The Amazon Kindle Experience

by | Jan 20, 2011 | Practical Tips, Product Review

Apparently I was a good boy this past year and I received an Amazon Kindle for Christmas!  I hadn’t really had a good opportunity play with it until a recent trip that I took with the family.  I just got back yesterday so I figured I’d jot down a few thoughts while the experience was fresh in my mind.

First off, the details on what exactly it is I’m reviewing.  I got the Kindle (Wi-Fi) edition.  To get the skinny on this unit directly from Amazon you can check it out here:

First off, when you get the package there’s some verbiage on the outside of the box telling you just how easy it’s going to be to open the product.  I’m here to tell you that it’s absolutely true.  It’s SO irritating to get a new product that’s bogged down with packaging and really difficult to open.  This one isn’t.  Thank you Amazon.

When making out my Christmas wish list, I decided to go with the Wi-Fi version (rather than the 3G version) for a couple of reasons.  First, it’s $50 cheaper right off the bat.  Amazon has done a great thing with their pricing, as well as getting their products into stores like Target.  Secondly, I live in a rather “connected” world where I’m always around a wireless network (home, work, Starbucks, etc.) so I didn’t foresee the need for the 3G service.  The only time you really need connection is when you want to download a book.  There is an experiential web browser available but I’ve got a Blackberry and a laptop so I don’t think I’ll be doing all that much “surfing” on my Kindle.  There’s also the Kindle DX version available, but I was looking for someone small and cheap so I didn’t even consider this larger MUCH more expensive ($379) version as an option.

The Nuts & Bolts:

  • 6″ diagonal screen.  If you’re like, you can modify the screen orientation to either landscape or portrait.
  • 8.5 ounces
  • Can hold 3,500 books.  I don’t know about you, but I haven’t read 3,500 books in my lifetime… I don’t think.
  • Battery life of 1 month (wireless off) or 3 weeks (wireless on)

Pros, Cons & General Observations:

It Looks Like A Book – I’ve never used an e-reader before so I wasn’t sure exactly how this would be.  I’m on a computer all day every day so I was a little worried about my eyes getting tired looking at yet another screen.  I’m happy to report that I read quite a bit with no noticeable eye strain.

It’s Light, Small & Thin – If you’re traveling, this is going to be a HUGE pro.  About the size of a typical paperback and  thinner than a pencil this is a very easy unit to tuck into a briefcase or carry on. I’ve seen commercials where people put them in their back pocket as well.  Not sure that I’d suggest that as I don’t know how well the screen would do with someone sitting on it but nice to know that you could.

No Back Light – I suppose I’d put this in the “con” column but it could also be a “pro” from the eye strain perspective.  You need to be in a well lit area to read a “normal” book and that holds true with the Kindle as well.  If you’re in the dark you’re not reading with this unit.  Not a huge deal if you’re coming from the paper book world but something to note.

Black & White – When I was doing my research, I was looking at some other readers including the Nook, iPad, etc.  For some reason I got it in my mind that I needed an e-reader that showed colors.  Then I realized that 99.99% of the books that I read are nothing but black text printed on white paper.  That’s exactly what the Kindle provides.  If you’re a big magazine or USA Today reader then you may want to think twice about solely black and white Kindle, but otherwise you’ll be good to go.

Bookmarks & Such – I’m not a “look up the word” kind of guy when I’m reading.  If I don’t know a word I plow on through and try to figure it out as I go.  That said, if you’re the type of person who like to understand every word of what you’re reading you’ve got a built in dictionary, the ability to bookmark and highlight passages, add your own notes and annotations and search the book.  Very cool.

Forward/Back Buttons – On either side of the Kindle there are forward and back buttons for “turning” the pages.  There is a large and a small button on both sides.  I would have assumed that the large button on the right turns the page forward (which it does) and the large button on the left turns the page backward (which it doesn’t).  In actuality, BOTH large buttons turn the page forward and both small buttons turn backward.  Not a huge deal, but took some getting used to.

Pages Vs. Locations – Rather than keeping track of “pages” on the Kindle, it keeps track of “locations”.  In addition, there is a small percentage indicator at the bottom of the pages letting you know how far you are through the book.  You can jump to any location in the book from the menu.  An oddity that I’ve found is that when I turn on my Kindle from sleep mode, I’m not always on the exact location I was before.  Never too far off, but one or two locations either way.  A minor irritation but something I’ve gotten used to.  This is probably my fault cause I tend to stop “mid page” when I’m reading rather than at the end of a chapter.

The Books – In general, Kindle versions of the books are much cheaper than paperback (and definitely hardback) editions.  It’s Amazon’s vision to have, “every book ever written, in every language, available in 60 seconds from anywhere on earth.” That’s pretty cool.  I was worried about tying myself to a specific format (Amazon) but they’ve already got 800,000 titles available as well as 1.8 million out-of-copyright titles. It’ll be a LONG time before I read all of that.  I can no longer go to a library and check out my books, but Amazon has implemented Book Lending which allows you to let other Kindle users “borrow” your books for a couple of weeks.  For my wife who’s HUGE into being “Green” she loves the fact that I’m no longer contributing the “killing of trees” for my books.

So there you have it.  Sorry for the long winded post.  There are certainly more detailed comparisons and reviews out there, but that’s the stuff that stood out in my mind.  I couldn’t be happier with my Kindle and with a few minor exceptions I’d definitely recommend it for avid readers out there.  I’ve got a couple of authors that I’ll always pick up hard copies of their work (Robert B. Parker), but for the overwhelming majority I’m going digital.

Also, be sure to check out Eric Clemens’ review of the Kindle 2 here.