Kindle Spirits

Posted on February 29, 2008



My Kindle and I have known each other for exactly 44 days, 2 hours and – okay about 6 weeks – and I am falling in love.

First let me explain how I got to be the lucky owner of a Kindle. My husband, Tod is a BlackBerry-toting gadget geek. Besides the BlackBerry, he owns an iPod, a Thump, a Sling Box, and a Sirius radio player. He’s totally into the feed, if you know what I mean. So when Kindle first arrived on the scene, I sent him a link to the demo and wrote: “this looks pretty cool”.

I haven’t bought an ebook reader because I thought they were too expensive and too limited in functionality. For $300 and up, I just thought an ebook reader should do more than store and display books. I didn’t want to lug around an iPod, an ebook reader, a cell phone, and a Palm. Well I don’t own a cellphone so that took care of that. I got a Palm instead. I can jot notes, make lists, play games and music, access the internet, and read ebooks. Problem is, reading ebooks on my Palm is a pain in the eyes. Plus the battery has the lifespan of gnat.

I wasn’t at all sure I wanted a Kindle. I just thought it looked cool and did lots of things. But at $399, I thought it was way too spendy. Tod ordered one for me anyway. During the 3 weeks I waited for it to arrive, I fretted that I wouldn’t like it, then decided I could always try it out and send it back.

When my Kindle finally showed up I felt apprehensive. I hate the learning curve that comes with new gadgets or software. So I set aside 2 hours and put my Kindle to the test.

The relationship began clumsily. My Kindle slid too easily out of the bookish-feeling, black and gray cover. So I decided to read the User’s Guide sans cover. But my thumbs got in the way. On the right side of the device is a long page forward button, and on the left the previous page button. So whenever I accidentally pressed my thumbs down I jumped all around the text. Gah. I put the dang thing back in the bookish cover and magically returned to my previous place in the User’s Guide – near the beginning.

Wait a minute. I paused to comprehend what just happened. The Kindle remembered where I left off in the text before my thumbs got in the way. Impressive.

The User’s Guide was really easy to read. No doubt it was written by geniuses who get that I don’t have a lot of time, I want my questions answered right away, I want to be able to click and learn at the same time, and once I’ve done all that I want to retain what I just learned because I learned by doing and not just reading a manual.

Plop. Damn Kindle slid out of the book cover onto the floor. Grrr …

I was all thumbs and the cover seemed useless. Had it not been for Mike Elgan’s opinion piece, Why Amazon’s Kindle is revolutionary: Surprising facts about Amazon’s new Kindle e-book reader, which I read before my Kindle arrived, that would have been the end of it for me and my Kindle. However his article intrigued me and I didn’t want to hurt Tod’s feelings, so I decided to press on.

Four hours later I had finished reading the User’s Guide, surfed the internet, purchased and downloaded a book, subscribed to a periodical, wrote and saved a memo, and sent a file from my computer to my Kindle. How’s that for fast and easy? Ok. So maybe it took longer than I allowed for, but at the end of those 4 hours I totally knew how to use the thing. I was infatuated.

Besides doing all that stuff, the Kindle is an MP3 player. I can listen to music on speakers or via headphones. I can also listen and read at the same time. Or I can download and listen to audio books. For a quick guide to the oodles of Kindle features, please do read Elgan’s opinion, Why Amazon’s Kindle is revolutionary. I can’t explain its functionality any better than he did. And he’s right about everything.

I was concerned about the PDF issue. Currently Amazon claims they are working on PDF compatibility. They advise users to send PDFs to their Kindle and see what happens, but there might be a formatting problem. This week I got a free PDF from I wanted to put it on my Kindle so I sent it from my computer to my Kindle address. Voila. It came right through, formatting and all. No problem.

Gotta love it.

Let me explain exactly what that means to a writer like me. Kindle is Word compatible. That means I can send the file of this review – or any manuscript – to my Kindle, then read and edit it on the device. I edited this review on my Kindle – while listening to Afro Celt Sound System. So tragically hip. Okay. I admit. It’s a bit rudimentary as a handheld computer. But to be able to read and edit a file away from my desktop impresses the living daylights out of me. Yes I do have a laptop but the Kindle is way smaller and easier to lug around – and it’s energy efficient. Ding.

Also, it’s easy on the eyes. Ding-ding-ding.

The battery life seems similar to the BlackBerry. I get hours and hours of use especially if I turn off the Whispernet and use it only when I need it to buy and/or download content, which is also really easy. A dangerous thing for an Amazon junkie like me.

I’m too starry-eyed to claim downsides at this point. Let’s just say my Kindle and I do have some issues. I finally found the most comfortable way to hold it while reading is to place it in the bookish cover. I glued a Velcro strip on the inside of the cover and one to the back of the device, which has solved the slipping problem.

Amazon offers a limited selection of newspapers, magazines and journals, and blogs. However I’m not jumping at the chance to pay $1.99/month for a subscription to The Onion blog, when I can read it online for free. For someone who’s on the go a lot, the convenience is probably worth the price. At $3.49/month, a subscription to Salon via Kindle is nearly twice as much as the online subscription rate. The Nation is more reasonable at $1.49/month. But The Nation is weekly and Salon is daily. There again, I guess it’s the convenience thing. Amazon needs to offer more selections in newspapers, magazines and journals, and blogs. And they need to lower the price. Or perhaps I need to travel more.

Kindle doesn’t do email but that’s okay with me. I need to spend less time on email, especially when I’m reading.

There is what I call an integration factor. Since this is my first real ebook reader I have to adjust my reading habits to make room for Kindle. I am still finding ways to use it. Every week I learn something new it can do for me. My Kindle and I definitely have a future together.

Because I’m not using it all the time, Tod and I can share it. He can download files and ebooks and read while I’m not using it. When we start fighting over it, he can get his own Kindle and transfer all his stuff. But for now we are Kindle spirits.

OBTW, the Kindle travel case and the Mighty Bright Light are the 2 must-have accessories.

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