Amazon's Kindle is out and available for purchase. I ordered a device and it will arrive tomorrow at Google Boston (we are hiring, by the by). I make that early sacrifice so you do not have to.

Amazon Kindle atop a book

Initial thoughts:

  • The thing is hideous. Absolutely horrid in appearance. Much of this is due to the fact it is white, but the bar set by Apple is not even grazed. Joey, aghast at "all those buttons," remarks that "it looks like it was designed in 1989."
  • As speculated, the EVDO connection powers a mobile marketplace—service is free and transparent with a Kindle purchase—called Whispernet. You can browse the book catalogue, purchase content via your Amazon account, and download, all directly from the device and over the highspeed cellular network. No computer required.
  • It seems to only support Amazon's proprietary AZW format—you can't even read unencumbered PDFs.
  • Purchase includes a email address, which you can use to email yourself "Microsoft Word (.DOC), HTML, JPEG, GIF, PNG, and BMP and TXT files" for $0.10 a document (presumably to cover the cellular access). You can also upload (for free) these files to the device via USB (cable included). But no PDF?
  • Unlike the situation with iTunes, it appears that Amazon will manage and allow later retrieval of your books: "Your Kindle content is stored in Your Media Library in case you want to re-download [it] at a later date."
  • Inline dictionary and Wikipedia look up of any word over EVDO is hot, although the term used in the demonstrative video, profligate, was poorly selected.
  • Display specs: 6" diagonal, 600x800 at 167 ppi, 4-level gray scale, powered by Cambridge's own E Ink.
  • Battery life looks good. Lasts "a week or more" with wireless off. Recharges in two hours.
  • The killer feature, for me: Newspaper subscriptions, automatically pushed to the device every morning, for $5.99 ~ $13.99 a month. Available dailies include The Times, The Journal, and The Post.

Technology pundits are likely to fall into one of two extremes, this is the iPod of books or no one wants to read books on a screen, a function of whether they were included in the launch and are under 40. Without pause, the open source crowd is going to say it is too closed. The target market won't appreciate whether the format is open, or the OS is Linux, but they will care if the device is too limited or costly for practical use. Indeed, the iPod played MP3s, after all, even if the ultimate experience with that device is iTunes-based.

A key user is the frequent flyer. I routinely travel with several books and a stack of magazines. Both my back and my overstuffed bag would appreciate replacing the dead trees with a single 10.3oz Kindle. I've also been burned on enough trips with a new book that I realize all-too-late I have no interest in reading that the ability to slurp down a text or two right from the gate is incredibly appealing.

I will pen an update once I have some face time.