I have already told you about the things I wanted to see in a Kindle, before plunking down my money to buy one. Without them, it just wasn’t worth $260 to me. And then, they came up with an offer I couldn’t refuse.
Buy a Kindle, try it out, and if I didn’t like it, not only would they return my money, but they would let me keep the Kindle either way.
Now, first, let’s think about this as a marketing technique …
It’s almost diabolical in its “How can you pass this up” vibe. There’s literally nothing to lose. In the details, it specified that the offer was strictly for me, that I could not pass the Kindle on to anybody else and still be eligible for the offer, there was a sharp deadline (two days before Apple’s announcement of the iPad, as it happens) … but nothing to make me suspicious. And you know I can be suspicious about “Very Special Offers.”
This one, though … how can it hurt them? Worst case scenario is that everybody who tries one asks for their money back … but hopefully will continue to use them, anyway. My guess is that they wanted to get Kindles in more people’s hands before the Apple announcement, and that maybe they’ve got a Kindle 3 in the works and wanted to get rid of some inventory ahead of time. (I told you I can be cynical.) But still … they want you to buy THEIR ebooks, not ebooks from the competition, so having a Kindle in-hand is going to encourage customer loyalty. It’s a great scheme.
Now, as to the Kindle itself.
Now that I’ve gotten my hands on one, what did I think? Starting with my points from July:
Well, the price keeps getting better. When I wrote my open letter in July, the price had just dropped to $299, and it’s now $269 for the standard Kindle. I still think this is pricey for an ebook reader without a touch screen or color, but it’s getting closer. Personally, I think they should be closer to the $150-$200 range, since ebook readers do only the one thing.
They have, in fact, added the option to read Kindle books on my pc, which I think is wonderful. Thank you, Amazon, for that. No matter how good or convenient the ebook reader, there will be times when I’m simply not going to be carrying it with me, so having options is a good thing. Versatility is vital.
Price of the ebooks. Obviously this is an ongoing concern, and really warrants a whole, ‘nother post, but I still have a hard time spending about the same price for an ebook as I would for a paperback … great option when the book is new and only out in hardcover, but not so great later on. Because, frankly, if they cost the same, I’d rather have the paper book that works with any technology than the ebook that only works on the Kindle.
The screen. I know, eInk isn’t quite there yet, for color (though it’s coming fast), and having a variety of shades of grey is a plus … but, the background of the screen is light gray, and I find that a little wearying for my eyes, since it’s not as sharp a contrast as white would be.
No, it’s not a touch-screen yet, either. The buttons for “next page” are easy to reach with either hand, but I sometimes had trouble getting it to click. Not a big deal, just not as handy as the “swipe” on my iPod Kindle app.
I really thought the 5-way controller button was clunky and inconvenient. Trying to move the cursor up the page to look up a word or select an option in the Table of Contents was a pain.
It’s got a sleek feel and shape with its tapered edges, but they also make it harder to hold, and almost impossible to hold in one hand … at least, not if you need to turn pages. And since I read fast, I turn pages a lot.
The built-in dictionary? Very cool, very handy, very nice touch.
The “Whispernet” technology that let me search for books, free of charge, without needing to be hooked up to the computer? Very, very cool, handy and nice to have. The fact that it was free is even better. Amazon gets full marks for that one.
Once I had a Kindle in my hand, I went right to my Amazon wish list to treat myself to the kindle version of one of the books I’ve been wanting to read … and only one of them was available. This surprised me because they really DO have a huge selection of available books … just apparently not as huge as I’d thought.
I do love the fact that so many classic books are available free of charge, since they’re beyond copyright restrictions at this point. Finally, I can read Don Quixote or Anna Karenina without having to purchase a copy or go to the library. That is a handy thing.
I found it awkward (almost impossible) to scroll through the books–there’s no easy way I was able to find to skip forward to the next chapter, or to skim looking for something, and not every book I downloaded had a table of contents, so … ugh. Huge pain.
I do a lot of reading while in the kitchen or in the bathroom, and admit that I worried about getting this electronic gizmo wet … because a stray drop of water while pouring a cup of tea could cause a lot more damage to the Kindle than to a paper book, and that intimidated me.
I know there are protective cases available, but why isn’t at least a cheap version included? I’m really wary of putting this into a bag or carrying it around without protection, and since the cases start at $30 on top of the initial cost … that gets pricey. On the plus side, the gadget seems reasonably sturdy.
It’s true, the eInk is a lot easier on the eyes than a back-lit screen, and the option to enlarge or shrink the font to suit my eyesight or fatigue level is a great convenience.
While there are definitely things here that I liked, as it happens (and to my own surprise), I did not actually love the Kindle. I really thought that I would, but apparently the (available) techology is not quite where I personally want it to be to wean me away from paper books. It’s the words and sentences that matter, not the delivery method–paper or electronic, a story is a story, good writing is good writing–but after playing with this for a few days, I am still reaching for my paper books instead of being beguiled by the electronic options. Will this come in handy for my next vacation, though? Oh my, yes. For travelling, I love the idea of being able to bring a huge selection of books in one place … but since I usually only have one trip a year …
As I said, I didn’t love it as they promised I would, and have asked for my money back. I’m waiting to hear what happens next. I wouldn’t be surprised to have to fill in some kind of survey about why I’m not satisfied, and I’ve hung onto the (very simple, environmentally-sound) shipping box, just in case, but still. I’m all in awe at the marketing technique.
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