My wife really gave me a killer gift for my birthday — no, not a car. But it’s something I had definitely been wanting for myself, but was trying to be practical about the price. It’s an Amazon Kindle. I’ve had it for about a month now, and I figured I’d do a little gear review for you here of the Kindle.
In case you haven’t come across it yet, the Amazon Kindle is an ebook reader from Amazon where you can take hundreds of books around on this tiny device and read them on an easy-on-the-eyes screen. That alone saves your back from lugging a hardback book on your next business trip. And then when you finish that hardback mid-trip, you have to go buy a second book and then lug BOTH of them home with you. What a royal pain.
Not with the Amazon Kindle ebook reader. The Kindle has a free wireless internet connection (yes, completely free — you’ll never get a monthly bill or any charges for it). And it works just about anywhere a cell phone works. It’s called Whispernet. And since your Kindle is associated with your Amazon account, once you’re done reading that first book, you just open the Kindle Store on your Kindle and you can browse tons and tons of titles and hit “buy” right then and there — within a few seconds you have a new book to read. No downloading it to your computer and then syncing it to your Kindle. Just bam — and it’s there. I wish Apple would release a Whispernet service for iPods. And from my experience, it seems like most new releases, classics, best sellers, and even many obscure books are available in the Kindle Store.
On top of all of this, it feels good to not be killing trees just to read a book. You just download it, and read it. You have a whole library right in this little paper-back sized device. Also, you can buy subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal and many other publications, and every day it will be delivered right to your Kindle to read.
Here is a summary of some features:
- I haven’t found a single title more than $9.99, even newly-released bestsellers. And many classics (like the Bible, Alice in Wonderland, the original Frankenstein, etc) are priced between $1 and $4.
- Want to make a note on a page? No problem — just hit a button, type a note in using a full QWERTY keyboard, and it’s easy to go back and view. Same with dog-earing pages — you just hit “Bookmark” on the menu, and it’s saved as a hyperlink in your “My Clippings” folder.
- Your Kindle is associated with your Amazon account, which means when you hit “buy” for a new book, you don’t have to enter in your credit card info — it just references the credit card number you have saved on your Amazon account and does a 1-click purchase.
- On amazon.com a copy of everything you purchase for your Kindle is saved on your “My Account” page. Which means, if you lose your kindle just buy a new one and you can re-download all your books to your new Kindle for free. And no matter how many Kindles you buy, they are all automatically synced to your same Amazon account and can access all of the books you’ve ever purchased on any of them. So you know what I did? I bought my wife a Kindle, and it now shows up as “Brig’s 2nd Kindle”. I just logged on to my Amazon account and hit “send this book to Brig’s 2nd Kindle” and she now has all the books I’ve already read on her Kindle for free too. Sweet, huh? So I could buy a Kindle for everyone in my family, and they could all share my library of Kindle books. On top of that, any books they purchase on their Kindle would be available to send to my Kindle for free as well. Talk about a sweet way to run a book club!
- You can access any Wikipedia entry right on your Kindle, if you want to research something. I know Wikipedia isn’t the oracle of all truth, but it’s pretty well moderated so I trust it for casual research and “did you know” fact checking.
- There is a built in dictionary. See a word you don’t know? Scroll to it, press a button, and you have the definition right there.
- You also have a web browser, if you really REALLY need to go to a website. And it just uses the Whispernet service (okay, I think if you use the web browser a ton, then you’ll see a usage charge for Whispernet show up on your Amazon account). But I’ve only done it once to try it out, and it was black and white and slow to load, and weird formatting. Not really worth it, but at least it’s there in a pinch. But I don’t see that as a downfall at ALL. That’s not what the Kindle is for — use your iPhone for that. The Kindle is the best way to read books, period. And that alone makes it worth the $359 price tag.
- The screen is black and white, and isn’t done via LCD or anything. Honestly, I don’t know how the thing works. But it looks just like black ink on light gray paper. You can read it in direct sunlight without a problem.
- The screen isn’t backlit, and I can’t find a way to turn on a backlight or anything. I honestly don’t know if the Kindle has a backlight. So if you read in the dark in bed, you’ll probably need a reading light for it. Amazon has some good ones they recommend to use with it.
- The black and white screen, since it isn’t backlit, uses barely any battery juice. You can read all day and only use up about half of the battery. Though Amazon says you’ll extend the life of the battery if you recharge frequently — rather than waiting for it to drain entirely before recharging.
- You can listen to mp3s on the Kindle while reading. I think you have to sync with your computer to get the mp3s onto your Kindle — which stinks, I haven’t bothered to do it yet. I wish I could just browse music on Amazon right inside the Kindle Store and purchase them over Whispernet the same way I purchase books. Immediate gratification. Amazon, are you listening? I want that service! Heck, Amazon put out your own iPod competitor that leverages Whispernet to do that!
So that’s my summary. Awesome product — especially the fact that you can purchase multiple Kindles, have them all synced to your Amazon credit card, and then just share books between them. And the books are cheeeeeap. Killer product. I know a lot of people said that Amazon should just provide the service, and leave it up to others to build devices on that service. And maybe they will. But at least they set the bar with their own Kindle first, and then if they want to open the service up to other device makers then they’ll know that those devices have to measure up to a pretty high standard, and the idea of an ebook reader won’t just die because of poorly-conceived and built devices. Amazon set the standard with the Kindle.