So, after thinking about it a bit, I went out and ordered an Amazon Kindle ebook reader. It arrived last Tuesday, just in time for me to take it with me on Wednesday’s flight to California. The Kindle let me leave 5 lbs of books at home and cut a couple inches off the thickness of my laptop bag, which was a pretty substantial improvement over the previous week’s flight.

Over the past 5 days, I’ve read 3 complete novels on it–Thirteen, All Tomorrow’s Parties, and Slaughterhouse 5. All three were purchased from Amazon and downloaded to the Kindle over the air; I’ve also stuffed the Kindle with a few free ebooks from; their moble editions convert perfectly for the Kindle via Amazon’s free email converter. After reading 900-ish pages on the Kindle, I’m about 95% happy:

  • The screen’s great. The print quality and contrast feel slightly better then a mass-market paperback. Yeah, the background’s kind of grey and there’s a very small amount of roughness to the letters, but you have to go looking for it to see it. It’s a 160 DPI display, just like the iPhone. I haven’t clocked myself reading, but it doesn’t feel any slower then reading paper books, and it hasn’t left me with a headache or anything. It’s substantially better then reading novels on a laptop (which I’ve done at least 3 times this year).
  • The software’s pretty good. It’s better then anything I’ve seen from a non-Apple, non-Tivo consumer electronics product in years. My only concern is the book selector UI–it turns into a big cluttered mess once you get more than 30 or 40 items on it. I’d love to be able to organize books by read/unread status, genre, etc., but that’s not really possible right now. Instead, you get a list that you can sort by access time, author, or title. It’s okay, but not great. Considering that I could probably cram 2,000+ books onto a SD card in the Kindle’s SD slot, a simple sorted list really isn’t good enough. On the other hand, with a couple dozen files total it’s not a huge issue, and it’ll probably be fixed in a future software update.
  • It’s reasonably fast. Waking from sleep takes around 10 seconds, and flipping pages takes a second or so. In either case, it’s not really any slower then picking up a paperback, stowing the bookmark somewhere, and figuring out which page I was on, or simply flipping pages. It’s not instant, but it’s fast enough for now.
  • The overall size is fine. It’s almost exactly the same size as a DVD case, so it doesn’t fit into most pockets, but it’s still easy to keep around.
  • The next page/previous page buttons are too big. They make it hard to pick the Kindle up without accidentally flipping pages, and they constrain the number of ways that you can comfortably hold it in your hand.
  • The DRMed book selection from Amazon is still kind of small (around 130,000 volumes, or the same as a mid-sized Barnes and Noble store), but it’s not horrible. I haven’t had any problem finding books from my to-read list on Amazon’s Kindle store. In addition, a number of publishers have released free books in Kindle-compatible formats (like Tor and Baen. I have 4 or 5 Tor books on mine ready to go when I get a chance.

All in all, I’m happy with the Kindle. It’s Good Enough. As things stand, I’m probably going to switch to buying most of my books in Kindle-compatible formats going forward, partly because they’re more portable, and partly because I’m getting tired of the sheer size and physicality of regular books. I’ve ripped all of my CDs and most of my DVDs and I haven’t looked back. It’s just easier to have them in electronic form, and I’m happy to have the space back that all of the disks took up. I used to have 2 or 3 shelves full of disks, but I still have an entire room full of books. I’d be just as happy if I could get most of them in a DRM-free ebook form, but even DRM-encumbered Kindle files are still an improvement for most of my reading.