Saturday, January 3, 2009

Gear: The Amazon Kindle

So where have I been this past year? Well, with the birth of my second child, I am essentially evolving into my worst nightmare: a mom with a very depleted brain in sweats, no make-up, hair up in a bun, and yes, I have been known to catch a few episodes of Oprah. I do have to credit Oprah though for featuring the Amazon Kindle, the gadget I've always seen on Amazon's home page but was too lazy to figure out how it worked. Jeff Bezos was on Oprah touting the gadget, and I was sold. I balked a bit at the cost (about $359) but was so enthralled by the fact that I could carry up to 200 books on this one lightweight device that I bit the bullet and One-Clicked my way into owning a Kindle.

Here's how the device works: Amazon has a contract with Sprint that allows the books to be downloaded to your Kindle device wirelessly (on what's called the "Whispernet") within a few seconds using the same high speed data network as a cell phone (EVDO). There's no contract or additional fees other than your initial Kindle purchase; you just buy your Kindle, and your Amazon account permits you to buy new books anywhere within the U.S. within the coverage area. So you're at the airport and you finish a book--you can surf the Kindle store on your Kindle and buy a new title within a few seconds. You can highlight, make notes, look up words in the Kindle which has the New American Oxford Dictionary built in. All your purchases are automatically stored on Amazon. You can also subscribe to major newspapers like the NY Times and the Wall St. Journal, and they will automatically be delivered to your Kindle every morning. As for battery life, supposedly you can read War and Peace in one sitting on one charge if you turn off the wireless feature.

Granted I had to take a few baby steps back into the realm of reading and began by downloading Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series for young adults, then I gradually worked my way up into the classics and found that I could download the entire Shakespeare catalogue for $.99, and depending on which edition you chose, Plato's Republic could be had for a mere $ .43. NY Times bestsellers generally sell for $9.99, a lot less than what you'd pay for a hardback.

The Kindle is like an iPod for books; however, they probably could have benefited from the Apple geniuses in the design. There are some glitches--yes, it's hard to lend your books to friends when it's on your Kindle, and it's too bad it's in black and white so any photographs in color aren't as effective, the ease of acquiring books anywhere has proven dangerous for the wallet, but the convenience outweighs the minor downsides, and I'm looking forward to seeing this device evolve.

Available at Amazon

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