Random Thoughts
Amazon's Rising Tide

Amazon's Newest Kindle Customer

Kindle3 I was holding out for the next generation Kindle.  I didn't want to spend the money on a "version 1.0" product.  My wife had other plans.  She decided to give me one of the best birthday gifts I've ever received: a shiny new Kindle.  The gift arrived Friday afternoon and boy, do I love it!

I've had less than 48 hours to explore the device and content options, including both Amazon and non-Amazon, but here are a few initial observations:

The form factor is just right...sort of.  The overall size is perfect.  Small enough to fit comfortably in a bag, feels right when you're holding and reading from it, etc., but the display is too small.  IOW, Amazon's designers used up too much precious surface area for the Chiclets keyboard at the expense of the reading area.  Here's to hoping that a future version does away with the physical keyboard and offers a virtual keyboard on a larger, touchscreen, display.

The reading experience is as good as advertised.  eInk rocks.  Need I say more?

Every Kindle owner should know about Feedbooks.  I talked about it earlier on Kindleville but finally got a chance to try it out for myself.  Loads of free e-books are available for seamless download.  My first test was Animal Farm but I'm sure I'll be back for more later.

130,000 is a smaller number than you think.  I'm referring to the number of Kindle edition books available on Amazon.  As of right this minute there are 131,637 books available, and while many bestsellers are there, it's amazing how many I want that aren't.  I'm looking for a great World War II book to read now that I've finished Citizen Soldier and World War II For Dummies.  The selection is fairly limited and I can see where this will be a roll of the dice every time I go searching...at least until the number of available titles grows by a factor of 10.

Ditto for newspapers and magazines.  I was thinking about returning to BusinessWeek via the Kindle but it's not an option...yet.  There are only 16 magazines and 19 newspapers available.  Talk about tiny numbers...  At about $1.50 per month for several magazines the price feels right, although I've seen plenty of customer complaints on Amazon regarding content that's in the print magazine but not the Kindle edition.  Amazon and their publishing partners need to fix this ASAP.

Why would I pay for newspapers/magazines?  I'm wondering whether I can rig up an RSS feed option where the key newspapers and magazines are accessible via the Kindle's browser instead...all for free.  I'll dig into it and see if I can come up with a viable solution.

The browser is as slow as advertised.  I've heard complaints before and they're legit.  In Amazon's defense, Kindle is an e-book reader first and the browser is just an experimental feature.  As slow as it is I hope it doesn't go away.  It will do in a pinch but you wouldn't want to depend on it for very long.

Thank goodness for the reset button.  Like most electronic devices the Kindle has its own hard reset button.  I skimmed over the info about it in the user's guide and didn't give it another thought...till my Kindle locked up.  Actually, I've had to pop the back cover off and stick a paperclip in it twice now.  Two resets in less than 48 hours.  Quite annoying.  I hope this trend doesn't continue, but I'm thinking about adding a paperclip holder to the wrap-around book cover the Kindle ships with, just in case.

Should I just start sending my paycheck directly to Jeff Bezos?  I've only bought one book and signed up for one trial magazine subscription so far but I can see where it would be easy to go nuts buying content.  It's ridiculously easy and the download speed is fast...faster than loading a simple web page in the browser, or so it seems.

Despite the warts I'm quite happy with my Kindle.  Now I need to look into all those hacks and other tricks I've heard so much about...



Concerning RSS feeds, we're working on it with Feedbooks, it'll be available very soon: http://blog.feedbooks.com/?p=62

Anthony S. Policastro

Hi Joe,
I agree with your points above that the Kindle has some areas for improvement, but overall it is a great e reader. I especially like the ease in obtaining a book wirelessly and book prices aren't too bad. I particularly find that I accidentally hit the page advance bar on the right because it is so long and advance a page before I've read it. The battery doesn't last very long when the wireless is turned on and I would like to see a better case, preferably one that zips shut and is rain proof.

While you can email a PDF to the Kindle's unique email address for ten cents, you cannot share a book with a fellow Kindle owner.

I see it as the best e reader on the market right now. Bezos has set the bar for the others to follow like Jobs has done with the iPhone.

BTW: My two thrillers were just listed on the Kindle: Dark End of the Spectrum and Absence of Faith. You can download sample chapters (the first six chapters) for free. Just put my last name in the search bar.

Joe Wikert

Hadrien, thanks for the tip on the upcoming RSS feed feature. That would be an excellent addition to the Kindle's functionality and should help me keep up with feed reading. I'm looking forward to hearing more.

Anthony, yes, there are definitely plenty of flaws, which you'd expect with a first generation product. But I'm with you. I'm thrilled to have one and am enjoying the heck out of it so far.

Bob Martinengo

Hi Joe,

I will guess that the most exciting features are all based on the wireless connectivity. Would you be having nearly as much fun if you had to plug it in to your PC or swap a memory card every time you wanted new content?

Also, I wonder if a 'slider' type design, where the keyboard can be slid down when needed like some cellphones, wouldn't be preferable to a totally touch-screen keyboard?

Sean M.

Congrats! See, I told you that you'd like it. :)

The browser really is wonky, but Gmail works on it, and Whispernet's coverage is good in Indy. Good backup. And I agree about newspapers and blogs. I tried a few of them and it was pretty cool, but at this point there's nothing available that seems worth paying for. I've got an AP newsfeed ($1 a month seems fair) and Asimov's Science Fiction magazine on there, that's it.

As for the book selection, I guess I've been lucky. But then, I mostly read crime novels and thrillers for fun, and that kind of stuff is well-represented. It's kind of nice to get the new Richard Stark and Lee Child books for $10 bucks, without even leaving the house!

Joe Wikert

Hi Bob. You're right that wireless is a key element of the Kindle. I still think WiFi would be equally suitable, at least for someone like me who always seems to be in a hotspot. The slider idea is an interesting one. I'm more interested in a slightly larger screen than worrying about hiding the keyboard though, hence my suggestion to go with a virtual keyboard.

Hey Sean. I played around a bit with Gmail over the weekend but I'm not sure I'll do much with it from the Kindle, particularly since my Blackberry is always nearby and I like Gmailing from it. Plus, is there any way to do downloads and save files from within Gmail on a Kindle?... That's the real problem I was trying to solve for: Looking for an alternative to Amazon's 10 cents per file conversion/email. I'd be curious to hear more about your AP newsfeed and whether it actually pushes all the story content to your Kindle or it's just links to the stories; I'd prefer the former since I might like to read on a plane, etc.

Milan Negovan

Joe, this is so tempting to a bookworm such as myself. :)

A friend of mine posted an account of his adventures with Kindle: http://west-wind.com/weblog/posts/356044.aspx

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)