After stewing over it for quite some time, watching Amazon’s marketing videos more than once, and seeing that I had just enough Amazon credit to cover its purchase, I decided to order a Kindle 2. I know that over the holidays shipments of the Kindle 1 had been delayed, so I was quite surprised that the Kindle was delivered on time this Wednesday after having ordered it only over the weekend.
The Kindle 2 packaging is entirely black on the outside and stark white on the inside. The quick start instructions are in the form of an accordion-style foldout that is also black on one side and entirely white on the other, where the instructions are printed. The secondary ink color on the quick start guide is copper and just doesn’t seem to match. I can’t imagine why it was chosen.
But nevermind the quickstart guide, because I didn’t actually read it. Because the eInk technology doesn’t use any power to preserve what’s been drawn on the screen, beginning instructions for use are right on the Kindle 2 when you open the box. Underneath the Kindle is the power cord, which can alternately plug into a standard AC outlet, or a USB port on the computer. I’m not sure how long the Kindle took to charge initially as I plugged it in and left it charging (it was fully charged when I woke up).
The Kindle 2 feels very solid. The front is crisp white. The back is mostly brushed metal with about 1 inch of grey plastic at the top (where I imagine the cellular antenna is). The buttons feel sturdy and it takes a fair amount of pressure to engage them (but not too much, just enough to avoid accidental pressing). The off switch is a small metal slider and I find it to be a bit on the small side.
Turning it On and Reading
When I powered on the Kindle 2 it had already been pre-registered with my account information and name. I enjoyed seeing “Christie’s Kindle” when starting it for the very first time. I’ve heard that Kindle 1 owner’s materials are transferred automatically to their Kindle 2, which seems like a pretty nice feature.
I haven’t done much reading yet on the Kindle, probably about an hour’s worth, but thus far it’s been very pleasant. The eInk is definitely easier to read than my laptop screen. When turning pages, there is a slight delay and a near-solid flash of black while the display redraws. At first I found this a bit slow and annoying. But now I’ve become accustomed to it and it’s become far less noticeable.
The user interface of the Kindle 2 is not superb, but it’s not horrible either. During my first session with the Kindle 2 I got a bit lost in the menu system. I’d hit Menu or Home and end up somewhere other than expected. I found myself thinking a few times after a misstep, “Oh, that’s where the Home button goes, I’ll have to remember that.” So for me, the navigation takes a bit getting used to.
I like the buttons on the Kindle 2. It’s nice having “Next Page” buttons on either side of the device so that I can hold it in either my left or my right hand. The joystick control, which is essential to menu navigation, is functional for the most part. I’ve pressed down on it accidentally only a few times. For someone with less dexterity this could be more of an issue, however.
If you’re a new Kindle user, the only piece of content you’ll have on your device at start up is the user guide. I scanned through this quickly, mostly to get a feel for the Kindle’s navigation. Then I launched the Kindle Store and subscribed to the New York Times. The process of subscribing to the Times was nearly effortless and I’d say in under a minute I was reading that day’s issue. As with the overall user interface, I found myself wishing the user interface for the NYT to be a bit more robust. For example, you’re able to see and navigate through a list of sections for each issue of the Times, but you aren’t able to see a list of the articles in each section. Instead, you have to jump to the start of each one sequentially. This isn’t a deal-breaker for me, however, as flipping through each article is quick.
I did encounter two disappointments with the content available on the Kindle 2. The first is the unavailability of my Amazon Wishlist. I have tons on books in my wishlist and it would be nice to see, on my Kindle 2, items from my wishlist that are available in Kindle format. The second disappointment is that blog access is not free. Slashdot, for example, requires a monthly subscription of $1.99 (or $2.99, I forget which). It makes sense, of course, as these subscription costs are part of how Amazon pays for the cost of Whispernet (the cellular connection from Sprint via which the Kindle connects to Amazon content).
I do love the dictionary look up feature. You simply navigate to any word that you see, press the joystick down and the definition instantly appears at the bottom of the Kindle’s screen. Very handy.
Overall I am happy with my purchase, though I do think it will take a bit of adjusting to really get into using the Kindle. Not because it’s not easy to read off the Kindle (it is, quite). It’s because it doesn’t quite have the same feel as a book and so I feel slightly disconnected from the material. However, I feel this disconnection much less intensly than I do when trying to read on my laptop. I think with time the Kindle’s ease of use, portability and additional features like instant dictionary lookup will trump this disconnect.