A couple of weeks ago I got the Kindle 2 (Affiliate Link FTW) via my wishlist, and a few of my friends asked me what I thought of it. I haven't really had much time to play with it, but this week I decided to give it a try. I've only gotten to spend a few hours with it, but I thought I'd share what I've found so far in case people are considering picking one up.

First off, let me talk about the hardware itself. While a bit simple looking (the color is a bit bland), the device is pretty darn cool. Out of all the high tech gadgets I own, including the iPhone, I think this is easily the one that is the most futuristic looking. I feel like I'm holding something from the future. I know that's a bit dorky, but I mean it. Physically it feels good in the hands. I don't honestly care what the dimensions are, I just care about how it feels when I'm reading. The best comparison I can think of is a half-size magazine, like the size of the Fusion Authority magazine. My hands are probably a bit bigger than most (insert joke here), but maybe this picture can give you an idea:

Of course, I also thought it would make sense to compare it to my big head:

In case you can't tell, that's Milton on the left, me on the right. Lastly, here is a picture of both the Kindle and my iPhone. While the Kindle is bigger height and width wise, it feels much thinner:

The screen is very crisp. I didn't get a chance to try it outside, but I did try it in my office, in my son's taekwondo gym, and in the car, and it always looked fine. I was a bit worried since it doesn't look too bright, but it seemed fine. However, I did not try it outside in the direct sunlight. As a programmer, that is strictly forbidden.

For my first 'reading' tests, I tried one of the cooler features - automatic PDF conversion. When you sign up with your Kindle, they give you a special email address. You can then send a PDF to that email, and Amazon will convert the PDF and send it to your Kindle. I did 4 tests. The first 3 were issues of JSMag (which, by the way, I highly recommend), and the last one was a short story. Within 5-10 minutes of me sending the emails, they just magically showed up on the Kindle. Freaking cool. Unfortunately, the reading experience here was a bit flawed. The magazines were simply ... scrambled. The first page or two were fine, then I began noticing odd 'cuts' and jumps in the text. My only guess here is that the magazine's format simply didn't convert well. Supposedly the new Kindle has a PDF reader, but I really wish they would add it to my version, maybe via a firmware update. I gave up on the magazines.

The short story converted a bit better. But on chapter changes, where there would have been line breaks), the text ran together. Also the footer of each page was simply inserted right into the text. I was able to get past this though once I figured out what was happening.

So that was day 1. On day 2 I decided to stop being cheap and get some 'real' Kindle books. I didn't want to buy anything too expensive. I've been very blessed by my readers (you guys rock!) visiting my wishlist. I have, I kid you not, probably 30 books waiting for me to read. I'm set till 2011 or so. Therefore I went searching for free, and cheap, Kindle book. I picked up three books suitable for light reading: The Bible, The Koran, and The Essential Mythology Collection. After 'buying' the 2 free books and purchasing the 3rd that wasn't free, I patiently waited for the books to magically show up on the Kindle. After 30 minutes or so nothing had changed on my Kindle. Looking at my Kindle, I noticed that my Archived Items had 2 things in them. I didn't remember putting anything in my archive so I took a look. Turns out the two free books were there. Why were they archived? I have no idea. I then tried to view them - and was blocked. I saw a progress bar in the top of the Kindle rev up and I figured that maybe I had needed to start the download process. (Before going on, let me be clear that, like any other self-respecting geek, I didn't bother to read the docs.) Oddly though - these downloads went very slowly. After an hour, the Koran was done. My third book then showed up in archived items. This time when I clicked to view it, I actually got a message saying that the item needed to be downloaded. Great. Except that I couldn't leave the page. The home button didn't work. Nothing did. I had to disable wireless and essentially 'break' the download process to get my Kindle back. When I left to get my kids though, all of a sudden the rest of my docs downloaded immediately. I'm not sure what went wrong there, but it was definitely a bit flakey.

While waiting to get my kids, I began to read the mythology book. It was here that I discovered one of the coolest features of the Kindle. Run across a word you don't know? You can move the cursor to it to see a definition at the bottom of the screen. I love that feature. Obviously there is a full dictionary on the Kindle that you can browse if you feel like picking up a few new words. Anyway, I began to read the book.... and... it just clicked. I got into the book and simply forgot I was on a Kindle. Completely forgot. It felt as natural as reading any old school book. As a left hander, I did accidentally hit the Home button once or twice instead of the previous button, but I quickly learned. (All left handers learn to deal. ;)

The big question is - would I buy it? Well, I'm probably not the best person to ask. I work at home. My commute is walking up 15 stairs. If I spent time on a train every day I can see really making a lot of use out of the Kindle. Also, as I mentioned above, I've got enough reading material in dead tree form to last me a while. So I personally would probably not buy it. But if you do travel - if you do find yourself needing a handy way to carry reading material with you, the Kindle probably makes a lot of sense.