Whenever a new gadget arrives, there’s always that moment of excitement as you wait to see exactly what the inside of the box has in store for you. However, with the Amazon Kindle, the fun starts right away. With the most elegant packaging since the original iPod, the Kindle experience begins with the box, which is shaped like an oversized book complete with binding and all. Flip it open and on the left “page” you are met with the definition for the word “kindle: v.t. 1. set on fire. 2. inspire, stir up. –v.i. 1. catch fire. 2. become animated.” And now that your insides are tingling with anticipation, your gaze slowly drifts to the right “page” of the “book” box, and your first glimpse of the last book you will ever need to carry around with you.

About the size of a paperback book, the Kindle is not a cumbersome device. In fact, at times, I found the unit to be a little too small for my hands. Then again, that could be because my hands are abnormally large – I can easily palm a basketball. The buttons, though numerous, are clearly labeled and seem to be fairly intuitive: one to go to the previous page, two for advancing to the next page, one for going back to the previous menu, a scroll wheel, buttons demarcating the home page, search, and text size, volume controls, and a full QWERTY keyboard. Though the Kindle comes pre-loaded with its own instruction manual, I decided to take the more adventurous route and see just how easy to use Amazon made their first attempt at an e-reader. The answer: my grandparents could handle the basics with no problem.

Ultimately, the Kindle is designed to be a straightforward device. It comes already linked to your personal Amazon account. This means that you can use the built in cellular wireless connection to instantly download books from Amazon.com.  But what if you’re not sure if you’d actually enjoy a book? Well, that’s what the free samples are for (usually the first few pages of the book). The search function is also a very useful feature that ties in beautifully with the Kindle Store. Just hit the search button and type in an author, title, or keyword, and the unit almost instantly responds with a list of options. The response page shows all references to the query stored on the unit itself. It also provides a link to a dictionary definition, which can be used for any word encountered while you are reading; a link for any related Wikipedia entries; a link to search the web for your query, and finally a link to search the Kindle Store.

Although the Kindle can access the internet, the browser is incredibly basic and not really conducive to any serious net-surfing. Likewise, the music player, though functional, does not provide the highest quality of sound. I found that it was plagued with a persistent clicking noise while listening to both music and audio books. However, one of the neatest features that Amazon thought up is the Ask Kindle Now in which you can send any question to Amazon’s researchers and they will look up the answer and respond with up to three answers within ten minutes!

Despite all the extra functions packed into the Kindle, it’s clearly designed primarily for reading purposes, as it is in this area that the Kindle truly excels. The text on the screen is crystal clear, and thus, very easy on the eyes. The text size is also adjustable, ranging from the nearly microscopic to absolutely gigantic, which is great for people with poor vision. However, you can only adjust the text size of your content, meaning that all of the menus and web-based features are in a standard size which may be a little too small for the people who would choose to read their books in the larger fonts. However, once you start reading, it is easy to forget that you are not holding an actual book.

I found that I could easily read a few hundred page book on a single charge assuming that I had turned my wireless internet off. Although, I don’t really understand the location marker system that the Kindle uses to track your progress, it does remember your position in each book and show you a status bar, which is a really great feature. You can also highlight sections of text and make notes while you are reading. These notes and highlighted sections can be viewed separately from the rest of the text at any time, which suggests that the next generation of students may be reading their textbooks on an e-reader. The wireless connection enables you to subscribe to newspapers and magazines. Though the subscriptions are very convenient and pretty easy to navigate, the lack of photographs really detracts from the news experience.

However, the Kindle does have its drawbacks. The battery cover occasionally fell off for me, especially when pulling it out of the leather case that comes with the unit. Though the case does a fair job of protecting the Kindle’s screen, it is not really comfortable to hold while reading, so I usually took it off and put it aside. What really bothers me about the Kindle however, is your inability to return a book. You can cancel your order immediately if you mistakenly click the download button, but if you read half the book and decide you don’t like it, you’re stuck. One of the books I read just seemed to drone on and on, and had I owned the paper version of the novel, I would have been able to pass it on to a friend who might enjoy it more.

Overall, I love the Kindle, but I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not for everybody. Though perfect for the frequent traveler and the avid reader, the $400 price makes it overkill for the average consumer. That’s not to say that the unit is pointless. Quite the contrary – the Amazon Kindle is a terrific start for the first generation of e-reader technology. But in the post-iPhone world there are just too many features missing. Everybody that saw me using the Kindle immediately tried poking the screen to select the text they wanted to read. We have become used to color touch-screen devices, but e-reader technology, with its black and white screens; inability to show pictures; and analog controls, still has a way to go before it becomes a dominant form of media. While I do really like the Amazon Kindle, I’m waiting to see what developments make it into the second generation of e-readers before opening my wallet.

Product Overview

  • Revolutionary electronic-paper display provides a sharp, high-resolution screen that looks and reads like real paper.
  • Simple to use: no computer, no cables, no syncing.
  • Wireless connectivity enables you to shop the Kindle Store directly from your Kindle—whether you’re in the back of a taxi, at the airport, or in bed.
  • Buy a book and it is auto-delivered wirelessly in less than one minute.
  • More than 100,000 books available, including more than 90 of 112 current New York Times® Best Sellers.
  • New York Times® Best Sellers and all New Releases $9.99, unless marked otherwise.
  • Free book samples. Download and read first chapters for free before you decide to buy.
  • Top U.S. newspapers including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post; top magazines including TIME, Atlantic Monthly, and Forbes—all auto-delivered wirelessly.
  • Top international newspapers from France, Germany, and Ireland; Le Monde, Frankfurter Allgemeine, and The Irish Times—all auto-delivered wirelessly.
  • More than 250 top blogs from the worlds of business, technology, sports, entertainment, and politics, including BoingBoing, Slashdot, TechCrunch, ESPN’s Bill Simmons, The Onion, Michelle Malkin, and The Huffington Post—all updated wirelessly throughout the day.
  • Lighter and thinner than a typical paperback; weighs only 10.3 ounces.
  • Holds over 200 titles.
  • Long battery life. Leave wireless on and recharge approximately every other day. Turn wireless off and read for a week or more before recharging. Fully recharges in 2 hours.
  • Unlike WiFi, Kindle utilizes the same high-speed data network (EVDO) as advanced cell phones—so you never have to locate a hotspot.
  • No monthly wireless bills, service plans, or commitments—Amazon takes care of the wireless delivery so you can simply click, buy, and read.
  • Includes free wireless access to the planet’s most exhaustive and up-to-date encyclopedia—Wikipedia.org.
  • Email your Word documents and pictures (.JPG, .GIF, .BMP, .PNG) to Kindle for easy on-the-go viewing.
  • Included in the box: Kindle wireless reader, Book cover, Power adapter, USB 2.0 cable

Technical Details

Display: 6″ diagonal E-Ink® electronic paper display, 600 x 800 pixel resolution at 167 ppi, 4-level gray scale 

Size (in inches): 7.5″ x 5.3″ x 0.7″
Weight: 10.3 ounces 

System requirements: None, because it doesn’t require a computer
Storage: 256MB internal (approximately 180MB available for user content); available SD memory card slot supports up to 4GB SD memory cards (SD memory card not included)
Battery Life: Leave wireless on and recharge every other day. Turn wireless off and read for a week or more before recharging. Battery life will vary based on wireless usage, such as shopping the Kindle Store and downloading content. In low coverage areas or in 1xRTT only coverage, wireless usage will consume battery power more quickly.
Charge Time: Approximately 2 hours 

Connectivity: EVDO modem with fallback to 1xRTT; utilizes Amazon Whispernet to provide U.S wireless coverage via Sprint’s high-speed data network (Check Wireless Coverage)
USB Port: USB 2.0 (mini-B connector) to optionally connect to a PC or Macintosh computer
Audio: 3.5mm stereo audio jack, rear-mounted mono speaker
Content Formats Supported: Kindle (AZW), TXT, Audible (formats 2, 3 and 4), MP3, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; HTML, DOC, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion
Included Accessories: Power adapter, USB 2.0 cable, book cover, rechargeable battery
Documentation: About Your Kindle Manual; Kindle User’s Guide pre-installed on device
Warranty and Service: 1 year limited warranty and service
Return Policy: You can return your Kindle for a full refund within 30 days of the day you received it as long as it is in new condition and returned with all the original packaging, manuals, and accessories

*Features, Technical Details, and Images courtesy of Amazon.com

Suggested Retail:$399.00

Currently available only thru Amazon.com