Amazon Kindle Review

Amazon's Wireless Electronic ReaderI love books, I love reading, and I love technology. Is the Amazon Kindle my new favorite gadget? You better believe it! While it’s not perfect, it is pretty darn close.

One of the things that really surprised me, and the Kindle delighted me in a quite a few ways, is that it is smaller than I thought it would be. Even looking at the picture I’ve included to the right, it looks larger for some reason. In reality it’s about the size and shape of a typical paperback, only lighter. I think the size of the device is perfect. The Kindle is very easy to carry and hold and Amazon includes a book-like cover that keeps the unit protected when it’s tucked away in your backpack or purse.

As much as I love to read, the Kindle has elevated that emotion to a new level. It’s convenience, utilitarian function, and no-hassle usage encourages me to think more about those moments I can get away someplace and disappear in a book. I find myself asking the question, “When can I sneak away for an hour or two to read?” a little more often than I usually do. I’m staying up later when everyone goes to bed just so I can curl up on the couch and read with my Kindle.

Amazon.com has always been my sugar daddy for books. Their site is simply the best and their customer service is beyond exceptional. I love the “Search Inside” feature that most of their books have. Being able to preview the Table of Contents, or the first chapter or two really helps solidify a decision to buy or pass without remorse. The Kindle takes this to a whole new level. You can download a sample of any book and it gives you the first 40 pages. When you reach the end of those 40 pages there’s a nice link to click on and purchase the book. It doesn’t get any easier than that. Well, actually it does. Here comes my first gripe.

Instead of the link disappearing and the remainder of the book just filling in from that last point I was reading at, it downloads another book as a separate entry in the Content Manager. Not only do I have two copies of the same book on my Kindle, but now I’ve got to go find where I left off in the new book, and delete the Sample book. Ick.

The screen is simply amazing. When I read about it online I couldn’t help but think that this was ancient technology. It reminded me of a calculator display, and I questioned what the quality of images would look like on a black-and-white display. It turns out that my fears were unfounded. In fact, it’s probably one of the most amazing features of the unit. It’s stunning, and it’s not an LCD calculator screen. It’s an e-ink screen and it doesn’t draw any battery power once the screen has been drawn which translates into an uncanny battery life between charges. Color photography books would look like crap on the Kindle, but most other photos and illustrations are very decent.

Getting content onto the Kindle is amazingly simple. No subscription plans are required, you don’t need to sync it with a computer after you’ve downloaded books. You also don’t need to find a WiFi hotspot. Amazon wisely created Whispernet which essentially piggybacks off of Sprint’s cellular data network. You don’t need to be a Sprint subscriber either. Every Kindle purchase, which is typically $9.99 for a book, includes the data charges and Amazon takes care of that so you don’t have to. Brilliant.

Amazon currently has about 190,000 titles available for the Kindle which is substantially short of the total number of paper books you can buy off the site. However, most of the books I’ve wanted have been available. Amazon has sensibly sprinkled Kindle links all throughout their site. If a book is available in Kindle format, it provides a one-click link that sends it to your Kindle. This is great feature since I still love visiting the site and can still shop for my Kindle content. If the book is not available for the Kindle the link becomes a “Tell this publisher you want to read this on your Kindle.”

Turning pages is super simple and it doesn’t matter if you are left or right handed. On both sides of the Kindle the unit has very large buttons that allow you to turn the page. Which leads into my next gripe, the position of these buttons. Unfortunately, you have to train yourself in how to hold and manipulate the device. Instinctively you want to pick the device up by the sides or hold it on the side, but you can’t. If you do, you’ll be turning pages. Admittedly, this only took a day or two for me to adjust to, but I still had to change what I naturally wanted to do.

My biggest gripe is with the aesthetics of the unit. It’s easily the ugliest piece of technology I’ve ever owned. I’m really quite baffled on how this product, that was so carefully engineered and thoughtfully designed from an experience perspective, could have so little care given to it’s aesthetics.

About the author

Terry Blanchard

I'm the Vice President of Engineering at Readdle, ex-Apple, design evangelist, drummer, and gadget junkie extraordinaire.

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