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Kindle 2 Review from Lori Cates

Kindle 2 I'm still staying on the sidelines with my old-fashioned Kindle 1, but my good friend Lori Cates, author of the popular Publishing Careers blog, ordered one.  In fact, Lori's Kindle 2 has already arrived and she was kind enough to write this initial review:

Recently the CEO of my company authorized me to buy a new Kindle 2 for our publishing group, so that we can gain an understanding of the user experience that surrounds it. Although I am a book publishing product manager, I’ve been an avid reader much longer, so it’s that part of my personality that welcomed our new Kindle with glee yesterday afternoon.

The unboxing was thrilling, as I made my way through several layers of high-concept packaging tagged with "Once upon a time…." I was no less thrilled with the sleek new design of the Kindle 2. I never owned a first-gen Kindle, but I held one and have seen lots of pictures. The new model is a definite improvement. But I have to say that I like it better because it looks more like my iPod.

The Kindle 2 charged up in just over 90 minutes, twice as fast as the instructions said it would. I then began exploring the user’s guide and the controls. The little joystick thing is fairly intuitive, but finding my way around the screen took some getting used to. I found myself wishing I had a mouse or maybe a touch-screen. (Again with the Apple comparisons.) Others have said that the keyboard is overkill, but I like it.

The biggest thrill came when I figured out how to download free samples of books—both from my computer and from the device itself. It was pure magic to see those things show up almost instantly on the Kindle screen, wirelessly and effortlessly.

Already I see that the quality of the sample varies from book to book, with some being nothing more than the skimpy front matter, and others providing an entire lengthy first chapter. Those that provided more text made me want to buy them more, I might add. The $9.99 price of many books still stopped me in my tracks, at least for day 1. It still seems pretty high for not getting anything tangible in return (even though I, more than anyone, know how much goes into creating that content).

Then I tried the much ballyhooed text-to-speech feature. Eh, not too impressed. It was certainly more intelligible than I had been led to believe. However, I have yet to find a volume control, so it was hard to hear.

The display is quite magnificent in the detail it can provide, as well as the amazing way the e-ink rearranges itself on the screen. I suffered some immediate eyestrain when I started reading (you can adjust the text size, but who wants to have to flip the page after every paragraph?), so I had to put on my computer glasses. Having said that, I think maybe the background should be a little lighter. (Is there a way to adjust that? If so, I haven’t found it yet.)

Eventually I got used to everything and had an enjoyable experience reading sample chapters. I started to think that maybe I would like to have one of my own to take on trips. I showed the Kindle 2 to my constantly traveling husband, though, and he tired of it nearly instantly. “I can read a real book faster,” he said. Our preschooler, however, was much diverted by the Next Page buttons, and giggled as she watched the e-ink scramble around on the page.

The verdict? I like it! I could get used to it!

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