Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Amazon Kindle: A One Month Update

I'm just finishing up my first month as a Kindle owner. I'm now past the acute phase of new gadget ownership where "Bright! Shiny!" is enough to keep a relationship going.

The Kindle and I have gotten our first few awkward dates out of the way. We now show up at parties together, go home together, share a bed frequently and are considered an item by our friends.

One defining moment in my relationship happened the second week I had the Kindle. When I arrived at work, I realized that I'd left it at home, and was a bit surprised at the mild but distinct sense of panic I felt. I wrestled briefly with the idea of running back home for it, but common sense prevailed. I found other things to do at work that day (like work), and occupied my breaks with something else to read. However, this one cautionary episode has caused me to add an extra item to my mental leave-the-house checklist:
  1. Get car keys
  2. Grab iPhone
  3. Where the heck is my Kindle?
It's interesting that even a month later, I have still seen no other Kindles in the wild. This is despite living in one of the great tech centers of the known galaxy, and having an inordinate number of geeks among my friends. However, I finally ran across another owner earlier this week, and he seems to like his unit about as much as I like mine. The device still attracts a lot of attention, and my restaurant reading has been frequently interrupted by strangers asking about it. So far, these impromptu demo sessions have been fun, and I'll probably miss them once the device becomes more commonplace.

I just got back from a week on the road, using my Kindle as a traveling companion, and it worked out very well. The only thing I'd do differently would be to bring along a reading light for it. Even with the seat light turned on in my plane, I would have liked a bit more light. Reading in my hotel bed at night would have been lots easier with a reading light. I've been very happy at home with the Mighty Bright XtraFlex2 light, which clips to the cover of my Kindle and give plenty of light.

I usually buy several books while traveling. For once, I haven't had to worry about fitting them all into my luggage, or agonizing over which one to bring with me on the plane.

I have also used the Kindle to deal with a case of newspaper envy on a plane. While waiting for my flight to finish boarding in Chicago this week, I noticed the dude across the aisle from me reading a copy of the New York Times. Out of the corner of my eye, I could glimpse just enough interesting-looking articles to make me wish I had a copy as well. It would, of course, have been a sign of weakness to ask him to borrow his paper. Therefore, I salvaged my geek pride by firing up the Kindle and grabbing copies of both the New York Times and the Seattle Times just before the cabin door closed. Take that, newspaper dude!

Since my earlier posting on the Kindle, I've also run across several cool Kindle hacks. My favorite site for this so far is Igor Skochinky's series on reverse engineering the Kindle operating system. Therein I learned several useful tricks, such as:
Alt-Shift-M Minesweeper

Alt-T show time

Alt-1 show current location in google maps

Alt-2 find gas station nearby

Alt-3 find restaurants nearby

Alt-Shift-G make screenshot
Speaking of screenshots directly off the Kindle, below are a few that I just made, while viewing a Word document from a case report of sarcoidosis of the humeral head. The radiographs suck somewhat at 4 gray scales, but the nuclear medicine and MR images are not too terribly shabby. Due to an implementation bug, screenshots can only be stored on an SD card, and not the main Kindle storage. However, it's easy to access these images -- a .GIF file is saved at the SD card root for each screenshot.



I'll offer one final metaphor for the Kindle: a bottomless purse. Variations of this theme, such as a bottomless purse of gold, a bottomless food pouch, and an always-full pitcher of water are among the many common motifs found in fairy tales, such as Table-Be-Set.

The Kindle coveys that same "bottomless" quality to me. Amazon's one-click method of pulling books and newspapers across their wireless 3G network makes it easy for me to keep the device stocked with all sorts of goodies. With the addition of an inexpensive 4 GB SD card, it's going to be a while (several thousand books from now) before I fill that thing up.

It's a good time to be a reader...

1 comment:

Unknown said...

good to hear that its a hit. I can't justify the price. don't have that much time to read for fun these days either. if I did, I still hesitate, as the design doesn't look that great and I've heard some complaints about how the wireless transfer drains the battery WAY more than it should. maybe doesn't matter... I feel compelled to wait for version 2.0...