I was already in love with the original Kindle. Now with Kindle 2 and the new iPhone app my love affair is now epic.

For my money, Kindle 2 is the Don Draper of eReaders. The Sawyer. The Eric the Vampire.  In short, it is sexy, cool, and incredibly functional.

Like many readers these days, I dwell somewhere in that happy land between tech geek and Luddite. But it’s also fair to say that I come at this from the perspective of a spoiled 20+ year Mac-head in that I expect electronic stuff to work in a user-friendly way. No complicated programs. No work-arounds. 

So, with that said, I’m not  approaching my unofficial Kindle 2 review by talking about DRM—a big, big topic, indeed—since there are others out there far more educated (and, okay, interested, too) in the issues surrounding it than I am. I’m going to write about Kindle 2 from the perspective of someone who doesn’t want to deal with the technical stuff and expects to turn on an eReader and have it work—comfortably and as advertised.

The Kindle 2 does that. Magnificently.

What I love about the Kindle 2 I also loved about the original:

  • No computer interface is required.  Books can be downloaded in about ten seconds directly to your Kindle—or your computer if you prefer.
  • It’s comfortable to hold.
  • The type is easily adjustable and the screen is easy to see in any light.
  • It’s incredibly simple to transfer text files and PDFs almost instantly onto Kindle.
  • The iPhone app—my God, the iPhone app!

And then there are the intangibles. I love the immediate gratification of having a book delivered to my Kindle—no matter where I am—and ready to read in seconds. I love the fact that I can read one-handed or even no-handed since Kindle rests easily on the couch in front of me. And, yes, it’s true, in just a few short months with Kindle, I’ve found that I far and away find reading on the device to be more comfortable than reading actual books.

And, as a lifelong bookie, that is a very big statement, indeed.

But how does Kindle 2 compare to the original? It is bit longer and far thinner and, even more importantly, missing a few of the kinks. The forward and back buttons are less prone to accidental paging. The “ink” resets noticeably faster when you turn a page—a nice improvement—and the device turns on and recovers from sleep mode less clumsily than the original.  There’s also a new sort of joystick configuration that works a bit more easily than the old sort of clicky thing (hey, I said I wasn’t a tech geek), but I don’t see it as a big improvement in functionality.  As for the much bally-hooed (and kvetched about) Text-to-Speech function, it’s just not a big deal.  The voice sounds less robotic than I thought it would, while still sounding pretty mechanical.  I can’t see myself listening to it for any length of time nor do I see why the Author’s Guild thought it was worth the fight. 

And then there’s the brand new iPhone app!  My God, the iPhone app! Announced with virtually no advance word on Wednesday, this new app allows you to read Kindle books on your iPhone and iPod Touch and is so simple to use it took me just about two minutes to download the app and begin reading my first Kindle book on my iPhone.

I agree with Dear Author that the app is rudimentary. However, I’d also argue that both Apple and Amazon see the iPhone as a compliment to the Kindle in that it’s ideal for reading in places like a grocery store line or the subway. (The iPhone is just too small to work for me as a comfortable solo eReader. I’ve tried.)

And then there’s the automatic sync feature!  My God, the automatic sync feature!  The two devices are now so in tune that after reading on your iPhone or iPod Touch, your Kindle will automatically take you to the last page read—no matter which device you last used.  And, no matter how you look at it, that is just totally cool. 

In fact, the cool factor for the new app is off the charts. Friends of mine were buzzing on Wednesday, with everybody raving about how simple it was to get up and…well, reading. And all of us agree that this fantastic new application gives us hope for bigger and better stuff to come.

So what isn’t so great?

  • Kindle 2 doesn’t come with a cover.  That’s just cheap, especially since old Kindle cases won’t fit.
  • Books aren’t always released on the pub date, sometimes coming a few hours or even a few days late.  But, in the few months I’ve been using Kindle, I think Amazon is getting better and better about this.  There’s also the fact that many older books aren’t available, but when you add in what’s available on Fictionwise, an increasing number of romance bases seem to be covered.
  • Pricing is hinky and subject to change.  As everybody knows, the ebook market is evolving and, undeniably, publishers and Amazon need to work this out already. The $9.99 promise for NYT bestsellers, however, is something I’ve seen them stand behind.   And, just like everybody else, there is no way I will pay more for an ebook than a hard copy book.

Also a word about Amazon customer service: Though I haven’t had any problems with the Kindle eReader itself, one book failed to download completely. I contacted Amazon and had a refund within 24 hours. Better still, within a few days, I downloaded the book again—this time fully and completely. The way I see it, you can’t ask for more than that.

I’ve said it before, but it always bears repeating:  Monopolies are never a good thing and Amazon’s strategy to control the ebook market is not without some serious red flags—though the announcement on Thursday that Barnes and Noble purchased Fictionwise will certainly put a dent in the company’s ebook domination.  But, as far as I’m concerned, they’ve cracked it by delivering a user-friendly device that offers what I want in an eReader.

Will it get better?  Sure.  But count me as a happy Kindle convert and an enthusiastic part-time proselytizer.

-Sandy AAR

Note:  If you purchase a Kindle 2 by clicking on the link in this post, All About Romance will receive a small commission. 

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