Forget everything you've read or heard about electronic books. After dozens of companies have tried and failed, Amazon's Kindle has succeeded big time. I've been using one actively for several days and it's life changing.
Amazon has re-thought the entire process and has come up with the best implementation yet. They not only developed an excellent device, but created a seamless and simple process for selecting, retrieving and reading books.
The Kindle store, accessed from the device, offers more than 90,000 books including best-sellers, newspapers, magazines and blogs (including the Huffington Post). Kindle's books are heavily discounted: current best-seller hardcover books, which cost $25-$35 cost just $9.99 as a Kindle book.
Once you choose a book, it's delivered to you seamlessly over Sprint's high-speed wireless network. The book's title is automatically added to your personal table of contents and you can start reading the book seconds later. It's the closest thing to magically transporting the book from Amazon's warehouse to you.
The Kindle store is simple to use and is rich with extras. You can preview a book before buying, read reviews, and search by category.
It's comparable to Apple's iTunes store, but is better in some ways because you can access it from almost anywhere without needing a computer. And unlike iTunes, all your purchases are remembered and can be downloaded to your Kindle again and again at no cost in case you lose or delete them. The Kindle holds about 200 books.
The Kindle device is a pleasure to hold and to use. It's just 10 ounces, is easy to cradle in your hand and doesn't intrude on the reading process. It seems to almost disappear when you're immersed in your book.
Its shape is unlike anything I've seen and it's impossible to accurately describe (and photograph). It's angular, with soft edges like a book, yet wedge-shaped like a three-ring notebook. It's much thinner than you'd expect from the photos.
The controls and menus are easy to learn and use. The low-power, black-and-white, matte display is crisp and easy to read, looking like print on paper. Instead of backlighting, the screen uses ambient light from the room or a lamp, just like a normal book. I could read for hours without the strain I normally get from using a backlit display. The six-inch screen displays graphics in four shades of gray, but it's designed primarily for text. There's one font available in several sizes. The removable battery lasts for several days and is recharged in about two hours. It has plenty of power for a long transcontinental flight.
The Kindle system is revolutionary and is something perhaps only Amazon could have accomplished because of its vast online store and its relationships with publishers.
The Kindle costs $399. While not inexpensive, that includes unlimited access to the high-speed network and free Internet access. If you read a book or two a month, the cost savings pays for the device in a year or two.
If my experience is typical, you'll be doing a lot more reading with the Kindle. It's something that you'll likely bring with you everywhere and use to fill those spare moments.
Amazon has succeeded in becoming the first company to deliver on the promise of electronic books.