Last August for my 18th wedding anniversary, my husband, Duane, bought “us” a gift—the Amazon Kindle. When I opened the package, I was able to plug it in and download my first book, turn a page or two, and then finally turned it over and stroke it lovingly before Duane literally snatched it from my hand in a manner not unlike men typically do with the TV remote control.
The Kindle Transformation
What happened next quite surprised me. As Duane read, he transformed. He held tighter to the Kindle, literally turned to put his body between me and it whenever I walked by while throwing me feral looks, tucked it under his pillow at night, and eventually raising it high above his head while standing on the furniture to keep it out of my reach. Somehow, this little white device had turned Duane into some caveman-like creature. Having only five minutes myself to bond with “our” anniversary gift, I was astounded that anything could be so good.
A couple of weeks later, I wrestled the Kindle from Duane’s hands to show it off to girlfriends over a weekend getaway. Duane was so fraught with separation anxiety that the following Monday, a second Kindle was delivered to my door. The Neanderthal surfaced again, but this time just long enough to charge the battery and stock it with a few books and a newspaper that he thought I would enjoy.
And enjoy I did. I quickly understood why he transformed and have noticed me hovering over my friends and colleagues as I showed it to them. I like to think I’m protective of it as one would be of a new-born baby rather than as the strange creature clutching a coveted treasure as was Duane. But I guess it’s all about perspective.
Why to love the Kindle?
If you don’t have a Kindle, I’m pretty sure you’ve got that look on your face and you’ve likely emitted a guffaw or two already. Trust me, I’ve seen the reaction from everyone. But let me tell you why I love my Kindle:
- It’s the size of a paperback.
- It can hold up to 1500 books without the memory extension. (And yes, I did mean to put two zeros on it!)
- You can shop right from the device.
- Books cost about 1/3 as much as traditional books.
- Books arrive within seconds of purchase.
- Text size adjusts on-the-fly.
- I can highlight, bookmark, add notes with the full keyboard, and later synchronize with my computer.
- Duane and I can share books easily. (Actually, you can have up to five Kindles on an account that you can share your library with.)
- Airlines don’t know what it is, so they don’t make you turn it off during take-off and landing. (And, yes, I do turn off the wireless part.)
- The porters who carried my supply bag to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in December LOVED that the 20 books I brought along were light
But wait, we’re talking about the Kindle2, right?
The list for how great my Kindle is goes on and on. But that’s for the first Kindle. I had you suffer through the back story because I have only had a short opportunity to hold the device at a girl’s weekend. I laughed when my girlfriend pulled out her brand spanking new Kindle2, handed it to me, hovered over me as I looked at it, and then discretely snatched it up, put it in its case, and hid it away as smoothly as she would hiding a bag of candy or prize from her three children under the age of five. (She had been trying to get one since she had seen mine 6 months earlier and had to suffer with the upgrade as they were backordered the whole time!)
Say Hello to the Kindle2
With the opportunity to hold the Kindle2, I feel the huntress re-emerging. It’s sleek, it’s sexy, and has some major improvements. Shoot, it even already has an application that lets you use it with your Apple iPhone (but that’s for a different column!).
I’ve had to borrow from the Amazon website to tell you all the features of Kindle: Amazon’s Wireless Reading Device. (Remember, my girlfriend only let it out of her possession for a couple of minutes!) Here is what you’ll enjoy with the Kindle2:
- Just over 1/3 of an inch, as thin as most magazines
- Lightweight: At 10.2 ounces, lighter than a typical paperback (The porters get happier and happier!)
- Wireless: 3G wireless lets you download books right from your Kindle, anytime, anywhere; no monthly fees, service plans, or hunting for Wi-Fi hotspots
- Books in Under 60 Seconds: Get books delivered in less than 60 seconds; no PC required
- Improved Display: Reads like real paper; now boasts 16 shades of gray for clear text and even crisper images
- Longer Battery Life: 25% longer battery life; read for days without recharging (My Kindle lasted me 10 days on the mountain even with sub-zero temperatures, so this is pretty amazing!)
- More Storage: Take your library with you; holds over 1,500 books
- Faster Page Turns: 20% faster page turns
- Read-to-Me: With the new text-to-speech feature, Kindle can read every newspaper, magazine, blog, and book out loud to you, unless the book is disabled by the rights holder (This has a bit of room for improvement as it’s a computerized text reader rather than a “books on tape” reader.)
- Large Selection: Over 240,000 books plus U.S. and international newspapers, magazines, and blogs available
- Low Book Prices: New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases $9.99, unless marked otherwise.
Will the Kindle2 take off?
Well, with a ticket price of $359, it might take a while. Yet I fully expect it to take off like another little white device, the iPod, that hit the market a few years back. Just as we enjoy taking our music library with us, it won’t be long before we’ll be taking our book library with us.
And for us technical communication professionals, it won’t be long before we are writing user guides and other documentation for this device. I’ve even seen training concerning how to format your books. I fully believe that users will embrace this technology the same way they did their MP3 players.
Check it out. Better yet, if you’re happy to ease into the cutting edge with a first generation device and would like to help me keep my inner huntress at bay, let me know. I’m ready to upgrade.
Reprinted from the March 2009 edition of Technically Write.