Kindle the Fire

Succumbing to my geek inclinations, I ordered an Amazon Kindle 2 over the weekend. Since they were only accepting preorders, and were giving the impression supplies might not be adequate, I didn’t expect to see it immediately. I was wrong. Santa Claus in Brown dropped it off at my doorstep Tuesday afternoon.

I enjoy reading, and purchased the Kindle to be able to have several books under thumb in an easily toteable package. Amazon seems to have taken a clue from Apple. The Kindle 2 arrived in pretty nice packaging with a minimalist instruction book. The device was already tied to my Amazon account, so it only took about two minutes before I was able to order a book and have it delivered wirelessly to the Kindle 2.

The screen is very good. It is a reflective LCD “e-paper” screen with very sharp text on a near white background. It does not have backlighting, which is a plus for battery life and also the ability to read in bright light. Navigating between pages is extremely easy and I enjoy the built-in dictionary. Simply moving the little cursor to the front of a word causes the definition of the word to pop up at the bottom of the screen.

The arrival of the Kindle 2 might finally signal the start of the tipping point towards e-books. The only thing holding it back is the price. It needs to cost about $150 less before it can really hit mass market. Even now though, Amazon is showing over 240,000 titles available in Kindle format. This has to be a huge no-brainer for publishers with its near-zero distribution cost.

What’s really impressed me most with my Kindle 2 has nothing to do with books. I’m a major news junkie and usually spend at least an hour in the evening catching up with all the news online. With the Kindle, I can subscribe to various news services and blogs, and have them wirelessly delivered to the Kindle every day. I tested it out on a trip to Starbucks today. I was great to sit there with my drink and read the latest headlines from the New York Times and my favorite political blogs. I think this will turn in to a killer feature once people start to discover it.

I’ve only had my Kindle 2 for 24 hours now, but I’ve already bumped into a few rough edges. First, the UI is steamlined around serial thinking, aka page turning. That works great for normal books, but if you like hopping around, it is a cumbersome interface. I’m also mixed on the little five-way joystick used for cursor navigation. Getting to the right word on the page is slow and annoying. Amazon really needs to come up with a touch screen.

On the software side, there are a couple things I would like to see. First would be integration with some sort of calendar. It would be nice to pop up a read-only view of my daily calendar. Some sort of Instant Message integration would be nice too, maybe a bridge to SMS with Whispernet, or to Twitter for the ADD. They could even do a Twitter or Facebook reader application. I wouldn’t care much about email or general web browsing on the Kindle 2. I’ve got better devices for that.

All an all, I’ve extremely impressed with my new little toy. This is a major step forward towards the perfect e-book device and while I’ll be impatiently awaiting the next revision, I’m going to really enjoy my Kindle 2.

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