It was my birthday on Monday, and on Friday I finally received my present, Sara, Lemon and my parents had bought me, a Kindle 3G. I’ve been using it for a few hours (finished reading Bram Stokers’ Dracula this morning) and I’m pretty impressed. I’ve not had or even played with an ebook reader before.

The stand out thing is the screen, it just doesn’t look real, more like those fake screens that are sometimes on display handsets in mobile phone shops. I have sat and tried to read an ebook at my computer before, staring at a bright light at an uncomfortable desk or contorting my self trying to lay down and read from a laptop gave me both neck ache and made my eyes not feel quite right. In contrast I have quite happily sat and read on the Kindle for hours, just as I could a paper book. The display isn’t lit, the contrast is perfect, it works by some kind of magic.

So far I’ve preferred holding the Kindle in two hands in landscape mode to read, one hand to hold and another to keep pushing the next page button. It seems very comfortable and not too heavy. I usually read whilst laying down alternating between laying the book down and holding it with one and to read the opposite page. The Kindle supports this posture very well too, though you don’t need to keep moving to read the opposite page or struggling to keep the book whilst holding it down with one hand.

The shop integration works well, it’s pretty fast over wifi or if you’re somewhere with a decent 3g signal. You have the usual “amazon reccomends” and bestsellers lists, as well as being able to drill-down through hundreds of thousands of books sorted by genre. Once you’ve found a book you like you click buy and it’s downloaded and ready to read within seconds. Instant gratification. I’ve downloaded several free out of copyright books through it, to buy books you have to set-up a card for one-click ordering, I imagine it may prove expensive! Combined with Project Gutenbug this may prove the beginning of the end for penguin classics.

Another big reason for getting the Kindle is the free 3g access and the built in web browser, which is surprisingly capable, it does javascript and cookies but not java or flash. Even javascript heavy pages such as Facebook loads and seems to work reasonably well. Gmail fails to work at all though with a message saying “Web Browser is unable to display this web page”, which is a shame as that could have been handy in a pinch. The web browser is mainly intended for reading text heavy pages such as wikipedia. The browser’s article mode tries to reflow the main page text and hide the frills to make it more book-like to read, this works really well for wikipedia,. In some ways reading specific articles on wikipedia using the Kindle article mode is more pleasurable than using my desktop, the browser is not best suited for those rambling wikipedia browses where you end up with dozens of tabs open though.

XKCD is right, the browser and wikipedia does turn it into the hitch hikers guide to the galaxy. It’s a slight shame the text to speech function doesn’t work on the web just to round the effect off.

I think the kindle is going to change my life in a few ways, I’ll probably read more now I can read project gutenburg books in a sane way. To Sara’s happiness, the big cupboard full of books will probably stop expanding. Also to Sara’s happiness, our suitcases won’t be full of books whenever we go on holiday, I’m not one to spend a whole week sat at the side of a pool reading for a whole week but I usually finish two or three books while in the airport and flying as well as the time I spend reading during any downtime.

[Update] One downside is the way books are organised, currently they are organised by collections (tags), however you have to enter all of this metadata yourself, and enter it on the Kindle. It would be nice if Amazon marked-up their ebooks into collections, so downloading “Rendezvous with Rama” straight to the kindle would automatically create and ‘fiction’ and ‘scifi’ collections and add the book into them. Also for ebooks I transfer over usb to use the directory name for the collections it should be in. So NonFiction/Travel/foo would be in the NonFiction and Travel collections.

It would also be nice to have a ‘read’ and ‘unread’ collection that the Kindle populated automatically.