Kindling a flame in my heart

By Megan McArdle

All right, I've had the Kindle for a couple of weeks now. What do I think?

Love it. Best thing since sliced bread.

Yes, I have the same complaint everyone else does: it's easy to hit the "next page" button while you're handling it. Luckily, it's also easy to hit the "previous page" button; doing so has perhaps eaten up ten seconds over the last two weeks. Also, I feel like it could be slightly bigger.

How do I love it? Let me count the ways:

1. E-ink. It's as easy on the eyes as a book. Actually easier, because you can resize the text.

2. Newspaper subscriptions. I take three: the Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. Yes, I could read them for free online. But that isn't like reading a newspaper; it's like reading a website. I read newspapers on the Kindle the way I read print ones, which is to say I at least scan each headline. This means I catch things I otherwise wouldn't have.

3. Highlighting, notes, and bookmarks. Invaluable for blogging: I can mark something I'm reading to blog later. That's how I wrote the recent entry on gangs. Of course, you can do this on print books, but then you end up with a zillion flags, and paging through to find your place.

4. Portability. I am now never without a lot of reading material. Anyone who travels frequently should have one. But I carry mine with me everywhere, so I can whip it out whenever I have down time. It weighs practically nothing, and tucks in a smallish purse.

5. Instant shopping. If I want a book, and it's available on Kindle, I have it immediately. Though unless you watch yourself, this is a feature as well as a bug.

6. Basic web. I can check gmail and Wikipedia wherever I am on free wireless.

7. Table of contents. I can go straight to the chapter or article I want without paging for it.

8. One handed reading. I like to read propped up on one arm, or hanging onto the pole in the train, or while drinking coffee outside; because I only need to hit a button to page forward, this is easier than doing it with a print book.

9. Space. My apartment is basically at book capacity. The Kindle means I'm not bringing more unstorable books into the house.

10. Search. Kind of remember a phrase in a book? Now you can search the whole book for it instead of desperately leafing through in hopes that it catches your eye.

The only real caution I have is to dog-ear your page before you let a friend look at it. Otherwise they'll lose your place. Of course, this is true of print books as well. Also, you can't read it in the bath. But other than that, it's practically perfect. Do I miss the tactile sensation of a book? Not really. For me, reading is mostly about the words, not the paper.

Update Forgot another benefit: cheap books. Kindle books typically trade from 20-50% less than print.

Update II Readers note that you can too, read it in the bathtub, courtesy of the folks at Ziploc.

Update III Some things you can't do with a Kindle. It may not cure cancer, but it kind of is a religious experience.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2008/05/kindling-a-flame-in-my-heart/3387/