Three Months with the Amazon Kindle

I previously wrote about my search for the “promised land” of the electronic book. In that article I wrote about what I was looking for, why, and finished off looking at the top three contenders for my cash.

What I didn’t explicitly state (though I did allude to in the intro) was by the time of publication I had already ordered an eReader – the Amazon Kindle 2. As fate would have it, a couple of weeks later the new and improved version 3 came out, but we’ll skip over that bad bit of timing on my part.

Amazon Kindle eBook Reader

So, was it worth it? Are ebooks the future? Is the Kindle any good? Yes, yes, and yes. I can’t put it any clearer than that, really. I am not going to go into an in-depth review of features; that is something best left to others. I’m just going to give you my experience of using the Kindle these last three months.

Since I received my Kindle (which comes in wonderfully unassuming – yet still quite charming – packaging) I have bought and read more (non-technical) books than I managed to in the previous 2 years. It’s amazing to able to buy a book and not have to consider where and how to store it. I’d even say it’s a tad liberating. Books have returned to being about the story, rather than the object.

There are some downsides – reading speed is noticeably slower than with a “real” book, but not as bad as some nay-sayers had tried to tell me. Battery life isn’t quite as good as I would have liked – the marketing for e-ink would like you to believe you only use up a bit of battery power when you turn the page, but this isn’t true. Even with the wireless antenna switched off I’m lucky to get 1 1/2 weeks of “commuter usage” – reading for ~30 minutes a day on the bus to work, sometimes also on the return journey. These are all problems with the Kindle 2 hardware, and by the sound of it, the Kindle 3 goes a long way to solving these issues.

The biggest frustration for me is disparity between availability of a Kindle edition than in print. I’ll often get a recommendation or find a particularly interesting looking book online, only to find out it isn’t available electronically yet. This isn’t a fault of Amazon, or the Kindle, but it does highlight the fact the book industry is in transition at the moment. I read a lot of sci-fi from small, independent, publishers who are just starting their own transition to digital, so this will hopefully improve for me by the turn of the year. “Your mileage may vary”, as they say.

These quibbles aside I have nothing but good things to say about the Kindle. It sounds a little corny, but the Kindle has reignited my love for books. I always have it in my bag when I commute to work, the convenience is such there is no reason not to have it with me.

As an aside, I found the form factor better than I feared it would be in my original article. Buttons fall naturally under the thumb when held in portrait orientation, and it feels almost weightless despite rock-solid construction. However, I did find adding the official leather case made it feel just that bit better in my hand.

In a nutshell I would heartily recommend the Kindle to anyone who enjoys reading. Right now it is the best in class eReader device, and I can’t see anyone else catching up anytime soon. Moving to ebooks isn’t a soulless experience compared to paper books, and to me the benefits far out-weigh the downsides.

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