The world in the palm of my hand

Three months ago, I wrote in this space — well, not this space precisely; the other space, the one Blogger won’t let me update any more — about my new Amazon Kindle 2 e-book reader. I promised then that, once I’d had time to explore the device, I’d let you know how I liked it.

The answer is: I like it quite well. Thanks for asking.

In the 100-plus days we’ve spent together, my Kindle 2 and I have become as inseparable as Chang and Eng Bunker. The little flat-screen dickens accompanies me everywhere I might find myself sitting idly waiting for things to happen.

Which means that K2 (as I affectionately call it) and I share a great deal of time in the porcelain throne room.

K2 also makes a boon companion at the hospital and doctor’s offices, where I frequently find myself with a few hours to while away. The only difficulty there is that my reading is constantly interrupted by members of the medical staff quizzing me about the Kindle. Henceforth, I’ll be able to silently hand them cards printed with the URL of this post, so they can go dig up the information for themselves and leave me alone.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the ease with which I’ve adapted to reading from the Kindle. Within the first few pages of the initial book I read, I had forgotten the technology and immersed myself in the text. Any qualms I had about the reading experience being unbooklike vanished — I don’t even think about the fact that instead of turning paper pages, I’m thumbing the “Next Page” key.

The “electronic paper” display of the Kindle 2 looks remarkably like the real McCoy, so much so that I honestly don’t sense much difference, if any, between the two surfaces. The K2’s screen background closely mirrors the tone and reflective character of book stock. Because the screen is not backlit, it’s much easier and more comfortable to read from than is an LCD monitor. Although I’ve heard other users opine that a backlight would improve the Kindle reading experience, I don’t find this to be true. I read a lot from a computer screen, but I would much rather read from the Kindle.

The bottom line is that if you’re in an environment where you’d need light to read a book by, you’ll need the identical amount of light to read the Kindle. Unless you’re in the habit of perusing books in utter darkness — in which case, you might think about avoiding garlic and holy water — the Kindle won’t change this aspect of your experience.

I love the fact that, with the Kindle, I can carry a variety of reading material with me, with no added weight. The Kindle weighs slightly more than a thick paperback, but is considerably thinner. Wearing the Belkin zippered slipcase I purchased for it, K2 fits perfectly into my camera bag. With roughly the same logistical effort required to tote a single book about, I can access dozens of volumes at the touch of a tiny joystick. If I finish reading one book, and would like to move on to something new, I can do that without adding one ounce to my load.

The K2’s exterior dimensions work well for my thick-fingered, dexterity-challenged hands. The buttons on the keyboard are tiny and difficult to manipulate, but I rarely use them anyway. The page-turn keys, and the joystick that operates most of the other frequently used functions, are perfectly sized and located. I have no complaints there.

When I purchase a new book, the K2 downloads the volume directly from Amazon via G3 wireless. The download process takes mere seconds. I usually keep the wireless functionality switched off to conserve power — using this tactic, the K2 can go for two or three weeks without recharging. (If I leave the wireless connection on, the battery runs down to shut-off levels within a few days.)

Among the Kindle’s handiest features is an automatic dictionary. Simply move the cursor to any word in the text, and a pop-up window provides a definition. I’m also fond of the resizable text — a benefit that no paper book offers, and one that can be a lifesaver if I’ve forgotten to pick up my reading glasses.

The Kindle comes equipped with a rudimentary Web browser. I don’t use this often, as the size and configuration of the Kindle’s screen isn’t suited to displaying Web pages, nor does the device do more than a barely adequate job of serving up graphics. But if I’m in the middle of reading something, and I want to hop over to, say, Wikipedia to grab some additional information, the wireless Internet access proves mighty handy.

I’ve had little difficulty finding books that I want to read available in Kindle format. Better still, I’ve been ecstatic to discover how many classic, public-domain works can be downloaded free of charge, or for a nominal cost (like a dollar or two). My Kindle library includes such gems as L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Barsoom novels, Arthur Conan Doyle’s complete Sherlock Holmes oeuvre, and the unabridged works of Shakespeare — all of which together cost me less than the price of a cup of coffee.

So, the question is: Do I find the Kindle worth the investment? For me, the answer is an unqualified “yes.”

Can I envision ways that Amazon could improve the product in future iterations? Sure — just as I find the K2 a significant improvement over the somewhat clunky original model. Minor quibbles aside, after 100 days, my Kindle has rendered itself irreplaceable.

I’m not calling it “Precious” yet. But I might.

Explore posts in the same categories: Aimless Riffing, Good Reads, That's Cool!

2 Comments on “The world in the palm of my hand”

  1. Sank Says:

    To quote from Napoleon dynamite, LUCK-EEY

  2. Steve Roth Says:

    Gotta love reading e-books. I’ve got about 75 on my device right now, and I’m always reading to fill cracks of time. I read mine on my iPhone — screen’s not so good as a Kindle, but good enough, and it’s always with me.

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