Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Kindle 2.0

March 3th, 2009
Tuesday Afternoon, 4:53 PM

Last Wednesday my Kindle 2.0 came in mail. It was a gift from the Girls for my birthday earlier in the month. Between the time of the purchase and my birthday, Amazon announced, to great fanfare, that they would be shipping the 2.0 version of the product out in March. I was delighted by this news. Being in the Software field, I know first hand the benefits of using the second version of a product. My thinking is the beta period was over and now the 2.0 version should/would be ready for prime time. Don't get me wrong, I would have been just as happy with the original Kindle; I was looking forward to the experience as much as the features. The 2.0 news was merely icing on the proverbial birthday cake.

Much to my surprise, the product arrived in the mail a good 3 weeks prior to my expected date, just in time for a handful of business trips. So far, so good Amazon.

My first impressions from opening the box were that you could tell the Amazon Engineers spent some time at the Apple gadget school of design. The product is sleek offering a slim design and lighter then one would expect. To put it into context, it is much lighter then your average hardcover book; it feels more like a larger paperback in some respects. Once I plugged the power cord into the ebook, the product was on and ready for use. In the span of my first 30 minutes with the device, I was registering my account with Amazon (10 minutes tops), was browsing through recommendation of books I would prefer based on my past Amazon purchases (another 10 minutes), buying selected titles and registering for free newspapers (another 10 minutes). So far, so good Amazon.

Much to Amazon's credit, using the product and the Amazon store is easy and intuitive. I proceeded to spend the next two hours navigating through the device and the store. The keyboard is easy to use, especially if you are a blackberry user like myself and now possess superhuman thumbs. The buttons and home features make it easy to keep track of where you have been and where you are going. The Kindle Store is merely a condensed version of the store that you use and have been using for the past decade on your computer at amazon.com. All of this is made possible by free wireless being built into the device. Good form Amazon.

By far the smartest feature the Amazon has built into the Kindle is this free wireless. Imagine if you will when you first bought your first iPod many moons ago (6 years and about 72 moons for me), you plugged the device into the wall to charge up and you still had to go through the arduous task of uploading all of your CDs and files. Now imagine if you will that first iPod and imagine if that iPod had wireless access and iTunes built into the device. I understand that the iTouch and iPhone have this wireless feature now, but just imagine that power at the inception of the tool. That is why the iPhone & the App Store are so powerful currently and Apple has close to two thirds of the Mobile App business based on a recent report. Amazon wisely noted this and realized that, in Business 101 terms, the razor blades and easy access to the razor blades are as important as the razors themselves.

The next best feature of the Kindle and the Kindle Store is the "first chapter for free" option. Not only are most of the books 50% off of the list market price via the Kindle Store, but the first chapter of each book they offer online is free. When you are building up your book collection and searching through the quarter of a million options from the Store, it is good to know that you can download in seconds, store indefinitely and read at your leisure a chapter from a book you might be interested in. Now I fully understand that I can do this at my local Barnes and Noble but, do I ever? This "try and buy" feature is more reminiscent of something from a library to me. Clever Amazon, clever.

Over the course of my first week with the Kindle I purchased four books all for less then $10 each. I think the only times that I have purchased four books at one time was either the first week of every semester in college or during Christmas. Based on my normal reading appetite, I should be content with these four books for the next month or so. But, if you factor in being able to download first chapters for free and keep them on my homepage (Brendan's Kindle), I already have three other books waiting in the wings, a 2 week trial to the NY Times and some work PDFs I emailed to myself so I can read them on the plane. This only enhances the Kindle experience, and makes we want to continue to turn it on and visit the store. This way Amazon manages the distribution and enhances the personalized experience. Checkmate Amazon.

Mind you the product is not perfect; the "experimental web" access built in reminds me of my dial-up access from 1997. Not having a backlight built in, while helps with cooling the device and battery life, does take some getting used to since I have had this feature on every other device to date. Not being able to create sub-folders on my homepage would be nice, still that is nit-picking. For every "I wish it had", there are at least two "that's sweet". Don't like the "My Clipping" feature? Well how about a built in dictionary which lets you move the cursor to the word and have a real-time definition at the bottom of the page. "Oh cool." How about four different font options so you can decrease or increase the size of the font? "Double cool." You get the point. Oh by the way, the thing can read to you if you get tired of reading that big font. Bottom line - the product is solid.

So, if you are an avid reader, a gadget lover and have $350 to spend for a razor during the Great Depression 2.0 (don't forget the expense of the razor blades) then this is the next product you should pick-up and experience. As you can see from the picture of my little digital world above (my desk), there is room for the Kindle 2.0 and it fits right into the mix.

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