I just got word from Amazon that my Kindle is being shipped and will arrive next Monday. I’m very excited. I would have ordered this e-book reader long before now but, for some reason, I was put off by poor reviews that some bloggers offered. I keep forgetting that most product reviews are formulaic (e.g. point out the most obvious flaws in order to appear knowledgeable, when in fact the reviewer is just lazy). Blogger reviews are often no better. The exception are reviews by folks who’ve actually used the product for a fair amount of time, preferably a blogger who isn’t an attention hound.
So called micro-celebrity Robert Scoble lambasted the Kindle because, among other things, it didn’t have any social networking features. He also said the user-interface ‘sucked.’ As I’ve mentioned before, I think that Scoble’s reviews are built for speed, not thoughtfulness. I don’t care what the device looks like (yes, it’s ugly) and don’t want to use it to expand the reach of my online reputation. I just want to read text like I do when I open a book. I don’t need the device to be revolutionary, just functional. Still, the Kindle represents a major shift in e-books.
Here’s what’s revolutionary about the Kindle: It has built-in EVDO, which is a high speed cellphone network wireless system. This means you can download books pretty much anywhere that you can get Sprint cellphone access. And why is this important? Well, if you are riding the subway and decide you wan to read a book that you just saw on the NY Times best seller list you can download it in about 30 seconds. Or let’s say you want to subscribe to the New York Times paper every day. The Kindle will automatically get download it at 3 am so that when you wake up it’s already on the device. No matter where you are (e.g. at home or in a hotel room). And while one would normally pay a stiff per monthly charge for EVDO access, Amazon builds that charge into the price of the Kindle.
The device has internal storage that allows you to store about 200 books. And it remembers where you are in each book, so if you are reading more than one book at a time (which I often do) it’s easy to switch back and forth. Or at least I’m assuming it’s easy. Perhaps it won’t, but Scoble’s review didn’t cover that so I don’t know for sure.
If you want to store more than 200 books, you can add external memory. And if for some reason you delete a book from the device you can re-download it from Amazon. They keep track of what you buy and you can always access it again from them in the future. Apple iTunes doesn’t let you do that with the .99 cent songs you buy, so I give Amazon credit for doing this.
And the books that you purchase for download are typically only $9.99. Granted the selection of Kindle books is not as vast as the ordinary selection from Amazon, but that will change over time. Can you imagine being able to carry hundreds of books on a device that only weighs 10 ounces? I can and I can’t wait to experience the reality of it. I would love to pare down my library to just a few really treasured books (e.g. reference books and certain keepsake volumes). I’d love to be able to take a trip and have all my reading material on one small portable reading unit, and it would be even better if I could have travel guides loaded onto it.
No, I’m pretty sure that I’m going to like the Kindle. True, if the user-interface is cumbersome that will be disappointing. But as long as it works reasonably well then the benefits will outweigh the detriments. The only thing that would be a deal killer is if the thing was completely unreliable—like Windows Vista, for example. Otherwise, I expect to be very pleased.
Either way, I’ll post my observations after I’ve used it for a fair amount of time.
(Incidentally, when you order the Kindle they say it may take 6 weeks. If mine arrives on Monday that will be a delay of less than 4 weeks. And they didn’t charge my credit card until it shipped).