Amazon's Kindle does it right on the first try
Only a literary Luddite wouldn't love it, and I've had five already
By Walter Brooks
I may have set a world record - I've had five Amazon Kindles in 18 months
The story of how and why I've had five of Amazon's new e-reader in a year and a half is both telling about the company and embarrassing about me, so I have to tell you about the device itself first.
People who know me are aware I've jumped head first into every new electronic device or program I've come across. The web company my daughter in law and I run, eCape.com, was online with our magazine Best Read Guide ahead of every other media (print or otherwise) on Cape Cod and capecodtoday.com was the first web-only newssite in America shortly after that in 1997.
When the first Kindle was announced by Amazon around Thanksgiving in 2007 my wife ordered the then $359. device the next day to have it on hand for a Christmas gift for me.
It's lucky she did because within weeks there was a several month-long backlog, and used ones were selling on eBay for as high as $1,800.
The first version was thicker and less user-friendly than the new Kindle2 which came out earlier this year and has now been reduced in price to $299, after a third of a million have been sold.
But even the first version was easier to set-up and operate than any new e-device I'd ever owned and was nearly flawless.
The newer Kindle2 measures 8" x 5.3" x 0.36" overall which includes a QWERTY keyboard and has a reading surface the size of a regular paperback.
At 10.2 ounces, Kindle2 is lighter than a paperback and at a third of an inch thinner than most magazines. It has page-turning buttons on both sides, allowing you to read and turn pages comfortably with one hand from any position.
Kindle2 has a new "toggle mouse", a 5-way controller which allows on-screen navigation for selecting text to highlight or looking up words with the built-in dictionary as you slide the curser to any word. You can also select from seven different type sizes in a nanosecond, and the Kindle2 is completely wireless and ready to use right out of the box- no setup, no cables, no computer required.
Literary Luddite disses the future
But all this slim, trim and trouble-free effort on the part of Amazon failed to impress Nicholas Baker in this week's edition of The New Yorker. I don't know who felt more threatened by the Kindle, the magazine's editor or the author who makes more money I guess when he sells a papaer copy of one of his books over an e-edition which on a Kindle cost between $3 and $9,95.
Still, it was a shock for this long-time subscriber of New Yorker to read such unmitigated drivel and misinformation about a device which has the potential of hugely increasing the readership of Mr. Baker's books and all others. The man's a literary Luddite.
I have three separate library areas in my home with over 3,000 books, and you may assume I read a lot, but since I've owned my Kindle(s) I've read twice as many books (over 90 bought on my Kindle in 18 months), and I continue to buy books in print as well.
Why? Because books are easier to read on my Kindle, and I can download new books in three seconds without stirring from my chair. I can also download books, magazines and newspapers anywhere there is a Sprint cellphone signal.
The only drawback I've discovered is that when I access the Kindle Store on my device and search for an author, the books available are not listed by date of publication so I can't easily see the latest ones vs. the older ones.
This is more than mitigated by the thousands of classics which Amazon offer absolutely free. Think of the books you've always meant to read: Moby Dick, War and Peace, Middlemarch, Dracula, Frankenstein, The complete Sherlock Holmes, P.G. Wodehouse; The Three Musketeers, Anna Karenina, all free on Kindle.
And there are over 300,000 more (so far) available here.
O.K., here's why I've had five Kindles in 18 months
My Kindle #1 was giev to me for Christmas in 2007. I was very careful with it until April 15, 2009, when I was covering that Tax Day Revolt in Hyannis. I was standing alongside my car reading my Kindle when Billy Snowden called me to complain about some commenter dissing him on capecodtoday.com.
The call lasted so long I placed my Kindle on the roof of my car to mollify him. After I hung up I called my office to ask an Editor to delete the dis for Billy, then I drove off - forgetting the Kindle on the car's roof.
When I thought about it I was miles away, and I knew it was a goner. I called the Kindle service number (it always answers within twenty seconds) and asked that they cancel my account until I decided what to do.
When a week passed with no one calling to return it, I ordered my Kindle #2 which was the new version shown in the top, right photo.
Amazingly everything I had downloaded on my first Kindle was archived for me on the new one, and I could select which books to load on my Kindle2 with one click (the device will hold 1,500 books but archiving on the Amazon site is a one-click simpility).
Fast forward five weeks to my grandson's 11th birthday party at Ardeo's in Brewster. Toward the end of the meal his sister and her friend were cutting-up, so I was asked to take the two 8-year girls somewhere for a while.
"Somewhere" to me is usually a ice cream store, and I slipped my new, slim Kindle2 into a loose windbreaker jacket, got into my car with the jacket hanging out the door unbeknown to me, and slammed the door on my new Kindle which cracked the screen.
No nagging, no recrimination, no charge
A call to that service number brought no nagging, and I was told my new Kindle was already being shipped and would arrive the next day at no charge.
It arrived next-day UPS with everything archived, and it lasted one month until my grandson's graduation from the Eddy School in Brewster.
This time he was playing his new drum set, and I sat listening in the school gym until my wife asked me to take a video.
I set my Kindle on my seat, and took the video. When I returned my wife had laid her program on my seat covering the Kindle which I promptly sat on and again cracked the screen.
I called Kindle from the gym, no nagging, just incredible service, and the next afternoon I had my fourth Kindle.
Two weeks ago I took my Kindle along to NYC for a visit to show my grand-kids my old coffeehouse and where we used to hang out. I was reading my Kindle in bright sun, and the type started fading.
When I called Amazon and asked if this was a problem with the new "e-ink", they said no, but since they wanted me to be happy, my new Kindle (#5) was already being shipped.
I think I'm probably eligible for the Guinness Book of Records, along with Amazon as the world's best in customer service.