For the first time in several weeks I find myself back in the position of having to think of a topic to write about. 10 weeks ago I came up with the brilliant idea of writing about my 10 favorite video games. This ensured that for 10 weeks, I would have my blog topic already picked out every week. This was lovely, but at the same time I got a little spoiled. Now that I’ve finished my series on my 10 favorite video games, I have no idea what I want to write about.
Oh, I just thought of something! I got a Kindle for my birthday, so I’ll write about that!
The Kindle, in case you don’t already know, is an ebook reader designed and sold by Amazon. It’s the first ebook reader to really achieve mainstream success, and it did so with a combination of affordability and ease-of-use. Actually, it was probably just the ease-of-use that propelled it to its earliest successes, considering that the original Kindle was not particularly affordable when it came out in November 2007. (It cost $399 at launch.) But the price has dropped fairly rapidly, so that the Kindle I bought a couple of months ago only cost me $114. At that price, it’s practically an impulse purchase, at least as far as sophisticated consumer electronic devices go.
As far as ease-of-use goes, the Kindle is pretty much a master class in how to make a device simple and convenient. First of all, the screen. The Kindle uses an e-ink screen that is designed to look as close to ink printed on paper as a computer screen can look. This sort of screen does have some limits. It’s fairly low-resolution, so pictures look rather blurry. And it’s only black and white, so forget about reading, say, comic books on a Kindle. But what it does do well is mimicking the look of ink printed on paper. Like I said, it’s not perfect, but it’s close enough that I barely notice the difference.
As for actually getting content onto a Kindle, that couldn’t possibly be easier. Originally, the Kindle was only available with a 3G cellular data connection. In a way, this was awesome, because the connection was free, and this meant that you could browse the Kindle Store and download new books from virtually anywhere. However, there were those rare people (like me) who lived in a place so out of the way that Amazon’s copious 3G coverage didn’t reach. So the third generation Kindle included Wi-Fi in addition to 3G, and they also introduced a Wi-Fi only version. This version was (and is) $50 cheaper than the normal 3G Kindle.
Amazon makes it almost too easy to buy content for your Kindle. Once you go to the Kindle store and go to the information page for a book, all you have to do is click “Buy” and the book automatically starts downloading to your Kindle. It is quite easy to accidentally click Buy, but fortunately if you do click it by accident, you can click on “bought by accident” and the transaction will automatically be cancelled. Let me tell you, there is nothing quite as satisfying as sitting on the couch, thinking “Hmmm… I just remembered a really good book I once read. I wonder if it’s on the Kindle”, going to the Kindle store on my Kindle, finding the book, buying it, and reading it, all in a matter of minutes.
Another great thing about the Kindle, and this is largely due to the e-ink screen I mentioned earlier, is its fantastic battery life. Amazon claims that it will last up to two months on a single charge. Personally, it usually only lasts about a week and a half for me, but I leave the Wi-Fi antenna on all the time and use it almost constantly, so that’s still pretty fantastic. Considering I have to charge my iPod Touch daily, a week and a half between charges seems like almost an eternity.
The best feature about the Kindle, though, is probably its ubiquity. Amazon makes Kindle apps for PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone 7. Any Kindle content that you buy can be synced to any device that you own that has a Kindle app on it. Even better, Amazon has something that they call Whispersync. This means that if you stop reading a book on one device and then pick it up on another, the second device will know exactly where you left off. So I can read a book on my Kindle, take a break, and then pick up my iPod later and continue reading right where I left off. It’s a lovely feature, for sure.
There are currently five different versions of the Kindle device. There is the regular-size Kindle, and then there’s the extra-large Kindle DX. The Kindle DX only comes in one version, but there are four separate versions of the regular Kindle. You can get it with 3G and Wi-Fi, or you can get one that’s Wi-Fi only. Additionally, you can get it with Special Offers, or without. The 3G Kindle costs $189, the 3G Kindle with Special Offers costs $164, the Wi-Fi Kindle costs $139, and the Wi-Fi Kindle with Special Offers costs $114.
Special Offers is something that seems annoying and dumb at first, but in reality is a fantastic idea. Basically a Kindle with Special Offers has ads, while regular Kindles don’t. Now this sounds horrible in theory, but in fact the ads are very unobtrusive (they only appear on the main menu and when the device is turned off) and they are very often quite useful. Plus the Kindles with Special Offers are $25 cheaper than those without. So that’s a pretty nice deal.
Anyway, if you like reading, you should probably get a Kindle. I suppose you could always get a different ebook reader, but as far as I can tell, the Kindle has the biggest library, so it is my choice. And of course, books you buy from Kindle don’t work on a different ebook reader, so I’m pretty much locked in for life. Oh well.