Kindle 2 first impressions

I got my Kindle 2 yesterday and I wanted to jot down my first impressions before I form any long-lasting feelings.

Unboxing

The first observation is literally the first thing you see — the packaging.

I’m not usually one for unboxing pictures or stories, but Amazon killed it with this one. They’ve clearly taken a page from Apple, and spent considerable effort and thought on the experience of getting and opening up your Kindle. One area where they surpass apple is in packaging material. The device is shipped in mostly reconstituted paper (that injection molded almost plastic-like paper packaging). And once you get to the device, there’s a really cool easter-egg with the instructions (plug in your device to the wall, slide the power at the top — that’s all I’ll say!)

Hardware

I never played with the first generation of the Kindle, so my thoughts aren’t colored by that experience…

The hardware is cool. So thin, small, light. Great for reading in bed or other places you’d take a paperback. This, however, is an area where Johnny Ive clearly wasn’t involved. The keyboard is awkard, the menus aren’t the easiest things to navigate. But it’s well past the “Good Enough” threshold (at least after a few hours of playing with it)!

Buying Books…

Amazon has never been shy about making it easy to spend your money. From 1-click, to Prime, buying on amazon is easy, and the Kindle continues (and extends) that tradition. Using the “Whispernet”, you could spend a LOT of coin very easily. It’s also very very easy to buy something on the site and have it show up on your device automatically. Again it reminds me of apple with the appstore, but is very much it’s own experience.

Experimental

One thing I haven’t heard much about is the “Experimental” menu. One of the things they offer in there is a web browser! This changes the entire experience of the device. I only loaded up one webpage (mine of course), and it doesn’t really render much CSS, but so what? It, in a way, unlocks the device from Amazon’s grips and allows you to decide what you see on that gorgeous screen!

>No Clock

It’d be easy to put a clock on the device. There’s a menu bar. Refreshing just that part of the screen every minute wouldn’t be distracting. It’s powerful enough to have a clock. It could stay in sync over the network. But no. They decided to keep a clock out, and it’s the nicest little touch I’ve found so far! Why would a clock be bad? Amazon’s stated goal with the Kindle is to replicate the book experience as much as possible. When you get INTO a good book, time melts away and having a reminder always in your field of view would ruin that experience. I think it’s a bold choice (EVERYTHING has a clock!), and one I appreciate a whole lot!

Conclusion

I don’t underline passages in books. Something about forcing my observations on the next reader really turns me off (when I was first formulating this thought, I was going to say something about affecting the physical book, but that’s not it, I dog-ear ALL the time!). However with the Kindle, I’ve already marked two passages in the first book I’m reading. The UI isn’t great for it, but it’s not bad enough not to do it, and it’s just for me (and my twitter followers who I’ll be subjecting quotes to shortly).

The highlighting is, in my mind, the perfect metaphor for the device as a whole. It’s like reading a book, but not exactly. I still love paper, I think we’re a long way off from replicating the experience 100%. Despite what they say, I think Amazon’s ultimate goal isn’t to replicate reading a book, but surpass it, and that’s a tall order, but one I think they’re making baby steps towards.

So far I’m blown away by this thing! I’m finding lots of niceties still.