We’ve had a Kindle 2 in the house since they were released–I actually bought one as a Birthday/Christmas/Promotion present for my wife last year, but it never shipped because of the Kindle 2 Launch. Recently, we added another Kindle to the house for my birthday. Here are some thoughts…
Things Amazon Got Right
Whisper Net. Holy crap. One click and in less than a minute, I have a new book. It’s awesome. And between the free books and .99 books, I’m not spending a fortune, although, in the end I have a feeling I’m going to end up buying way more from Amazon than I did before.
The Dictionary. The dictionary integration on the Kindle is so much more useful than I ever would have imagined. I use it far more than I thought I would, and now that I do, I can’t imagine _not_ having it.
Battery Life. I don’t leave the wireless on most of the time. And I haven’t recharged the thing since I got it, despite heavy use. Awesome.
Things Amazon Got Almost Right
The Color. I’m not a fan of white gadgets in general, but I could live with that. The real issue here is that the background of the e-ink display is slightly grey, not quite white. If the Kindle were grey or black or even red I wouldn’t really notice. But looking at the white of the Kindle next to the “white” of the display, and I realize there are still some improvements to be made in the contrast.
Progress Bar. I love that I can glance down and see how far into a book I’ve read. What I don’t like is that I can’t easily see how far until the end of the chapter I’m currently reading. When your wife is nudging you in bed saying, “Turn out the damn light” there’s no easy way to say, “I’m only four pages away from the end of this chapter.” Some chapter marker hash marks or something like that on the progress bar would be awesome.
Notes/Annotations. I suppose this is really a keyboard gripe, not an annotation gripe, but I would *really* like to make better use of adding notes to texts. This is especially true of legal PDFs that I convert to the Kindle. Right now, they work, but it’s tedious to type of the keyboard and it’s just not a smooth process. I suppose I’m pushing the envelop of what the Kindle is and is supposed to do, but hey, if you’re going to make that a feature, make it a good feature.
The size. It’s really comfortable in my hand, reading in bed at night. I thought that I would want a bigger screen, and I do. But I am really pretty happy with the screen size. If the screen were actually the size of the entire face of the current Kindle and were a touch screen, I think that would be perfect. As is, it is much better than I expected.
Things Amazon Got Wrong
Folders. Seriously, I already have dozens of books on my Kindle, and I’m just warming up. I’ve been hitting Feedbooks and Many Books and going crazy. Which makes my Table of Contents super long. Yeah, I can search it, but I would really love to have folders for reference, non-fiction, fiction, etc. C’mon, how hard would that be Amazon??! This is the major mistake on the UI, if you ask me.
Memory Card. I know, it will hold 1500 books or whatever. Yeah, 2GB isn’t bad, but I don’t care. Let me put my own card in it. That’s a real no brainer. And since the Kindle 1 had a memory card slot, removing it double sucks. New revisions should add features, not strip away good ones!
The Cover. Yeah, I’d probably buy my own cover anyway, and the $30 cover Amazon sells isn’t bad–but it should absolutely be included with the Kindle. Who wants to walk around with something that costs over $350 with no cover?! Selling it separately means that you basically pay $30 more for the Kindle, no matter what. Include a damn cover. And speaking of “covers”… it’s cool the way the Kindle exploits e-ink’s ability to display a persistent image to rotate the book covers that appear on the Kindle screen when it’s powered off. But here’s a feature request: let me customize those images. Sure, it’s cool to have Lewis Carrol, Edgar Allen Poe, or Mark Twain on the screen even though it’s off. But you know what would be even cooler? A pic of my family. That really shouldn’t be a hard feature, Amazon.
In the end, I have to say I love the thing. When I was a kid, I was a reader. I used to stay up way past my bedtime, when I was supposed to be asleep, reading with a flashlight. I haven’t done that in years. Well, the flashlight is gone, but the Kindle actually has me reading late into the night again. Why? It’s hard to say. I still love books–the smell, the feel. But there is something to be said for having a library at your fingertips. For having the ability to look up a word at the touch of a button while never leaving the page you’re reading that is compelling. I don’t think the Kindle will ever replace books in my life entirely, but I also think I’m going to be using it (or some form of e-reader) for a very long time.