Last week the new generation of the Amazon Kindle shipped, and I was lucky enough to have a husband who surprised me with one for Valentine’s Day. (He may also have been tired of hearing me talk about how much I wanted one too — never underestimate the power of constant nagging in getting you what you want!)
So last Tuesday, the Kindle arrived. I was like a little kid on Christmas. My first thought was “Wow, the screen is smaller than I thought.” I had never actually seen one in person so I think I had built it up in my head to be more amazing than it could ever be in real-life. But I brushed that aside and immediately began charging it and looking through the user manual. I want to share my initial thoughts as a new Kindle user. I’m not a technical geek, and I’m not going to go into all kinds of technical specs — you can get that from Amazon itself. What I do want to do is talk about my experiences and reactions in the first week of being a Kindle owner. (I’ve included photos to try and provide you with a more first-hand experience — click on any photo to see it bigger.)
The Kindle is pretty straightforward and user-intuitive. You don’t really need to know too much to make it work. There is a little button that allows you to navigate around the screen (called the five-way controller). You can move left, right, up or down and then select what you want by pressing down. There are buttons to move to the next page or the previous page, a home button, a menu button and a little keyboard at the bottom. And that is pretty much it. The keyboard buttons are pretty small, and I imagine that if you have big hands or fingers, you might have some trouble typing on the Kindle.
Buying A Book
One of the very first things I did was buy some books. (Duh!) Amazon promises that you can download books via the Whispernet network in under 60 seconds. I wanted to see if that was true. I already knew that I wanted to download two big books (over 500 pages) — Wally Lamb’s The Hour I First Believed and Ken Follett’s World Without End. I navigated to the Kindle store and quickly found the Wally Lamb book. (Apparently you can download free samples of any book you are interested in before you buy but I just leapt right in and went right to Buy.) I clicked the BUY button, then hit it again because I wasn’t sure I had bought the book (the Kindle informed me that I had — so that eliminates the fear of accidentally downloading a book twice!) and then went back to the home screen and the book was on my Kindle already. It seemed pretty much instantaneous.
Not one to believe things the first time, I went back to the Kindle store and bought World Without End (over 1,000 pages). Boom — same thing. Hit Buy and the book seemed to appear on my Kindle almost immediately.
I started jumping around “I just bought two books! I just bought two books!” and my 4-year-old started running around the living room saying “Where are they? Where are the books?” I said “In here…in Mommy’s new Kindle. They just arrived!” My son said “But how did they get here?” “Through the air somehow!” I replied. (I won’t even pretend to understand how this whole things works. I just know I hit BUY and then the books were on my Kindle almost immediately. The key is that it works!)
Each of my downloads cost $9.99, which is supposedly the typical price for most books bought via the Kindle store. I had 3 of 4 bars on the little thing that tells you your network strength. I do live in a fairly urban area, so I doubt that network availability will be a problem for me. If this is a concern for you, then I think you can research this through Amazon. You can also buy books via your computer and download them to your Kindle using the provided USB cable. (You can also download audiobooks, MP3s, .txt files and other nifty stuff but I have not explored this yet.)
I also read in Molly’s (My Cozy Book Nook) excellent and thorough review of her Kindle, that there are places where you can download free books to your Kindle. These two links are: Manybooks.net and FreeKindleBooks.org. The Manybooks.net site offer 23,181 e-books FOR FREE, including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (which I’ve been wanting to read since seeing the movie), The Art of War by Sun-Tzu and books by authors such as Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Jules Verne and lots of others. The FreeKindleBooks site, which I quickly scanned, offers titles such as Little Women, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Alice in Wonderland, My Antonia and much more.
Reading A Book
The Kindle is designed to be a wireless reading device — it is not a portable computer. Everything about the Kindle is designed to make it a pleasurable reading experience and to simulate the experience of reading a real book. For many hard-core readers, I think this is the most important question — how does it feel to read a book on a Kindle?
The first thing that is important to know is that the screen itself is not like looking at a computer screen — it is not backlit and you could not read the Kindle in the dark like you could a regular computer screen. I think I somehow expected that it WOULD be like reading a computer for some reason, but it isn’t. They did an amazing job of making the screen actually seem like a piece of paper! (You know…like in a book!) The screen is very flat in appearance and not backlit AT ALL. (I had to clip a booklight to the top of my Kindle to read in a low light situation — just like reading a book!) This, more than anything, helps to make the Kindle feel more like a book than a electronic device. There is not a lot of shine from the screen, and there is no light emanating from it. It really does seem flat and dull like paper.
The other feature I totally appreciated was that you can adjust the font size. Now I’m not saying I’m getting old or anything, but I did decide to bump up the font size from the “standard.” It was just a little more comfortable for me to read a slightly larger font. (I’m not talking LARGE PRINT BOOKS or anything but you can go even larger than I did, which might be an attractive feature for some people).
The first 25 pages or so of The Hour I First Believed, I was totally distracted by the fact that I was reading on a Kindle. I kept thinking to myself “I can’t believe I am holding a Kindle and reading a book! Cool!” It was a little weird to keep pressing the “Next Page” button instead of turning a page, but you know what — after the first 25 pages, I began READING! I got lost in the story! I got sucked into the book itself! I thought less and less about the fact that I was reading on a Kindle and began thinking more and more about Caleum Quirk. In other words, it began to feel like I was reading a book!
I know that one of the concerns with these type of devices is that it won’t feel like real reading. Well, after the initial adjustment period, I fell into reading the story and didn’t really notice too much that it wasn’t a real book. The clicking on the button instead of turning a page became more second-nature, and now 50% of the way through the book, I’m feeling very comfortable reading on a Kindle.
The other great thing is being able to stop reading and have the Kindle remember exactly where you were when you stopped. You can also add your own “electronic bookmarks” if you want as well.
As far as being able to tell how “far” you are in the book, the Kindle has a little bar at the bottom that fills in as you read and it also tells you the percentage of the book you have completed. Also, on the home screen, there are a bunch of little dots under each Kindle title you have. As you read, the dots get darker toward the front of the line and lets you know how far you are in that book. When all the dots are darker, you are done!
Some Other Nifty Features
Another nifty feature (especially for book bloggers) is that you can insert your own notes as you read, mark a passage that you might want to highlight later, or look up a word using the dictionary that comes with the Kindle! As a book blogger who likes to write book reviews, I can see this a being a fantastic feature for writing my reviews. If a passage really speaks to me and I think I want to use it in a review, I can mark it and easily find it again later. If I come across a word I don’t know, I can navigate to the word and the definition will pop up on the bottom of my screen. If I want to clip out a passage of the book to include in a review, I can mark it and put it in the “My Clippings” folder and then import it into my computer for use in my review.
I know there are a lot more nifty features that I need to check out, but I’ve really been focused on the reading aspect of the Kindle. I can always play around with these later.
Why Get A Kindle?
I certainly don’t think ANYONE needs a Kindle, but I think Amazon did a great job of creating a lot of reasons why people might really want them and use them. Although the price is still pretty high and hard to justify, I think the price will eventually go down and you’ll start seeing Kindles more often. Here are just a few of the reasons you might want to consider a Kindle — either now or in the future.
- If you find reading big chunky books uncomfortable, you might like a Kindle. (This was why I downloaded some big chunksters first. I hate reading BIG THICK HEAVY books because they are uncomfortable to hold. My parents had sent me their hardcover copy of World Without End a few months ago but I never read it because it is too darn heavy. Not a problem now!)
- If you travel a lot or like to take books on vacation, you might like a Kindle. You can store up to 1,500 books on the Kindle 2! As someone who typically takes up to 10 books on a vacation, I can tell you the Kindle will be much lighter and more portable to travel with. And if you travel a lot for your work, I can imagine that the Kindle might be an ideal companion for your trips!
- If you want to try out a book before you buy, you might like a Kindle. I know you can sit in a bookstore and do this, but the Kindle lets you sample the first chapter of any book before you buy too.
- If you don’t have a lot of room to store your books, you might like a Kindle. Did I mention the Kindle can store 1,500 books? Just imagine the shelf space that would clear up in your home!
- If you want to try books that you might never have read or want to read some of the classics you never read before and not pay for them (see links to free e-books above), you might like a Kindle. I know I’m going to take advantage of this and read some of the classics that I’ve never gotten around to!
- If you review books regularly and want to streamline the process, you might like a Kindle. Imagine exporting passages you like directly to your computer instead of typing them. Imagine inserting your own notes as you read. Imagine looking up a word you don’t know as you read without having to find a dictionary. (I could use this feature when reading Cormac McCarthy!)
- If you like technological gizmos and like to read, you might like a Kindle.
- If you like to read a lot of books, you might be able to save money with the typical $9.99 price for Kindle books (and not have to wait to get them via Paperback Swap or when they get released in paperback and are cheaper!)
- If you live in a town with few bookstores or libraries, you might enjoy having the Kindle.
- If you crave instant gratification, you might like a Kindle.
- I haven’t even gone into the whole newspaper, magazine and blog subscription aspect of the Kindle because I’m mainly in it for the books. But if this is your cup of tea, you might also want the Kindle.
I hope you have found this helpful. I will continue to write about my Kindle experiences as I think it is a really cool device that might be with us for awhile! I’ve almost NEVER been an early adopter of technology so this is kind of new for me. If you have a Kindle and have written about it, please include a link to your post in your comment section. I’d love to check it out! And I encourage anyone who wants to learn more, to check out Molly’s review at My Cozy Book Nook. She did a great job with it and focuses on some of the stuff that I did not.
And if you want a humorous look at reasons WHY NOT to get a Kindle, check out this post!
If you want to read more about ALL the features of the Kindle and the technical specs, here is a link to the Kindle 2 on Amazon!