I'll try not to become a nerd-bore on this topic too, but: Kindle

Had resisted buying one because I knew that the spiffy wireless-delivery service wouldn't work outside the US, and anyway I didn't have time for yet another gadget.

I eventually spent enough time to learn (duh!) that I could use it wherever I was in the world, with or without wireless delivery. You just download the e-book files to your computer, over the plain old internet, and then transfer them to Kindle with USB cable.  So as part of the provisioning run on this quick trip to the U.S. I ordered one and received it yesterday.

First impressions are all of the "beating expectations" variety. Screen nicer to read than I expected. Navigation takes about one minute to learn. Instant-gratification feature more satisfying than expected. You think: I'd like to read that book! A minute later, it's literally in your hands. On my last provisioning run, I wanted to get Joseph O'Neill's celebrated and then-new novel Netherland. But it wasn't in any of the book stores that I passed by, and I didn't have time for "legacy" Amazon shipments. Now I have it, for about $10 versus about  $25.

Unexpected and potentially important practical aspect: I'm always getting very long book or article manuscripts to read, usually in .DOC or .PDF files. I don't want to use the paper to print them out, so generally I have to be at a computer to deal with. But I can email them as attachments to a Kindle.com address; then for 10 cents a document, they're resent to my own Kindle in a form I can read and annotate when not at a computer. Have already used this system to queue up a couple of book-length manuscripts I'm supposed to read while on the road in the next week or so.

We'll see how this wears -- in particular how this replicates the intangible satisfactions of reading an actual book. I like holding and reading real books. We'll see how likable these virtual books are on longer exposure.

Main drawback I foresee right now: my wife being distinctly unamused if on our next trip together or next evening at home I end up starting at yet another digital device. This may have to remain a private vice.