I have been using my Kindle, Amazon.com's e-book and document reading device, for a few months and I thought I would post an update on the experience. I have to say I am very happy with the device. Yes, it is kind of ugly looking, Amazon does not win any design awards for the look of this thing, and yes there are some design elements that I would like to see changed in an updated version, but if you look at what it was designed to do, make it easy to access and read books and documents. I have to say it does that job better than I anticipated.
For those of you not familiar with the Kindle, the e-book reader employes a screen technology called e-ink. (To learn how it works, you can visit the E-Ink web site for an article and also a video demonstration. ) Each time a page is "turned" an electronic charge is sent to the "paper" and the image (a page, drawing, photo...) is arranged and displayed. Because the device only draws power to change a page, it has very good battery life. Also the E-Ink display is easy on the eyes. It is not backlight and is readable in bright sunlight.
Basically the Kindle is a wireless device that is connected to Sprint's EVDO network. You can access the Kindle store and purchase books anytime and they are instantly sent to the device and appear in about a minute. You can also send documents of your own to a user unique email address and have documents converted to Kindle format and sent to your device (for a fee of 10¢) or to your regular email as an attachment where the file can be transfered via USB. Formats that can be converted include plain text, Word format and PDF.
Amazon has developed a whole web site devoted to helping you find and purchase Kindle periodicals and books. A unique aspect of Amazon's marketing of the Kindle is the employment of EVDO wireless technology to make the purchase and loading of books, periodicals and your own documents very easy. In addition you can download sample chapters to your Kindle to try before you buy. I am finding myself taking a look at many books and reading the sample chapters. Learning about books that in the past I might of just glanced at at the book store. Being able to download and read the sample chapter helps me determine if I want to purchase the book. Having the content available on a small, lightweight portable device allows me to take my Kindle with me providing me the opportunity to access reading material anywhere I go.
I also find myself putting other types of content on my Kindle. For example I use the convert document feature quite a bit. As I find articles that I wish to read (longer pieces such a magazine articles, and educational journal articles) I display them on my computer in a Print Friendly version (most sites have this feature) and choose to print them to PDF. Once the article is a PDF file I then email it to my unique Kindle address and within a few minutes the article appears on my Kindle. I also have converted several school district documents such as admin handbooks and such and have those available on my Kindle. The Kindle has a search feature that makes it easy to find particular passages or sections. Also from time to time I receive PDF versions of articles that I need to read before an upcoming admin meeting. I just forward the message with the file attachments and they appear on my Kindle.
The Kindle also has a very basic web browser. I can access web pages and content such as Google Reader and also sites such as Dave Winer's NYTimes News River (see graphic) which is a web page that displays a constant stream (via RSS) of articles posted to the New York Times web site. While navigating the web is a bit clunky on the Kindle, having that option of a web browser. Recently a few easter eggs have been discovered in the Kindle. One allows you to also use the EVDO modem with Google's My Location service to find your current location. I tried this on the train last week while traveling from Seattle to Portland and it worked well.
So all in all, I am pretty happy with my Kindle. I look forward to the next generation of this, and other ebook devices. It will be interesting to watch this product space develop over time.