Why My New Kindle is Like the Treadmill in the Basement

I’m getting used to my new Amazon Kindle. It finally arrived while I was gone the second week in January, and was waiting for me when I returned. So far it’s serving mainly as a reminder that I’m not getting as much time as I’d like to read. It’s functioning sort of like an unused exercise machine. I had a treadmill in the basement for several years. I’d go by it going in and out of the garage, each time remembering that I should get more exercise. But I didn’t get more exercise.

Aside from that rather personal note, which obviously isn’t the Kindle’s fault, my initial surprises were pleasant:

  1. It’s much smaller and slimmer than it looks like in the pictures. Even the pictures with the kindle in hand make it look bigger and clumsier than it really is.
  2. It really is easy on the eyes, quite comfortable even for 60-year-old eyes. The black type on gray (almost white) background is crisp and clear. I know I can adjust the type to make it more comfortable, but I’m still in the default.
  3. The wireless connection to Amazon.com is brilliant. It’s easy to use, intuitive, a great implementation of hardware and software.
  4. Most of the books available offer a first chapter free, so you can read a few pages before you decide whether or not you want to buy. I love this feature, which Amazon hasn’t advertised. I’m afraid I’ve bought a lot of books that disappointed me, and I’m curious, so this is a very useful feature.
  5. Pricing gives me some advantage in buying Kindle vs. buying regular books. Topping every book off at $9.95, for example.

And, of course, some minor disappointments:

  1. Some of those first chapters aren’t really first chapters; they’re like tables of contents. You don’t really get to read and decide. That’s what I found on several books, all of which were non-fiction, related to business planning. (Teri Epperly at Palo Alto Software is working with me to get my Hurdle:the Book on Business Planning into Kindle format; we’re going to make sure our first chapter is really the first chapter.
  2. This is a product that really could have used Apple-level design. While it is really small and easy to carry, the buttons and tabs and such are clunky, old-fashioned. No iPod designers on this project. I keep pushing next page and previous page buttons that I didn’t want to push.
  3. Not Amazon’s fault, but it occurs to me that the Kindle will have to power off during takeoff and landing on commercial flights. That’s a bummer. One of the best advantages of books is you can read them when you can’t do anything else, like during those airline moments. Can’t we establish that having the Kindle on, with its super low power and static technology, won’t crash the plane?

Finally, about pricing:

I would immediately buy a Kindle for two or three people in my family if it were priced at $199 instead of $399. The price strikes me as out of whack, sort of like that initial iPhone $600 price that went down a couple of months later. It’s an eBook reader, not a PDA, not a computer.

Still, there is something fundamental about keeping prices related to demand. Amazon couldn’t meet all the demand they had for early Kindle buyers. I ordered mine in early December, and I had to wait until early January. That’s not a time to lower prices.


  • Tim Berry says:

    Thanks Charles. If we could only convince the flight attendants. In today's world, what goes is what they decide, and I'm told that they're still insisting that it goes off.

    I like your suggestion about the card. Funny how something office like that can make a huge difference.


  • Charles Wilkes says:

    But you only need switch off the wireless switch, which is a separate switch from the power on-off switch. And inside an airplane or thousands of feet in the air you probably couldn't get a connection to their Sprint servicer anyway. But you can read on your Kindle every minute of the time from when you first sit down to when you get up to deplane.

    Personally I don't know if the aircraft staff know the wireless switch is separate from the on-off switch. Otherwise reading with the wireless switch off is no different from looking at your digital watch, which no flight crew would ever ask you to somehow turn off. But it may take time and training for them to understand this. But if you don't try, they will never learn.

    Maybe kindle should issue a card for passengers to show to the flight crew if they ask.

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