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Video: Amazon Kindle Unboxing and First Impressions

I finally broke down and ordered an Amazon Kindle, now that they’re back in stock. It’s an ebook reader device, and since I read so much (borderline obsession), and there are growning piles of dead tree versions of books all over my house, I figured a Kindle was a good idea.

In this video, we go over the packaging, basic functions of the device, discuss its wireless features, have a look at the fabulous (dare I say revolutionary?) electronic ink screen, and generally check out the new gadget.

Camera help and cameo appearances by my wife Rachel and our son Gabe. You can download the higher quality original Quicktime movie file (about 6 minutes, 72MB), or get a code snippet to embed/share this video on your own site by clicking the little “connect the dots” icon in the player above.

I’ll be posting more thoughts as I use the Kindle more (I’ve had it less than 24 hours), but the verdict so far is: I LOVE this thing! I only wish I hadn’t had to wait so long for Amazon to get them back in stock.

You can find out more about the Kindle, browse the books, newspapers, and magazines available for it, and generally get more information at Amazon’s Kindle page (affiliate link – if you decide to buy one, and use that link, I get a small percentage, which helps to pay for my gadget buying habit).

Post a comment or message me on Twitter if you have any questions, and stay tuned for a lot more Kindle information in the days and weeks to come! :-)

Update: There’s a LOT of great discussion going on down in the comments for this post. I’ve been typing like mad, answering questions, so make sure you have a look if you’re interested in what book formats the Kindle can support, what you can use the SD card for, what I think of the DRM on the Kindle, how the design feels in my hands how to use the Kindle to read RSS feeds for free, and more! :-)

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31 thoughts on “Video: Amazon Kindle Unboxing and First Impressions

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  4. I’ve had a Kindle since the week they were introduced and have only grown to like it more as time goes by. Speaking of time, I’m not sure when I’ll find enough to read everything I’ve got on mine!

  5. The one thing that put me off (and its thanks to a lot of the bad press I’ve read/heard) is that you have to pay to subscribe to RSS feeds. Is this true? Have you gotten that far yet. If not for that, an RSS feed reader that uses the Sprint wirelss network for FREE – are you kidding, awesome!

  6. @Jack – know what you mean! I already have too many books to read. But I love knowing I’ll not likely run OUT of stuff to read anytime soon. :-)

    @adam – You don’t HAVE to pay for RSS feeds. Amazon has a selection of a few “blogs” that you CAN subscribe to for $0.99 to $1.99 a month.

    That said, there’s no RSS reader software on the device per se (paid “blog” subscriptions just get pushed to the device as new .azw files). And even though the OS/software of the Kindle is Linux, you can’t yet install your own software on it. So there’s no RSS reader application you can use. BUT, if you use a web-based browser, like Google Reader, Bloglines, or NewsGator Online, you CAN use the web browser to access it (I recommend the mobile version of each of those sites – it’s much faster and lighter).

    For instance, one of the first things I did with the web browser was access the mobile version of Google Reader (http://google.com/reader/m/), and it works just fine. Since I use Google Reader for my feeds, I can now read them on my computer, on my iPhone, or on my Kindle. It rocks! :-)

  7. Thats very interesting. iPhone too huh. Wow, its so great being that connected. I use NetNewsWire as my reader, I believe NewsGator is part of that so I could use that and keep up to date with my feeds. Conversely I’ve heard loads of people using GoogleReader these days. Really popular. I do like NNW bringing my news offline though.

    Cool review, thanks for the info

  8. #1 – You guys are really cute! Nice camera work Rachel! Good job helping, Gabe! :)

    Ok, about the Kindle.

    Does it feel as natural reading the Kindle as reading a dead tree book? I have Mobipocket on my Blackberry but I find it difficult to read on there not just due to the size of the screen but I just can’t get into the story on there for some reason. Do you find that to be the case with the Kindle?

    Also, DRM.

    Kevin Pereira of G4s Attack of the Show mentioned he needed a new Kindle due to some problem and he wasn’t able to port over any of the books he ordered onto the new Kindle due to DRM. Couple this with the news of Microsoft killing MSN Music DRM Keys it makes one hesitant to buy DRM material for fear of it going away.

    For me there are books I’d like to read again years or even decades later. This makes me (and probably others) hesitant to jump on the E-Book Reader bandwagon.

    Is this a concern for you?

  9. @adam – You could continue to use NetNewsWire, but use it’s ability to sync with NewsGator Online:

    http://www.newsgator.com/RssLearningCenter/Synchronize/

    Then, when you’re away from your Mac, you could read your feeds using the mobile version of NewsGator Online:

    http://m.newsgator.com

    The stuff that you read in either should stay synced up, so you wouldn’t have duplicate items, etc. That would be a very slick system, with all the benefits of each platform! :-)

    Or, you could just migrate to Google Reader. I moved to web-based aggregators (first Bloglines, then Google Reader) years ago, and honestly, I don’t miss offline capability (although you CAN get offline capability in Google Reader using Google Gears). But then, I’m connected pretty much all the time.

    And now, for those times when I’m NOT connected, I have books to read on my Kindle! ;-)

  10. @mightysquid – It does feel pretty natural when holding it. You can tell a lot of thought went into the design. While it looks kind of odd and angular, when you actually pick it up, you can feel exactly why it’s shaped the way it is. Your fingers rest right near the buttons you want. It sits snugly and comfortably in your hand. They said one of the design goals of the Kindle was to just “get out of your way”, and disappear, letting you get into the story. So far, to me, it succeeds.

    Regarding DRM, I wrote a post a while ago that addressed some of the “myths” that were being thrown around about it. Yes, there’s DRM. No, it’s not horribly onerous. Your purchased books are kept in your “Library” on Amazon, and if your Kindle gets lost, broken, or sold, you can deauthorize the old one, add a new Kindle to your account, and all of your books and other Amazon content get downloaded to the new one automatically. Granted, I haven’t tested this yet, but Amazon states pretty clearly that this is what’s supposed to happen. Not sure what problem Kevin had with this, but then, he DOES work for G4… ;-)

    As far as the other DRM problems (what if Amazon turns off the DRM servers, etc.), yeah, DRM sucks. But the terms of the DRM they’re using are almost exactly the same as what Apple uses for the iTunes Music Store (you can have up to 5 authorized devices, etc.). And books don’t have to phone home to get a license from Amazon every time you open them – it’s a one time, point-of-purchase thing. And I figure, like Apple for music, if any ebook seller is going to be successful enough to stick around for the long term, it’s going to be Amazon.

    Would I prefer no DRM? Of course. Am I willing to deal with the (fairly benign) terms of Kindle’s DRM in order to have access to a library as big as the one Amazon is providing, at the prices they offer? Absolutely.

    Plus, don’t forget that you CAN read DRM free content on the Kindle. All the works available at Project Gutenberg, Memoware, Scribd, plus great stuff from Creative Commons (like books from Cory Doctorow, Lawrence Lessig, and Charles Stross). And about once a week on BoingBoing, I see a new book or story released for free under Creative Commons. So even if Amazon did go belly up tomorrow, you’d still have lots of stuff to read.

  11. Ok, Kindle envy reaching epic proportions. I read constantly on my Treo, since I always have it with me. I store ebooks on the sd card. For the Kindle, if I had previously downloaded a supply of books, in html, txt or mobipocket format, and had them on the sd card, would the Kindle be able to display them in their native format? You had tweeted that it did support those formats, but just curious if it is actually *that* easy…

    I do download alot of books from various sites, fictionwise etc, and irc, so keeping my supply up without necessarily having to only fork out to Amazon for their supply of books would be a bonus.

    Also, had you mentioned that it is not backlit? Or subtly backlit? Being able to read during power failures is a bonus on PEI in the winter :)

    Another q… twitter, browser, – how is the data billed? I know Amazon covers the wifi book transfer, but if you were browsing or tweeting, how would that airtime be covered? And browser-wise, what kind of internet use do you actually have, what else can you use the sd card storage for on the Kindle, and does it have internal memory, and how much?

    Guess that’s another q or 3. Great unboxing, you remind me of myself, except that normally I torture myself by reading all manuals and written materials before allowing myself to touch the actual device. Great looking packaging too. Very enticing.

    If this is as good as I fear it might be, this could prove to be a serious complication in my quest for a Digital SLR. Please cc a copy of your response to Santa.

    -Hi to Rachel and Gabe, cam operator and geek-in-training -I noticed how well he sat, and gazed seriously at the Kindle.

  12. @isle, yes, the Kindle should be able to read .txt and Mobipocket formats natively – just pop in the SD card. I’ve tested mobipocket, and I’m 90% sure that .txt will work. I had some trouble getting .html files to work, but it could have been that they were in a subfolder or something (which wasn’t a problem for the mobipocket format book files).

    Worst case scenario, you can convert them to native .azw files by simply mailing the files as an attachment to yourusername@free.kindle.com, and they’ll come back to you in minutes. Or omit the “free” part of the address, and have them sent directly to your Kindle for $0.10 a piece.

    I’m not 100% sure, but I believe that non-DRM books from Fictionwise work just fine on the Kindle.

    There is no backlight at all, so it’s no good in complete darkness. There is an LED book light that runs on AAA batteries that seems to be popular with Kindle owners, but I haven’t had a need for it (yet). It’s only $18, so I’ll probably pick one up eventually.

    There is no charge for data usage. No monthly fee, whatsoever. It’s ALL included in the purchase price. Compare to $60/month for an EVDO card from Sprint. Now, Amazon says the web browser is “Experimental”, and in the fine print of the EULA, they claim the right to change or remove the browser, or start charging for data access. I don’t think they will, but they COULD.

    The web browser has a “Default” and an “Advanced” mode. Both are roughly comparable to the browser on a BlackBerry or Windows Mobile device (or a Treo) in terms of what they can render. Images work, but they’re greyscale. No video streaming. But for sites that are mostly text (Wikipedia, Twitter, feeds, etc.), it’s awesome, because the fonts and text on the screen look absolutely gorgeous.

    You can use the SD card to store books, MP3s (yes, it can play MP3s – note the headphone jack and volume controls on the bottom edge), and Audible audiobooks (yes, even DRM’ed ones). You can also store and view photos on the SD card. Actually, you can put whatever you want on the SD card, but those are the only things the Kindle will recognize. :-) It has 256MB (I think) of internal flash memory. Enough to hold about 200 books, according to Amazon. Figure in the fact that a 4GB SD card is only $10, and suddenly storage doesn’t seem to be much of a problem. ;-)

    I did read the manuals, etc. I just didn’t have the camera running while I did it. ;-)

    And Gabe loves to play with daddy’s gadgets, and he loves to be included in my geeky activities. Emma was playing at a friend’s house, or she would have been right there in the middle of the action, too. :-)

  13. mnmmom says:

    Very cool video, made me feel as if i was at the unveiling of an incredibly cool product!
    Nice camera work at the end where you showed the incredibly clean and clear resolution.
    Not sure it is a product for me, but I AM sure it is a product for YOU. Just sitting next to you on one flight (granted it was a 14 hour flight) taught me that you are a reading fool and Kindle should have used you as a test case :)
    Enjoy and keep me posted on its success, or rather your success with it!

  14. great thread this, adding up to be a pretty thorough review. From what I’ve heard the page rendering is outstanding, Digital Ing do they call it. Not like the B/W screens of the old Sony’s. Much more like natural print. How do you find it?

    Also the Sprint network deal, i know i mentioned it above, but it warrants mentioning again. Outstanding deal. Okay, its obviously to facilitate those impulse buys. i’m sure Amazon will eventually start spamming to really drive those sales, but still a great feature. Really hope they keep the Experimental web browser around.

    The troubling thing regarding DRM is unlike iTunes .m4a files, there is no way to easily or cheaply back this stuff up. Every tune I buy from Apple gets ripped to Audio CD so if I ever lose the digital copy or the DRM fails, i can RIP back to MP3/AAC. Cant see printing a whole bunch of books out of the Kindle. But I agree Amazon is as stable as an online company is going to get so its a minor worry.

  15. I meant digital ink of course, and I just got done watching the video ALL the way through to find you cover the ELECTRONIC ink. Ha, that’ll teach me. One other thing i’ve heard is that the screen is REALLY easy on your eyes as it is not backlit. how have you found that?

  16. I want one SOOO bad! thanks for sharing so I can live vicariously through you!

    I know the Kindle has received a lot of bad press about its design but I actually kinda like it. I mean for reading books, seems like they nailed.

    Keep the great info coming….

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  18. Rhys says:

    Nice review Josh, thank you.

    Adam’s point regarding DRM touches on my only concern for E-book readers. I would love to get Kindle, but even once they hit the UK I will be holding back. Amazon’s proprietary DRM means that if in two to three years I wanted to move to another manufacturer’s product (for example when full colour e-ink displays become available) I would be faced with the prospect of having several hundred pounds worth of content sitting unmigrateable on the Kindle. Not an appealing prospect.

  19. @Rhys – that’s a good point regarding portability of the books. We’re at Amazon’s mercy as to what future devices we’ll be able read DRM’ed books on, either from Amazon or other manufacturers. But we face the same issue with Apple, iPods, and iTunes music.

    And to me, it’s not a big enough deal to wait for the “perfect” ebook library with no DRM. Yes, there’s a cost, and not just in dollars, but I’ll happily pay it to have access to and read the many, many books that Amazon makes available.

    Thanks for the comment! :-)

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  21. Chris says:

    How does this work in bright light conditions? Such as in the park on a summer day. My only experience is with LCD screens (laptop, Treo, etc). And these are less than stellar in bright sunshine.

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  23. Hi Josh;

    Nice video review.

    However, there aren’t many books available at all for small children like your son, especially for the Kindle, that don’t require an internet connection or downloading additional software.

    All of these options tie the parent to a desktop/laptop unfortunately. But what about the parent(s) who has a Kindle or Sony Reader or other ereading device?

    As a father of a six year old, I’ve had to create my own solution and wanted to offer you a review copy of “Good Morning, Friend Moon”

    It’s optimized for the Kindle and I’d be happy to send you a copy for your review.

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  25. @Chris – The screen is not LCD, but “electronic ink”, and it works GREAT in direct light. It was designed that way. It doesn’t wash out at all, like an LCD does.

    @Aaron – Actually, there are quite a few children’s books in the Kindle Store, but I’d be more inclined to keep them on my Kindle for reading to my children, rather than loading up the Kindle and handing it over to them to read. It’s not color, and neither of them are old enough to “get” reading a boring, black and white page yet. ;-)

    I’d love to have a look at your book – my email is jabancroft at gmail dot com. Thanks! :-)

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