thin it was. I was not expecting iPod touch thin, but that’s about the best I can describe it.

Can’t touch this. My first impression of the Kindle was that it was a touch screen. Maybe it was the clear display or perhaps the vague UI, but somehow I was mislead to try to touch the screen. Of course nothing happened because you are not supposed to touch the screen. You use the buttons provided. There are navigation buttons on the left and right on the screen to go back and forth between pages. There’s a joystick nub to let you go up/down/left/right.

Easy on the eyes. Reports about the refresh rate on the screens are true. The Kindle screen definitely beats staring at the monitor. You won’t even notice reading on it for hours. Too bad they don’t have it in color.

1 Click shopping. I purchased my first e-book on the Kindle today. The process was painless. Almost too easy. All you had to do was search for the book you wanted, navigate to it, and click the buy button and your e-book will be downloaded in the background through WhisperNet. It literally took a few minutes to download the whole book.

Free books. So the cool thing about the Kindle is that Amazon lets you download some public domain books for free. I’ve downloaded some fairy tale classics as well as The Art of War by Sun Tzu. So that’s great right? Wrong. They don’t make it easy for you to find all those free books. At least the iPhone app store sorts by free and paid apps. You get no such thing here. It’s up to you to try to sort through the mess.

The Fine Print.Here’s where they get you. You can also read blogs. However it’s not as easy as putting in an RSS feed. Well, you can read the ones they’ve prescribed for you which are popular blogs. However, it’s gonna cost you. Usually it’s $1 a month subscription for EACH blog. I was surprised to learn that you DO get a cut of the action if somebody subscribes to your blog. However, it’s a measly 30% as opposed to the iPhone app store’s generous 70%. So if I were to subscribe to my 300 RSS feeds that I currently get for free through Google reader on my G1, I’d be paying $300/month on subscription fees. Insane. Yeah, screw that.

The extra stuff. The Kindle comes with an experimental browser. I played with it for a few minutes. It was a painful way to browse the web, from entering the URL to actually perusing websites. We won’t be replacing our iPhones and netbooks anytime soon.

The UX So I decided to give the Kindle a fair shot before I wrote it off, seeing as I got it for free and all. To that end, I’ve bought a book – which I thought could not be made any easier and started reading on it. I’ve read it on the train, on my breaks and on the couch. It’s pretty awesome. There are 3 things about the Kindle that make it a better book.

  • You don’t have to turn the page. It’s much easier to move to the next page by hitting a button than it is to flip pages. You get lost in the flow of reading and not interrupted by page turning.
  • You don’t have to constantly alternate between reading the left and the right page. Again, it’s a subtle change in the way you read, but I like this better.
  • You can read while you eat. If you’ve ever tried to read a thick paperback while eating, you’ll know what I mean. The chunkiness of the paperback forces you to have one hand on the book at all times. If you want to turn the page, then you are forced to use your other hand. Makes reading and eating a bit hard. However with the Kindle, your hands are free to eat.

To sum it up, I like the Kindle because it’s thin and convenient. I don’t have to lug a huge book(s) around. Also, I save a little money since e-books are a bit cheaper. The drawback is that I can’t lend it to my friends of course. I also like to stick post it notes in my books. You can write notes on e-books too but it’s a bit awkward. I probably won’t buy all the books I want to read on here. Some of the price difference between real books and e-books was so small I would rather spend a few more bucks to get something physical and tangible. Plus Amazon can’t decide to later revoke my book. All in all though, I like it. Would I have spent $300 to get it – probably no.

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