The Kindle After One Week

Last week I “unboxed” the Amazon Kindle 2 in a short video on my blog. I also shared my first impressions. I have now used the device for about a week, so I thought I would share my thoughts in a little more depth.

a kindle 2 sitting up against a shelf of traditional books

I still don’t think this is the device that will dramatically change the game for publishing. However, I do believe it is another step in the right direction. I also believe I have more clarity on what is still missing and where e-books are going. I plan to discuss these topics in future posts.

As I pointed out when I wrote about the original Kindle, the device is not so much an e-book reader as it is a portable bookstore. If that was true of the first generation Kindle, it is even more true of this version.

The Kindle 2 wirelessly connects to the Amazon Kindle bookstore, using the Spirit Whispernet network. This is completely invisible to you as a user. You do not need to register. This service comes with the Kindle, and there is no monthly service fee. The service is “on” by default, so you are wireless connected 24/7 unless you specifically turn it off.

The store now boasts almost 250,000 titles. (Thomas Nelson has more than 1,500 titles.) In my own checking, you can find all but a couple of the top 100 Amazon bestsellers. In addition to that, there are tens of thousands of public domain books available for the Kindle on sites like FeedBooks and ManyBooks. Certainly, there is vast library of content available now, for almost every literary interest.

What do I like about the new Kindle 2? Plenty. For purposes of this brief introduction, I will elaborate on five items. (I am specifically not going to mention the text-to-speech feature—which I love—since I wrote on that earlier this week.)

  1. Registration. When my Kindle 2 arrived, it was already registered to me. In fact, it already knew I had a Kindle 2 and had named this one, “Michael’s Kindle 2.” There was also a welcome letter from Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, to me. The device was connected to my Amazon account and one-click ordering was enabled. This is about as painless of a setup as I have ever experienced or could imagine. For book addicts like me, it is probably also a little dangerous!
  2. Connectivity. I received my new Kindle 2 while I was on vacation. I had taken my original Kindle with me, so I didn’t have to lug around all the books I just might want to read. However, we were staying in a remote cabin in Colorado, and I couldn’t connect to Sprint’s network. However, to my surprise, the Kindle 2 connected instantly. In my testing, I was able to download complete books in less than 15 seconds.
  3. User Interface. Amazon has improved the look and feel of the device. The original Kindle felt cheap and almost “retro” to me. Not so with the Kindle 2. In my opinion, the device feels more solid and sleek. In particular:
    • The next and previous page buttons are smaller. As a result, you are less likely to accidently hit them when merely holding the reader.
    • In addition, you can’t actually press the buttons on the outside edge of the device. You have to press them toward the inside, which guarantees intentional page turning.
    • The keyboard is less intrusive—almost invisible. It still resides below the screen, and the keys are easy to use. But the overall design is much better. In fact, the home key has been replaced by a larger home button above the Next Page button.
    • The five-way selector is a big improvement over the roller of the previous generation. It is intuitive and quick. You can move the cursor in any one of four directions and then press it to make your selection.
    • The screen makes use of the same e-ink technology as the first generation, but Amazon has upgraded it. It is still black-and-white only, but it will now display sixteen shades of gray instead of the original’s four. In addition, the page turns faster, but you will still notice a flicker from one page to the next. You will also notice a slight delay between selecting an action and the action actually happening.
  4. Capacity. The Kindle 2 will now hold approximately 1,500 books (depending in the length, of course). This compares to the 200 or so books the original Kindle held. In addition, you can move books on and off your device from the Amazon servers, so you can actually store more books online than your device can hold. Regardless, this is plenty for me. The batter also lasts up to two weeks with the wireless feature turned off or about four days with it turned on.
  5. Case. Unlike the original Kindle, the Kindle 2 does not come with any kind of carrying case. I wish they would have told me this when I placed my original order. (Perhaps they do now; I pre-ordered mine immediately after the announcement.) You have lots of third-party, leather options, but they are expensive. I bought the Amazon standard-issue case, it is just fine. It looks almost exactly like a Moleskine journal sans the ribbon and the elastic band.

So far, I am loving the Kindle 2. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect; it’s not. But for now, I think it provides an excellent user experience and will sell even better than the original Kindle.

Question: If you don’t have a Kindle, do you intend to buy one? Why or why not?
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  • Colleen Coble

    Sounds like you're still sold, Mike! I'm tempted to buy the Kindle to read chapters I'm critiquing on, but it's too expensive for such limited usage. I'm a techie to the nth degree, but I just can't seem to get excited about a digital reader for pleasure. I have such a love affair with books, the feel of them, the smell of them, the look of words on a page.

    I wish I had more enthusiasm for a Kindle, but I just don't. I did download the Kindle version for my iPhone but was very under impressed. If I could flip it sideways for a wider view, it might be better, but I was reading faster than I could flip. So that put me off the idea even more. I sent a sample of one of my books to my iPhone and it just felt WRONG to be reading it there. :-)

    If Apple came out with a reader, I might be more tempted to take a closer look! It's going to take some time for me to warm up to the idea. Quite a few of my friends have a Kindle. If I see one in real life, maybe I'll change my mind. Again, maybe not!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/ButchWalker ButchWalker

    I'm intrigued by it, but I keep thinking about how many books I could buy for $350. Still, I'm a gadget freak so at some point, probably.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Think of it this way, Butch. On average, the Kindle books cost about half of the printed book's price. In other words, you pay about $10.00 instead of $20.00 to $25.00. With this savings, it only have to buy about 35-36 Kindle books to pay for the device.

  • http://www.booksforkids-reviews.com Pam Tee

    Perhaps the best commentary on the Kindle 2 that I've read. Neither gushing nor ascerbic, just intelligent observations. Thanks.

  • http://signsmiraclesandwonders.blogspot.com/ Amy Wyatt

    I just bought my husband the Kindle 2 for his birthday. He LOVES it. I'm thinking I may have to get one myself. It sure would beat lugging around all those books while on planes and vacations :)

  • http://www.booksandsuch.biz/blog Wendy Lawton

    I had the original KIndle and loved it, but Kindle 2 is a significant upgrade. I agree with everything Michael said– ergonomically it offers real improvement. I love the look and feel of the new cover as well. The attachment system solved all the problems of the previous clumsy cover.

    I'm surprised to find I'm buying multiple formats of the same books these days. I had _Demon_ on my shelf at home but decided to read it while on a trip and repurchased it for Kindle. I first bought _Water for Elephants_ for Kindle but when I learned the book had photos, I bought the trade edition as well. I've bought both audio and Kindle versions of other books. The new text-to-speech option is great, but the purchased audio book goes into my iPod– a different device used for a different purpose.

    Strangely enough, I discovered I don't enjoy reading nonfiction on the Kindle. The geography of a nonfiction book is too important to me. I like to thumb through nonfiction, marking it up, getting to know where things are on the page.

    I do love reading fiction however and I'm guessing I've read twice as many novels as before Kindle. The best thing is the book delivery system. The convenience of getting the very book you'd like to read, at the very moment you have a few spare minutes, at the touch of a button– this is the magic of Kindle.

    And, as an agent, the Kindle has become invaluable for reading manuscripts– a much more green solution. Instead of toting umpteen pounds of printed manuscripts on trips, they're all in my Kindle. And it's easier to get a book-feel for the manuscript on KIndle.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    I certainly respect your perspective, Colleen. Many people have similar views. I think the Kindle make the most sense if you travel a good bit, as I do. I love the convenience of having so many books available without the burden of actually carrying them.

    I don't think that Amazon intended for the Kindle for iPhone to replace the Kindle. However, it's great when you are in line at the grocery store or somewhere else and can continue to read. I would not enjoy reading an entire book on the iPhone.

    But, as you probably know, people are reading novels on cell phones in Japan. This appears to be more than a fad. In general, I don't think younger people have the same affection as ours for real books.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    Yes, I agree, convenience is the Kindle's best feature.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/FaithEngineer FaithEngineer

    I was definitely wanting one, but the price has me holding back. I am excited about Amazon's Kindle app for the iphone and ipod touch. I have already downloaded it and started reading a couple of books using my ipod. I think this was a smart move, the small screen size of the ipod will make serious readers want to move up to the Kindle.

  • http://www.godhungry.org Jim Martin

    Michael–I've been considering Kindle. But–I have been hesitant considering the cost, etc. Your very fine review has been helpful. Thanks.

  • http://www.thischangesnothing.com Michael Covington

    Don't think I'll be buying one now that I have the Kindle on my iPhone.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    Let us know if you feel that way after a week. It will be an interesting experiment. So far, I am finding that I have to flip the pages too often because not enough text fits on a page. In other words, the screen size is too small. But maybe I will get used to it. Regardless, it is convenient when I want to continue reading and doing have my Kindle with me. Thanks.

    • http://www.thischangesnothing.com Michael Covington

      Will do. I'll admit I haven't had the opportunity to spend time with the reader itself for comparison purposes. I will say that the smaller page size actually works better for me. I am an impatient reader, wish it wasn't so, but I am always ready to finish the book. More page flips makes me feel like I am accomplishing more, I feel like I am reading the book at a faster rate. I know, wierd right?!

  • http://briandblog.com BrianD

    Michael, I would love to buy the Kindle2. Love being the operative word here.

    At this point in my life, for what it is and considering my other responsibilities, $359 is way too much for something like a book reader (I would love to see a good reliable book reader in the $49-$99 range…it would make more economic sense, particularly in this economy, and would make ebooks accessible to the vast majority of the population).

    I downloaded the Kindle app. Right now, it's usable. I may indeed hate it after reading the few books I downloaded…or I may feel better about it than I do now.

    What I appreciate is being able to buy books at a significant discount; carry them with me wherever I go on my device; and to not have to pay $359 for the opportunity to buy and read these ebooks. I understand where the screen size is an issue for a lot of folks, but I already read tons of blogs on Google Reader and am fine with the screen size.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/tommylane tommylane

    Very good review, Mike. I am definitely toying with the idea of getting a Kindle 2 just for the convenience of not having to carry the weight of books around. I don't know how long it will be for my desire to become a reality, though. Time will tell.

  • http://TheKindleChronicles.com Len Edgerly

    Good review, Mike. I'd also add that subscribing to newspapers and magazines on the Kindle is a big plus for me. I subscribe to Technology Review, the New Yorker, Denver Post, Washington Post, and FT – they arrive automatically via the wireless connection at major savings over print versions, and the Kindle 2 software improvements make moving around the sections much easier.
    I've been following the Kindle in my weekly audio podcast, The Kindle Chronicles, since July of last year, and I can feel a huge increase in momentum in the past two weeks with the arrival of the K2 and the iPhone app.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/tommylane tommylane

      The newspaper and magazine subscriptions ability are very appealing to me which makes the Kindle 2 even more tempting to buy.

  • http://www.jackswebpage.net Jack Collins

    I think you are very smart to stay on top of trends by personally keeping step with new technology in your industry and even leading the way with initiatives like NelsonFree. In my former life as a software developer, I have seen many, many software executives that were completely out of touch with the technology in their industry. A situation that seems to have a taxing effect on teams and companies.

    After seeing your video last week, I ordered a Kindle 2 and have also had mine one week as of today. I do think this trend is the future of publishing. I just read in the Wall Street Journal (on my new Kindle 2) that Barnes & Nobles has purchased Fictionwise, a leading e-book seller. The article also states that e-books are one of the few publishing categories showing significant growth. jack

  • Karen Maxon

    I have been following your Kindle-commentary and am intrigued by the thing. I had not actually seen one until last week when I had a conversation with a Kindle-reading gate-mate at O'Hare. I held it, read it, tried the controls, asked lots of questions. Now I'm sold, and I do intend to buy one. I'll never give up my books at home. But for travelling, the Kindle is just the ticket….

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/KarlaAkins KarlaAkins

    Thanks for sharing! I can hardly wait to get one.

  • http://www.courageoussingleparenting.blogspot.com Scoti_Domeij

    Why do some publishing peeps prefer the SonyReader?

  • http://www.kylebjohnson.com Kyle

    After reading your review, I am now going to buy mine. Can't wait to get it and get to reading.

  • http://sharonball.wordpress.com Sharon Ball

    For the last several weeks, everywhere I look I read something about Amazon and Kindle 2. I can only imagine how greatly the controversy over the product is contributing to increased sales. All that said, I think it sounds like a very useful device, but I have not decided to purchase one for two reasons. First, I'm in a cost saving mode and trying hard to curtail unnecessary purchases. Second, I want to make sure that if and when I do buy one, that I buy it based on my needs and what I feel it can do for me. I’m still a long way from determining that.

  • http://wwwpenandpalette-susancushman.blogspot.com/ Susan Cushman

    okay, i'm still on the fence… can see lots of practical reasons for the Kindle2 (or any e-reader) but one "ethical" issue I'm struggling with is this: I am a big supporter of independent book sellers. Is Amazon the only place you can get downloads for the Kindle and Kindle2?

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/patalexander patalexander

    Michael, It was your posts about the original Kindle that convinced me that I needed one. I bought one, lost it on an airplane and replaced it almost immediately as I travel almost weekly. Before Kindle I always had at least 2 books in addition to printed business documents. After Kindle I had it, no other books or printed documents. I use the feature of sending .pdf docs to my Kindle email addess for all of those documents I previously printed. I pre-ordered the Kindle 2 the 1st day Amazon made it available. I like all of the improvements and the thinner profile. I almost always have it with me in my hand bag. What a convenience. I really like the new sync feature as I keep my Kindle I by the bed and can pick up where I left off on the Kindle 2 and visa versa. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and tips on the Kindle and other gadgits.

  • http://gavinknight.com Gavin Knight

    thanks Michael

    this review only makes me wish the Kindle was available internationally

    as per our Twitter conversation I kind of understand why they haven't made the Kindle device available internationally as Amazon would need to negotiate connectivity agreements in each country, but that doesn't explain why the iPhone App is US only also as with an iPhone you bring your own connectivity with the iPhone!

    I appreciate your Twitter comment that you don't have any publishing insights on why that might be, but it is very frustrating for those of us not in the USA!

    hopefully it's only a matter of time for us to have the Kindle available to us internationally, even in software form if they hold off releasing the device itself internationally!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I hope they make the Kindle available internationally, too. I'm sure this is all part of the 20th century way that publishing rights are bought and sold—by country. It is going to get very cumbersome for everyone in the new world of global technologies.

  • http://www.blomerus.org Marysol

    Hi Mr. Hyatt,
    Thanks for reviewing this product. We have been quite interested. Here's the thing I'm waiting for before I invest in a reading device: being able to quickly select, copy, and organize notes. I teach alot and have on going projects I'm researching. I want to be able to grap a quotes, story, bit of information and in one click, maybe 2 max be able to organize it away. Until then, I'm sticking with good ole paper.
    -Marysol
    http://www.blomerus.org

  • Doug Smith

    I would be interested to read what you think is lacking in the Kindle. Also, you suggested some while ago that Amazon should price the Kindle at $99 (using the razor and razor blade model) to get a lot of them out there. But I've read subsequently that Amazon is actually subsiding the sale of each book downloaded to the Kindle. It's nevertheless fascinating to observe the Kindle phonomenon. For years, Amazon was hemorrhaging cash and it wasn't that long ago that many smart analysts projected that Amazon could not survive. It's safe to guess that most of the investment money that Amazon attracted during the dot com era went into building their distribution system, which created a huge hurdle for potential competitors to overcome. But the Kindle bypasses that distribution system, which I take as a tacit acknowledgement by Bezos, et al. that the era of the e-book is coming and they are doing everything they can to lock in a proprietary standard.

  • Chris G

    I've had a Kindle2 for a couple of weeks including some travel – it's now entrenched in my life, much more than expected. I've read twice as much stuff as before, yikes!, including times when I read instead of watched TV, which is a new experience. Conversation with significant other is also up, 'way up. ____Being able to download first chapters of anything for free has made the difference. I've weeded out a lot of possible books and made book purchase decisions I don't later regret, AND the books I'm reading are so good, thanks to this filtering, that I'm far more absorbed in them than usual. I'm completely sold on this thing.____I tried a friend's iphone book reader for an hour. Forget it! much too small a window into the book. There's still something about a whole page of text, and being able to look back a bit.____Other than this, I only buy at independent booksellers and I regret what this kind of thing might to do them or the big booksellers for that matter, but the compromise for me (and the environment, incidentally) is clearly in favor of the physical text-dense book becoming a rare thing in my life.

  • Daniele Beta

    I own a Sony Reader and looking to Kindle, I'm guessing it has a smaller screen, with the keyboard and the white case still appearing retro to me.. Probably Sony thought is also.. cheaper and less proprietary. Searching some confutation about that..

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/John_Gallagher John_Gallagher

    I have not yet purchased a Kindle and don't have immediate plans to purchase one. I do have significant interest, just not $300+ interest. I love the concept and if I traveled more, I would increase my desire for an e-reader (Sony or Kindle). I would love to try one out. I want to know how easy it is to highlight and 'file' specific 'aha' items. Currently, when I read a book, I highlight and then dogear. I would love to be able to do that by tagging the items under topics like you can with Google reader.

  • http://www.trudatmusic.com/raw/ brenten gilbert

    i haven't gotten a kindle yet, but i've been itching too… it's not really in the budget at this point, but it's certainly a slick product…

    i guess one of the bigger drawbacks would be that most of the books that i read have been out for a while and i'm not too keen on re-purchasing books to have them in a different format. Now, if publishers started servicing review copies and such via ebook more frequently like the music industry has been leaning towards servicing mp3s instead of physical albums (and if i made any sort of a living reviewing media), then it would be more to think about… but again, you can easily convert a CD and put it on your iPod, how easy is it to take a 500 page physical book and stick it onto your Kindle?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Beaconhillnw Jim

    I just read this past week on a blog about the kindle and how much $ he was saving on his wife's education with the Kindle. Impressive. I'm very interested.

  • http://www.lindamaubooks.com Linda M Au

    About a year ago I thought e-readers were tools of the devil. (Well, perhaps I exaggerate.) The royalty issues for authors alone gave me the heebie-jeebies. Plus, thinking about giving up the feel of a "dead tree" book made me break out in hives.

    But in October I bought a Kindle. For traveling it's been a dream, and for my chronic dry eye issues, the resizable font has been a blessing in disguise. I'd guess my reading output (or is that input?) has nearly tripled since getting the Kindle.

    And, having been part of several Kindle communities online now, I realize that e-reader owners tend to buy *more* books than they used to before owning their e-readers. It's easier, quicker, cheaper, and less guilt-inducing for those of us running out of shelf space in the house. (Let's face it: Not all of us need to own in hard copy every bestseller that comes down the pike, but we might like to read them anyway!)

    So, a year after my internal emotional conflicts over e-readers, I'm now convinced that everybody wins: writers, readers, publishers, and certainly Jeff Bezos. :)

  • piedpiper909

    Kindle 2 is awesome! Its addictive too. If I didnt have self control, i would be buying a new book every other day. Kindle allows me to read with more comfort and ease which means more time to read and flippin pages like crazy. And also its nice to not worry about my book collection being torn up by my darling toddler. That was a nightmare. Im glad that when purchasing a book, they tell you how many pages it has. Its gotta be a really good book for me to buy if its under 500 pages. If not, I wont buy it. It is scary at how fast you can read a book with a Kindle…how tempting…it is to buy…just one more book…

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