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Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Amazon Kindle eBook Reader

I wrote this a few months ago but forgot to actually post it. This is a review of the first generation Kindle. The currently shipping model is thinner and has slightly re-configured controls to improve the egonomics.

OK here's the deal: I'm a blogger and I got, as a Christmas present, an Amazon Kindle and so therfore I am required by law to blog it.

To summarize - I love the thing, I've already read several dozens of books on it and it's a threat to my credit rating.

I've read lots of reviews online and most of them get it all wrong. First the device is a book reader, not a replacement for your cell phone, mp3 player, laptop and espresso maker. As a book reader it's top notch. Any other features the Kindle has are just icing on the cake.

It connects directly to Amazon using "Wispernet" (provided by Sprint) and you can browse, buy and download books from anywhere on the Sprint network. There are no charges for the wireless! There is also a simple web browser so you can view other web sites. The browser works pretty well with text heavy sites but don't expect it to replace your computer.

Amazon charges $9.95 for most best sellers but back catalog books range all the way down to pennies, I bought Asimov's I Robot for .35 and a few more recent books that are out in paperback for $5.95.

And the internet is stuffed with free books. I bought a DVD on ebay for about $10 that has 13,000 public domain books on it. So now I can get caught up on all the classic lit that I shouldn't have avoided in college. I could've downloaded them for free but they are pre-converted to a format the Kindle can read and are organized by genre and author so it seemed easier.

It does take a little getting used to holding the Kindle. With the large page turn bars on both sides it's pretty easy to fumble around and accidentally turn pages but after a while you get used to it. I generally hold it in my left hand with my thumb placed just to the left of the logo on the front. This way I can turn pages my just reaching with my thumb to press the next page button. Most of the keyboard is disabled during normal reading so you can grasp it by the keyboard if need be.

The eInk technology screen isn't back lit which makes it useful even in direct sunlight and increases the battery life by quite a bit. I use mine pretty heavily and I charge it about every five days. If you leave the Wispernet turned on all the time the Kindle would probably need to be charged every couple of days or so.

My biggest complaint is that the built in dictionary. It works great, scroll the cursor up to the line with a word you want to look up and press down on the scroll wheel, select lookup from the pop up menu and a screen with definitions of all the major words on that line appears. Want more detail just use the scroll wheel to pick the word and a more in-depth definition pops up. Press the back key and your back to your book. The problem is the dictionary is too small. The Kindle can use alternate dictionaries and I'd buy a big unabridged one in a second if it becomes available.

The bottom line is if you are a reader the Kindle willquickly  become your favorite possession. More good news is that used and refurbished Kindle Ones are available cheap now.

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