Amazon Kindle: Magic Device from an Alternate Reality

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Ninja is unpacking my new Kindle

I bought an Amazon Kindle yesterday – and it arrived today! There may have been an element of gadgettery addiction involved, but there certainly was another reason for me: with our move to the New World coming up, it doesn’t feel right to buy large books on software development when space and weight in that container will be at a premium.

I always thought of the Kindle as something like a pocket book replacement for when you need to kill time on the tube. I’m not reading anywhere enough Agatha Christie novels to make the Kindle a viable purchase.

On second thought though I’ve discovered that you can buy all these huge geeky dictionary like books on it too. I’m talking about those 1000 page epics about PHP and MySQL etc. You can buy the Kindle editions from Amazon cheaper than the printed versions, they don’t use up precious space on your shelf or on my tiny desk and I can bring them with me anywhere I go.

Sounds good, huh? With battery life of up to one month (cough!) and my impending purchase of The Definitve Guide to Apache Mod Rewrite I thought I’m going to treat myself. Let me share my first Kindle experiences with you in this article.

The e-ink Screen

Before we delve into the user experience of the Amazon Kindle, let me tell a little bit about the internal workings of this device. It’s essentially a reader with a 6″ screen, black and white only. But the screen isn’t made of LED’s like a laptop or a mobile phone. Instead it’s using a technology called “e-ink Pearl” which reminds us of the old style LCD watches without backlight.

I’ve emailed Julia my first impression of the screen:

“it’s not often that you look at something and you’re blown away, as if it’s an artefact from a different universe. I don’t think we’ve seen anything quite like the Kindle display – it completely throws your viewing habit: it’s the eerily brightest most contrasty black and white LCD screen you’ve ever seen. It’s hard to believe this thing actually changes – it looks like a printed piece of paper.”

The most amazing fact about the display is this: Kindle only uses power when it renders the screen – not when it’s merely displaying it. As a consequence the device doesn’t use power while you’re simply looking at it. That’s clever!

Even though the display is not backlit it seems to reflect diffuse light extremely well. At the same time it manages to be highly unreflective – like a piece of paper.


Bygone Reflections: Kindle vs iPad and Laptop Screens

But the screen is only one clever part about this thing. The other nifty idea is how Kindle integrates with your Amzon account.

Kindle comes pre-registered

When you buy a Kindle, it knows which account you’ve bought it from. I hadn’t even switched it on; I only plugged the charger in when after a few minutes it said “Jay’s Kindle” in the top left corner. It knew all my account details too so I could start shopping for content right away.

Downloading Content from Amazon

If you like new technology you’ll LOVE this one: since Amazon knows that you own a Kindle (or several), you can have content sent to your Kindle while you’re shopping on Amazon from your computer. Your browsing experience is enhanced with a button that says “send this item to Jay’s Kindle” – and provided that your Kindle is in a wireless network, it literally takes the Kindle seconds to display a message like “items downloaded”. It’s Futureworld, Dude!

You can also explore the Kindle Store directly on your device… however purchasing (expensive) items from there is scarily easy. A one-click option reads “download to your kindle” and no matter what the item costs, after one single click you’ve committed to buying it. There’s no “Are you sure?” window – instead a “Purchased by Accident? Cancel this Order” link is at the bottom of your checkout screen.

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