Jan 17, 2008

Kindle is pretty hot!

I bought a Kindle for my wife for Christmas. This is the new e-book Reader from Amazon for those of you who don't quickly warm to the latest gadgets. Aside from making one want to pun a lot, the Kindle has a lot to recommend it. I now know, because this past week the wife deigned to allow me to take it on a business trip.
Why $400 is a bargain
First of all let's address the one negative everyone on the web is complaining about, the price. Hell, your retirement portfolio just lost about 20% of its value this week due to the stock market decline what's a measly $400 for a Kindle? Plus you can always do what I did and pretend to buy it as a gift for your wife and then steal it every chance you get.
What a lot of folks don't seem to appreciate is that the high speed wireless cell technology, Whispernet (Sprint's EVDO) is FREE! Compare that to the $20/month you pay for the iPhone's (no I don't own one) unlimited data connection (which is much slower than EVDO by the way) and by the end of year two the Kindle is paying you to own it.
The kindle comes with a web browser so you can surf from anywhere you have cell tower coverage for free. I checked my email, went to various sites and everything seemed to work fine (although a little colorless). I used it in LA, Memphis and Chatanooga and the coverage was good both at the airport and my final destination.
MP3s and Audio Books Too!
There were a couple of surprises I wasn't expecting after reading about the Kindle on Amazon's site. First of all you can stick up to a 4 GIG SD card inside You can load not only e-books, but mp3s and audio books on it. We logged into our Audible account, authorized the Kindle copied over our audio library and instant aural gratification. Getting MP3s to play is simply a matter of creating a folder with the proper name and putting your MP3s inside the folder. You can create an entire hierarchy inside the music folder and the Kindle will still find all the songs. You hit Alt-P and it starts randomly playing the MP3s while you read. Admittedly a little bit limiting for an MP3 player as you can't see what is playing, create or use play lists, or do anything else but just listen while you read. You can skip a song by hitting Alt-P twice.
Buying Books
Buying books is a breeze. You just go to the store and browse and search to your heart's content. You can grab a free preview (the entire first chapter in every one I tried) of any book. I found this a pretty good way to find out if I liked a writer's style. It's almost a little too easy to buy books. The two books I bought were on my Kindle less than a minute after I clicked the buy button. Of course since you spent $400 on a reader you're going to have to spend at least a couple of multiples of that on books just to make it worthwhile. At $9.99 for new bestsellers and typically about $5 for older books you're going to get a lot of books. One of the bestsellers I was looking at was close to $35 for the real book and $10 for the e-book, buy 16 of those and the Kindle just became free!

Not Buying Bookcases or Suitcases
Whenever we go on vacation my wife loads up on about 20 books. Of course she loads these into my suitcase because hers is already full of clothes. Just the savings on my chiropractic bills is going to pay for this thing. Heck now she can bring 2,000 books if she wants! Plus I'm not going to have to buy any more bookcases or a new house to hold them. That $400 is starting to seem like a great investment. We buy books because we love to read not because we love to own books. If you love to own, resell, trade books then a Kindle might not be for you.
Looking Stuff Up
Move the cursor to a word or expression you don't know and slick Lookup. Up pops definitions of all the most likely items for that line. If you need to find out more than a simple definition there is a link for searching the word or expression in Wikipedia. You can highlight text with a box and make annotations about what you've read and a little note icon shows up in the margin. This makes it great for me for reading technical literature. So in addition to an e-book reader you get an electronic dictionary at no additional charge.
Word Docs PDFs and more
Speaking of technical literature, I have a lot of big heavy books, luckily a lot of them come in PDF format as well. Now I can mail them to my Kindle address and a few minutes and ten cents later, like magic, they appear in my Kindle reading list. You can even save the ten cents but you have to connect your Kindle to your Mac or PC to do that. It's not hard and if I had a lot of files I would probably use the free method. Password protected PDFs don't work so well. There are ways around this but it's pretty cumbersome so I consider it only useful for standard PDFs. You can also attach Word Docs, text files and a few other formats to the email.
The Reading Experience
Reading on the Kindle is quite simply a delight. I thought it would be OK but that I would still prefer the paper page. Turns out I was wrong. I prefer reading on the Kindle. I can adjust the font size to the third smallest size in the list and I can read without my glasses. I actually like having fewer words on the page as it allows me to get into a relatively fast page turning rhythm and it actually helps me to read faster. It's lighter than most hard covers or soft covers so it's easier to read in bed, and when you put it down it never loses your place. Its one flaw is that it has an on/off switch so flight attendants want everything with said switch in the off position during takeoff and landing, chalk one up for paper.

I've seen a lot of negative comments out on the web (mostly about the price) so I just wanted to light a fire under those of you that were sitting on the fence.

About Me

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Tod Gentille (@todgentille) is now a Curriculum Director for Pluralsight. He's been programming professionally since well before you were born and was a software consultant for most of his career. He's also a father, husband, drummer, and windsurfer. He wants to be a guitar player but he just hasn't got the chops for it.