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I had been emailing Ann Althouse back and forth a few times to get her take on a device I was thinking about buying, the Amazon Kindle. She was kind enough to offer to meet me and discuss it over a scotch so I took her up on it.
There are two main reasons I was interested in this gadget. The first and most important is that when I read in bed, I like to lay down and read and the books get heavy. The other reason I wanted one is for when I take business trips. Again, it is a weight thing. So lets see how it did.
For those who don't know about it, the Kindle is basically an electronic book that enables you to download books, magazines, and newspapers directly from Amazon. Most titles are only $10. If you like pictures, forget it. Also, and this was a big deal for me - if you read a lot of old non fiction (for instance military history) your choices are fairly limited. They are getting more titles available for the Kindle all the time, but as of now you are only going to be able to get the big authors and the megaclassics. As an example, I just bought P. J. O'Rourke's new book, which is available on the Kindle, but this book which I am churning my way through right now, is not.
You use the Kindle to order your titles and they zap right into the machine pretty effortlessly. The Kindle is totally wireless, and uses cell phone signals to work, not the web. Very cool. As a matter of fact while sitting here with Ann we downloaded a sample chapter of the O'Rourke book to her Kindle. It was very quick.
Here is a photo of the Kindle in my big 'ol mitt. Look at the tiny keyboard down below - that was not easy for me to type on. It is made for people who text message a lot apparently. And that ain't me.
And here is Ann, smiling and knowing that this photo will show up on my blog at some point.
Here it is in Ann's hands. Her hands are a bit smaller than mine and she didn't have the same difficulty as I did working the controls.
Oh, and a great shot here of Ann's legendary footwear. My wife approved.
Here is a horrible backlit photo of a random woman who interrupted us to tell us how much she absolutely loved her Kindle. Both Ann and I told her she was nuts.
Here is the short version of my review - the Kindle sucks.
Here is the slightly longer version. The damn screen - oh that damned screen. It isn't stark enough and it isn't backlit. The background is grey and that is the deal breaker. It is too heavy. The problem of the heavy books in bed would not be solved by it. And there is the issue of not being able to download older titles.
All in all, I think it is a very good first shot at something that is a long time coming. But it is expensive ($399). I think that execs who are on planes all the time will use it a lot, if they just want to read their papers and current books. I was told that you can upload documents to it as well but didn't see that in operation.
A very interesting gadget, but not for me, at least not in this form.
A big thank you to Ann for taking time out to show her Kindle to me. Also, it was great meeting her son Chris.
ALSO: Althouse has a post on electronic books today as well here, and some good comments about the Kindle in there.