Last week I got a Kindle 2 from Amazon. Here are my impressions so far.
Physically, the Kindle 2 looks like an oversized iPod. The screen is noticeably better than any other computer screen I’ve seen. The contrast is a bit less than a printed book, but unless you’re reading in very low light this won’t be a problem (and reading in such low light wouldn’t be very comfortable with a book either). I’ve found that I can read the Kindle screen all day without getting the headache I would from a computer’s LCD monitor. The interface is simple and well-suited to its rather minimal job of keeping out of the user’s way while he reads.
The device is a bit wider than a paperback book, but still narrow enough to fit in the cargo pockets of my fatigues and the large inside pockets of my photographer’s vest. For people with less practical wardrobes, it would probably be necessary to carry it in a briefcase or purse. Although it doesn’t come with a cover, it would be unwise not to buy one. The official Amazon cover works well, holding the Kindle with two flat metal hooks and protecting the screen with thick cardboard covered by soft cloth on the inside and (allegedly) leather on the outside.
Amazon claims that the battery life is four days with wireless on. I’m sure that’s true somewhere, but it’s not good for four days on any planet I’ve heard of–I’d say it lasts for about twelve hours of use. Battery life is greatly extended by turning off wireless. Since the wireless feature is basically a cell-phone transceiver, it’s a good idea to leave it off almost all the time anyway, unless you like the government tracking your every move.
Besides the “Amazon Kindle” format, the Kindle 2 can read Mobipocket and plain text files without any conversion. The Mobipocket format seems to be fairly common among ebook sellers other than Amazon. Books from sources other than Amazon can be loaded via the included USB cable, or emailed and then delivered (for a ten cent charge) over the wireless connection.
I’m less impressed with Amazon’s pricing of Kindle books. They seem to consider $9.99 the “standard” price for Kindle books, with some going for more and older books going for less. It seems fairly ridiculous to charge more than a paperback for something with no manufacturing or distribution costs. The selection also has some rather large holes in it–nothing by J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Forester, for example.
That’s not to say that Amazon’s Kindle store is entirely worthless. They do have some books old enough to be out of copyright for free, such as The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson. There are also periodic promotions where they sell books for significantly reduced prices or even give them away for free for a short time.
Fortunately, I never intended to rely on Amazon’s Kindle bookstore for my reading material. For years now, most of my fiction reading has come from publishers who sell ebooks for considerably more reasonable prices, such as Baen Books, and from entirely free fiction published only on the Internet, such as the (many, many) works of Eyrie Productions. Now I can read those books anywhere, without being dependent on a laptop (and without the headache).
Overall, I’d say the Kindle is an excellent choice for anyone who already reads extensively from online sources, or who travels often and currently carries heavy stacks of novels with them. For anyone else, though, it’s probably not worth paying the inflated prices.