I have finished my first e-book on the Kindle, Jane Eyre; which may account for my more than usual downbeat mood for the time of year. As a device it’s great, it's still on its first battery charge and has plenty of charge left. I can’t imagine reading at that length on an LCD display, says the software developer who spends eight hours of every day slumped in front of two 19” LCD monitors. It’s as easy as reading from a book and in some ways better. The iPad, often touted as competition, is I’m sure as good a general content consumer as you can get, but if you’re looking for a device for the specific purpose of reading (for long periods of time) an e-book reader, the cost of which has been driven down because of the iPad, is the way to go.
On the hardware side I have only a couple of gripes. It has to be small but does the keypad have to be that difficult? Also, the Next Page/Previous page buttons situated on both the left and right sides of the Kindle are too low down; slightly heavier than I imagined, I tend to hold the Kindle further up the side – thus the buttons are partially obscured by my hand. These are small complaints; the keypad is rubbish but seldom used (for example a one-off set up for the Wi-Fi connection - there's a 3G version for an extra £40 - and registering the Kindle to my Amazon account) and the Next Page/Previous page criticism may just be an example of my general awkwardness.
The keypad has a purpose; there’s an experimental web-browser for example, useful functions such as search/annotate and not least the ability to search/purchase/download new e-books. But unless you want to risk dashing your new hardware against the wall in frustration I’d stay well clear, though it’s solidly enough built that it would probably survive the impact.
Leaving aside the contentious issue of DRM and the various publishing formats (Amazon use their own proprietary format), you can connect the Kindle using the USB lead provided and download a huge range of free e-books from sites such as Project Gutenberg. However, it’s the ability to purchase/download e-books, including a good range of those free e-books, from within the Amazon ecosystem where the Kindle scores. Use the built in keypad or use your computer, find the e-book on the Amazon website, click Purchase and… that’s it. There’s no download/synchronise option, it just happens; that’s a great user experience.
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