The CNNMoney and Fortune magazine logo

You hear it all the time. People want to gush about how happy they are — after a good meal, for example — and they’ll say “This is the best sandwich ever.” I always smile, since you can’t actually have surveyed every single sandwich ever created in the history of time. But it is possible to test out every Kindle, every Nook, and every digital reading device ever made. Someone’s finally done a comparison of every single device, and they’ve declared that Amazon’s newest Kindle Paperwhite is, in fact, the best digital reader ever.

It was CNN.

America’s prestigious 24-hour news channel just posted a new review of the next generation of Kindle Paperwhite — and I’ve never seen such a positive review. “Once upon a time, there was an argument to be made for the Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader,” the article begins, “but with the introduction of the Kindle Paperwhite last fall, that battle turned from competitive to no contest.” They applaud the thin, light design of the new devices, saying the Kindle Paperwhite ” finds a perfect sweet spot of size and weight without becoming too difficult to handle or feeling too cheap.” And they also loved the display of the Paperwhite, noting it’s high-contrast and the way it refreshes the words on the screen quickly.

Even while they were complaining that Amazon’s estimate of the battery life might be a little high, they admit that most users will be able to read on the new Paperwhite for several weeks before having to recharge it. And they even praised the touchscreen interface for being quick to respond to the user’s touches. I know people who love their Kindles, but it’s really impressive that one of their new fans is CNNMoney — which is also the online home for two well-respected American finance magazines, Fortune and Money. And according to Wikipedia, more than 10.8 million people visit the CNN Money site each month — so this could become a very influential review.

But there was also a very interesting twist. One of the advantages CNN cited for the Paperwhite was the exclusive-to-Amazon “Kindle Singles” — the short, cheap works written by established authors, which you can’t get on any other device. And they cited something which I agree is one of the most compelling features about Amazon’s ecosystem: the Kindle Lending Library, which lets you borrow one ebook from the library each month without having to pay for it.

Of course, to be fair, the Nook lets you read almost any ebook for free — if you’re willing to actually take your Nook into a Barnes and Noble Store. But CNN’s reviewer wasn’t swayed, and came down unequivocally in favor of the new Kindle Paperwhite. Their conclusion?

“Ultimately there’s no reason not to buy an Amazon e-reader right now. It provides the best hardware and the best ecosystem.”

Amazon's original Kindle DX

There’s been big changes in the Kindle universe. The same day that Amazon was announcing their new devices, an Amazon Kindle executive named Jay Marine surprised one technology site with the news that Amazon is “pretty much done” with the Kindle DX. He stressed that Amazon’s not abandoning these older large-screen, black-and-white Kindles — though it wasn’t 100% clear what exactly he meant. “Marine did note that there may be a few more DX’s manufactured and it’ll continue to be sold online,” the techology site reported, “before it completely falls off of the face of the earth.”

But as one Kindle fades away, Amazon’s announced a new generation of devices that are ready to take their place. So how did shoppers react to Amazon’s newest Kindles? I’ve been studying the internet for clues, and there appears to be one very important lesson. It looks like Amazon’s customers really appreciate the lower prices – at least, judging by Amazon’s list of their best-selling electronic devices!

The first weekend after they were announced, Amazon’s #1 best-selling item was Amazon’s 7-inch Kindle Fire HD (which at $199, is also one of their cheapest color Kindles). Amazon’s also selling an upgraded version of their last year’s Kindle Fire tablets for just $159, and those were #4 on their list of the best-selling electronics. But the #2 and #3 spots went to the new black-and-white Kindle Paperwhite. And it was the cheaper “Special Offers” version (which sells for $119) which earned the #2 spot, while the ad-free version (which sells for $139) grabbed the #3 spot.

Amazingly, more than two weeks later, the top four hasn’t changed. The two cheapest Kindle Fire tablets still hold the #1 and #4 spots, while the #2 and #3 spots still went to the cheapest
Kindle Paperwhites!

But even that first weekend, the #5 spot also went to yet-another one of Amazon’s black-and-white Paperwhite Kindles — the more-expensive version with built-in 3G wireless capability (which sells for $179). There’s also an ad-free version which sells for twenty dollars more ($199), which had also risen up to #7. And the #6 spot went to the cheapest Kindle of all — Amazon’s 6-inch “Kindles”, which now costs just $69. You had to go all the way down to the #8 spot before you found one of Amazon’s more expensive 8.9-inch versions of their new Kindle Fire HD tablets. And even then, it was the cheaper WiFi-only version without the built-in 4G wireless (which sells for $299).

Two weeks later, it had dropped to the #14 spot, and the $499 and $599 versions didn’t even appear among the top-20 best-sellers. Even in that first weekend, the $499, 4G verson of the Kindle Fire had only reached the #9 spot, and the $599 version (with 64-gigabytes of storage) had come in at #10. I was surprised to see that even two days after Amazon announced their new Kindles, Apple still had the #15 best-selling electronic device — their Apple TV receiver. And it’s since risen to become the #6 best-selling electronic device on Amazon — after racking up more than 190 days in the top 100.

Of course, Amazon’s not selling Apple’s hottest new device, the iPhone 5. But if they did, I’m guessing it would also become one of Amazon’s best-sellers.

Amazon video of Kindle Paperwhite sneak preview

Amazon hasn’t shipped out their new Kindle Paperwhite devices yet — but they did play a fun trick on some of their customers. Amazon invited them in for interviews about their current Kindles, in a new video they posted to YouTube. “Then we distracted them…” Amazon’s video explains, “and swapped their Kindles for all-new devices!”

“You guys are sneaky that way,” laughed one of the interview subjects… But it’s really fun to watch their first reaction to the Kindle Paperwhite.

“That’s incredible.”

“The screen. Higher resolution. Clearer. Not that the old one was bad, by any means.”

“But it’s really so much sharper. It’s pretty obvious. “

You can find the whole two-and-a-half minute video on the Kindle web page at YouTube (at youtube.com/Kindle ) And it’s fun to think that these are some of the first people to see the built-in “glow” of Amazon’s newest Kindle. The video cuts from one amazed Kindle owner to the next, but their words merge into one unified reaction.

“I love the light.”

“Oh, god. That is amazing. I never even knew I needed it. But I love it.”

“That is going to revolutionize everything.”

“I mean, it looks fantastic…”

I wondered whether I’d like the shiny effect of the Kindle Paperwhite, or whether I’d find the extra brightness to be distracting. But one of Amazon’s “sneak previewers” seemed to find the new technology both subtle and pleasing. “It doesn’t jump out at you,” says an aircraft fueler named Thornin. “It doesn’t cause any eye strain. It doesn’t even leave the screen…”

“I can’t stop smiling.”

“It’s a big step up…”

“This is exactly what Star Trek promised me would happen.”

It’s a very effective ad –featuring seven different customers. There’s a homemaker, two retirees, a career coach, plus a software developer and a production designer. (Besides the aircraft fueler). While gentle music plays in the background, the ad shows all these intrigued people giving Amazon’s newest device their intense scrutiny. And then they’re shown with a calm, intense delight — along with big smiles and excited laughter. And the ad closes with one last word for people who’ve already ordered their Kindle Paperwhites.

“It’ll be fun. I’m excited.”


And remember: You can pre-order the new touchscreen devices — with their new built-in lights — at tinyurl.com/KindlePaperWhite !

A crowd of happy people

I love my Kindle — and so do a lot of other people. So one of my favorite things is reading what other Kindle owners have shared about their own experiences. “We greatly value the feedback we receive from our customers,” Amazon writes on the Kindle’s page on Facebook, “and thought we’d share a few of the messages that made us smile!”

You can read the messages at facebook.com/Kindle — but I was delighted to read the story of a unser named Janet K, who said the Kindle even made it easier to eat food! “No more problems trying to read and have dinner at the same time. No more smudged pages due to French Fries.” (Of course, she also recognized other ways in which Kindle-reading was less messy than a pile of printed books. “No more ink-stained fingers. No more trying to jam bulky books into my purse. I love my Kindle…”)

And one of my favorite comments came from a woman named Kathy E. “if I knew how to compose a song about how much I love my Kindle I would!!!”

But Amazon also got an e-mail from “Jason M,” and he identified what I thought was one of the greatest benefits of a Kindle: many of the greatest books of all time are now free! “I’m an avid reader and a big fan of classic literature,” he writes, “much of which Amazon offers for free on the Kindle. The Kindle and the Amazon store combination is like having your own public library in your pocket… This is a bookworm’s dream.”

If you’re looking for more comments about the Kindle, read the reviews left at Amazon.com. The Kindle Fire tablet has received nearly 15,000 different customer-written reviews, and the “Kindle Keyboard” — Amazon’s previous-generation device — has racked up a whopping 35,871 reviews. (“A hesistant buyer rejoices on his choice,” wrote one man in Colorado. “Boy am I glad I made this purchase…. It is much better in person…”) It’s fun to see that “ordinary” users are just as enthusiastic about the Kindle as the professional technology bloggers. For example, Amazon quotes the Gizmodo blog at the top of page for the Kindle Fire tablet. (“The Fire gives me the features I want at a price point that’s less than half of the iPad 2.”) But meanwhile, back in Abilene, Texas, a mother shares an even more enthusiastic review of the device from her children. “The kids are always asking to play on the “Big Phone”. :-) It has really great color and screen resolution and the battery life is really good as well.” (And she notes that even her husband enjoys their new Kindle Fire tablet — for playing Angry Birds !)

One review began brainstorming about some new creative users for the Kindle Fire — for example, as an “exercise companion” to keep you entertained while you’re working out on a treadmill machine. And they also suggested a new potential market: doctors and dentists. “What if your customers in the waiting room were each given Kindle Fires instead of magazines?”

One of the few one-star reviews complained that the Kindle Fire tablet was too attractive — at least, when the delivery man left it on their doorstep without requiring a signature. “The Fire is shipped in a box that advertised on the outside of the box exactly what it is. ‘Hello, you, thief, please come steal me!’”

Remember, if you have your own Kindle story, Amazon would like to hear it, too! “Please send us your own comments at any time,” they remind Kindle owners on the Facebook page, “via Kindle-feedback@Amazon.com .”

A Very Big Announcement

February 16th, 2012

shh - finger to lips - secret rumor

I’m making a big, secret announcement here — on Friday! Watch for that special blog post at noon (west-coast time, or 3:00 east-coast time). I’ve been preparing for that big day all week…

So in honor of “my big announcement day”, I’ve tracked down the very first e-mail that I’d ever sent to anybody about Amazon’s Kindle. It was before I’d even bought one, towards the end of 2009, but I’d sent an e-mail to some friends on a mailing list that we’d set up for discussion random things. Barnes and Noble had just announced a brand new e-reader that they were about to release, called…the Nook. “It comes out at the end of November,” I wrote, “and looks a lot like Amazon’s Kindle, except it’s got a virtual ‘touch’ keyboard instead of an actual keyboard — along with a touch screen.”


Most of the differences are minor — you’ll be able to read entire ebooks (or “browse” them) if you bring it into a Barnes & Noble, and you’ll be able to “loan” ebooks to your friends for two weeks. I’ve been skeptical about the whole concept of a techno-gizmo-logical “reading device,” even though several blogs that I read were raving about them. But they’ve got some capabilities I didn’t know about…

* Free, always-on internet access. It’s kind of minimal, I’ve heard, partly because the screens are black and white, but the price is right. The idea is that if you can go online whenever you want, you can also browse their book-buying catalogs whenever the whim strikes you. (One user told a story about hearing NPR describe a new book — and deciding to purchase it then and there on their Kindle. Within seconds, it had been beamed down to his device, and he was off reading its first chapter…) But beyond purchasing copies: it’s also a cheap back-up internet device.

* You can subscribe to newspapers — even out-of-state newspapers — and for less than their print editions cost.

Plus, I had two experiences that made me start thinking seriously about it. I discovered Project Gutenberg’s free online library had an entire collection of short fiction (by Bret Harte) that’s set in California’s gold country. I’d been to four bookstores, none of which actually had any of his books, so score one for digital books. (And Project Gutenberg has other cool obscure texts. For example, in 1914, some guy in California took a walking tour “Through Bret Harte Country,” and described what every city was like.)

More importantly, I’ve been reading the stories on my computer screen — and thinking that maybe a low-glare reader might make it more feasible to read longer digital works. (For that matter, you can also read blogs on these things — so maybe I could also just cut down on my monitor-based web browsing.) But the most compelling argument I saw for digital readers were from people who said that after they bought them, they read more. You’d never lug 20 books to the dentist’s office or while you’re riding on a bus — but your Kindle (or Nook) can carry them all, so you can pick out something that fits your mood. And maybe because it’s a new experience, it also makes reading feel exciting and new and geeky.

But also, people said that they were now reading more literature — because it was free. Or they’re reading obscure pulp fiction and mystery novels from the 1920s whose copyright had expired. And digital publishers also give away the first chapter for free (to try to entice you to buy the whole thing) — so I’ve heard people say they try more different kinds of books now, and it widens what they’re eventually reading.

Maybe — dare I say it? — it’s actually an improvement on reading a book, since maybe it’s lighter and easier to hold. And if you want to look up a word, you don’t have to fumble around for your dictionary. There’s even a built-in text-to-speech feature.

Granted, it may be that the only people you hear talking about the Kindle are the people who are deeply in love with it. But I wonder if this is going to catch on and really change our world in a major way? (One tech site even claimed the Kindle already had a faster adoption rate than the iPhone.)

Anyone have any thoughts on these new-fangled digital reading devices?

You know the rest. A few friends said they’d also been skeptical of the Kindle, until they bought one, and then they loved them. So I eventually bought a Kindle for myself, then started a blog about the Kindle…and the rest is history. And now there’s a new milestone coming up — Friday, at noon (PST).

Check this blog tomorrow to hear the big news!

Screenshot from new Amazon Kindle TV ad - The Book Lives On

A while back I put out a call to a journalist’s network, asking Kindle users to answer one simple question: what’s your own favorite story about using the Kindle? The answers poured in from all across America, but each person seemed to have a very positive experience that was also very unique! For example, Patrick Kerley, an account supervisor for a PR firm in Washington, D.C., remembered a great Kindle story about his mother. “She and my father were traveling between North Carolina and southern Florida when they blew a tire. The Kindle’s web browser helped them locate a replacement!”

I thought about that story today, because Amazon this fall Amazon didn’t included the free 3G service for web browsing with their new Kindle Touch (and the new $79 Kindle). So the experience of owning a Kindle is a little different today — though of course, it’s also made the new Kindles cheaper. And for Kindle Touch owner’s, Amazon’s still making free 3G service available for browsing in the Kindle Store. So it’s still going to possible for Kindle owners to stumble into their own unique experiences of using their Kindles in unexpected real-life situations.

For example, the free wireless internet access once played an even bigger role for Sophia Chiang, a San Francisco entrepreneur on an extended trip through China. She reported that the Kindle was a great way to buy “uncensored English magazines like Newsweek, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Atlantic Monthly.” Amazon’s Whispernet network actually allowed her to circumvent the Chinese government’s ongoing news censorship.

Her Kindle also let Sophia beam down travel guidebooks that were written in English. “We went on a last minute trip to a more remote part of China and we got our Lonely Planet guide immediately on the Kindle.” Without the Kindle, she reported on her blog, the only alternative would’ve been scrambling around trying to find a Chinese bookstore, and then hoping that they’d have a travel guidebook, in stock, that was written in English!

Because it was a long trip, Sophia was also glad that her Kindle could last for over a week without a recharge. But her last reason was one of the most exciting. Even though I’ve written a lot about children’s books on the Kindle, Sophia is the first person I know who’s actually using the Kindle to buy ebooks for her children. (“Our kids loved the Kindle and loved being able to buy Magic Tree House, ABC Mysteries series even in the middle of the Middle Kingdom.”)

And speaking of kids, I think my all-time personal favorite response probably came from Marc Pittman, who runs a fundraising-education business in Maine. At the time, he described himself as a “proud owner” of an original Kindle 1, and says “I think my happiest moment so far happened at the playground last week. I was using my iPad (*gasp*) when a 5 year old kid ran past, stopped, and shouted ‘Cool Kindle!’

“Kids know where the real innovation is!”

I’d also heard from Andrea McKinnon, a publicist in Burbank who was “an avid book lover, reader and saver” — until her husband dared to give her a Kindle in May as a Mother’s Day gift… Within seven days, Andrea was assigned a 250-page manuscript, and she’d had to read the entire thing before passing it on to a publisher. “My choices? Read 250 pages on my laptop or print out 250 pages.” But wait! There was a third choice — uploading the document to the Kindle, and then reading it as an ebook! And — to cut to the end of the story — Andrea soon began describing herself as “a new Kindle convert.”

“I was also traveling at the time, so along it came with me, to read on the plane and in the hotel, along with the novel I was reading at the time. One small Kindle, two giant tomes en route for work and pleasure!”

And meanwhile, on the opposite coast, a woman named Elaine Bloom was also enjoying her Kindle for an entirely different reason. Elaine described herself as a LinkedIn Strategist, but unfortunately, she also had a broken left leg. (“I fell on ice in a diner parking lot at the beginning of March…”) It was painful, and her foot was constantly kept elevated — which made it difficult to read in different positions, or even turn the pages of a conventional book. But fortunately, with the Kindle “I could easily read it while I was lying down in bed. I could hold it in one hand and use that same hand to hit the button to advance the page. It would have been difficult for me to hold a book and no way I could read and turn the pages with one hand.” The grateful New Jersey woman reported that the Kindle “saved my sanity….I was able to do a lot of reading when I couldn’t do anything else.

“The only other thing I could do was watch daytime television — which could drive you crazy!”

Sports Illustrated logo on baseball magazine cover

Today is the first day of baseball season. And perhaps fittingly, CNN’s web site just ran a very strange article complaining about the Kindle and e-books — by a baseball writer for Sports Illustrated.

It headline? “My Bookstore is on Death Row.” Author Jeff Pearlman continues the morbid theme by writing “I just just returned from the morgue… It is dark inside. Smells stale. The walls are decayed, the echo resounding.” But he’s describing a recently-closed bookstore — his local Borders in Scarsdale — which was “adjacent to a Starbucks and a gym and a couple of overpriced clothing shops…”

Even writing later on his personal blog, Pearlman still seems deeply moved. “It’s an odd thing,” he writes in a new blog post. “Five years ago I would have never imagined feeling glum over a Borders or B&N shutting down. Nowadays, however, it symbolizes a shifting tide. Technologically. Culturally.”

“Bummer.”

Pearlman has a special fondness for this particular bookstore, because it was where he wrote his third book, “at a rickety wood table inside the store’s small cafe.” He fondly remembers all the people he met there — like “the clerk with tattoos running down his arm who, one day, left to join the army and fight in Iraq…” But more than that, he remembers the feeling of the bookstore. “Borders was cozy; safe; easy…

“Now, the shop is next up on death row.”

It’s a fairly traditional argument against e-books — though the personal details make it feel more poignant. Flashing forward to the present, Pearlman notes the deep discounts at the closing Borders, where “people pick at the remains like vultures atop a rotting calf.” Then he looks ahead to the future, and writes sadly about the “seemingly inevitable extinction of print.” (” “Look on the bright side,” my sister-in-law recently said. “More people will read. The Kindle books are cheaper, so they’re going to be more widely embraced. This will work in your favor.”)

“I just don’t know. …” Pearlman writes glumly.

“At the risk of sounding like my great aunt, I love books. I love holding books. I love thumbing through books. I love marking up pages, I love perusing bookshelves, I love feeling the paper between my fingers.

As a boy growing up in Mahopac, New York, I used to rush to Waldenbooks at the nearby Jefferson Valley Mall for the start of every sports season. My mission was to pick up “Zander Hollander’s The Complete Handbook of (fill in the league)” annuals. Upon making the $6 purchase, I’d rush home, lie on my bed, stare at the mug shots of Magic Johnson and Joe Montana and Steve Kemp, read the bios, imagine myself one day joining their ranks. Those books — all 27 of them — remain inside my home, yellowed and tattered and beautiful. I turn to them often. For nostalgia. For joy.


He concludes by saying that he’d still prefer a book. But there may be more to the story. It turns out that Pearlman has already written four different printed books over the last six years — three of them about baseball, and two of which became New York Times best-sellers. And all four of them are already available as e-books in Amazon’s Kindle store.


In fact, each one has achieved an impressive rank in one of the Kindle store’s special sub-categories. (For example, “The Bad Boys Won” is the 10th best-selling baseball biography in the sports section, and “Boys Will Be Boys” is the section’s third best-selling football biography.) And meanwhile, Zander Hollander’s “Complete Handbook” series of sports annuals apparently stopped publishing long ago. Even before Amazon invented their Kindle, one beloved childhood book had already fallen a victim to the high costs of traditional printing.

So when Pearlman’s sister-in-law says more e-book readers will simply mean more sales for his book — she’s probably right. (Pearlman’s best response is an ambiguous “I just don’t know…”) I e-mailed Pearlman through his web page to ask how he feels about the new readers he may be finding on the Kindle? (And whether he’s worried he’ll earn less money through e-book sales than he will in print.) But so far, I haven’t heard a response.

I’m a little surprised that Sports Illustrated isn’t available on the Kindle yet — though that’s true for nearly every sports magazine. (In fact, currently there’s only one magazine available in the Sports magazine section of the Kindle Store — “Winding Road Weekly”, a magazine about cars). But maybe it’s also because sports writers prefer a sunny stadium outdoors to exploring all the technical specs of a new electronic gadget. Taking another look at his article, I realized that most of Pearlman’s understanding is based on a sports writer’s gut instinct.

For example, printed books still represent a large majority of all books that are sold, but Pearlman already feels that books are old news. Why? “[J]ust ride a train and glance around. Everyone — everyone — is holding a Kindle. Or a Nook. Or an iPad.” But the biggest “tell” comes from his statement that he’s not interested in a reader like the Kindle because “Come day’s end, I’m tired of staring at a screen. I do it all day, I do it through much of the night.”

I just think he’d change his mind if he’d actually tried reading on the Kindle’s e-ink screen — mainly because I also spend a lot of my day staring at a screen. Once I discovered the Kindle’s screen, it was such a wonderful relief to discover it didn’t have any of the glare that usually comes from a back-lit screen. And for me, the most interesting part of the article was where Pearlman inadvertently revealed that real-world bookstores had their own unique disadvantages. “When nobody was looking, I’d do the ol’ author two-step and relocate my books from the bottom of the sports shelves to the ‘Must Read’ sections,” he writes.

“If you think I’m the only writer who does this, you’re on crack.”

Amazon smile logo
It’s on everybody’s Kindle — an e-mail address for contacting Amazon’s Kindle team. (It appears as one of the screensavers: “We love to hear your thoughts on the Kindle experience… send us your input at: kindle-feedback@amazon.com) But last week, something very special happened. Amazon’s Kindle team announced on their Facebook page that they’d decided to share “a few of the messages that made us smile.”

I’ve met people who are skeptical of the Kindle’s popularity — but there’s a lot of real excitement and enthusiasm. (“If my house was on fire,” wrote a user named Alberta, “I would grab my purse, my cat, and my Kindle.”) And another user named Jan reported cheerfully that “now I can read and scratch my cat’s head at the same time. I do not have to stop for page turning.” (She adds that Sam — presumably, her cat — “is happy and thinks this is the greatest invention…”)

The positive comments kept coming, although a few cited specific and practical advantages. Someone named A. Y. e-mailed Amazon to tell them that “the Kindle makes me want to read more.” And Brenda B. thanked Amazon for letting her replace printed books with ebooks. “My husband says I’ve saved his retirement fund because of all the money I’ve saved buying my books on Kindle instead of the bookstore.” (She added that without her Kindle, “I am like Linus without his blanket…)

It’s always fun to hear how other people feel about their Kindles. I tried the same experiment once — and discovered just as much enthusiasm. Last month author Elif Batuman wrote a funny article about how the Kindle lets her indulge in the books she considers guilty pleasures. (“The Kindle is wonderful for drunk people…”) All the positive stories made want to say that there’s obviously “a lot of love out there” for the Kindle.

But then I read something that was actually about love itself. Amazon shared a remarkable e-mail from a young man named Scott, telling the story of a very special night when “the Kindle was going to help me pop the question.”


I began writing down ideas and memories of our relationship and all at once, it hit me. I wrote a short story about how we met and highlighted some of the things we’ve done over the last two years. After a few weeks of writing and editing, I had a pretty solid story saved the file as a PDF, loaded in on the Kindle, and waited until our anniversary.

On the night of our two year anniversary, she opened the Kindle’s box, her face lit up and I could immediately tell that I had bought a winning gift. She was so excited to receive the Kindle, and I was so nervous knowing that I was about to propose using said Kindle. I walked her through how to use the device and then opened up the story I had written. She read the story aloud and I waited for the end of the story. As she finished reading the story, I pulled out the engagement ring’s box, opened it, an proposed.

Obviously, since I am writing this story, she said yes! We’re now planning our wedding for 2011 and I could not be happier.”

Last week three different Kindle users shared their favorite stories about life with the Kindle. But I’d also heard from Andrea McKinnon, a publicist in Burbank who was “an avid book lover, reader and saver” — until her husband dared to give her a Kindle in May as a Mother’s Day gift…

Within seven days, Andrea was assigned a 250-page manuscript, and she’d had to read the entire thing before passing it on to a publisher. “My choices? Read 250 pages on my laptop or print out 250 pages.” But wait! There was a third choice — uploading the document to the Kindle, and then reading it as an ebook! And — to cut to the end of the story — Andrea now describes herself as “a new Kindle convert.”

“I was also traveling at the time, so along it came with me, to read on the plane and in the hotel, along with the novel I was reading at the time. One small Kindle, two giant tomes en route for work and pleasure!”

And meanwhile, on the opposite coast, a woman named Elaine Bloom was also enjoying her Kindle for an entirely different reason. Elaine describes herself as a LinkedIn Strategist, but unfortunately, she also had a broken left leg. (“I fell on ice in a diner parking lot at the beginning of March…”) It was painful, and her foot was constantly kept elevated — which made it difficult to read in different positions, or even turn the pages of a conventional book. But fortunately, with the Kindle “I could easily read it while I was lying down in bed. I could hold it in one hand and use that same hand to hit the button to advance the page. It would have been difficult for me to hold a book and no way I could read and turn the pages with one hand.” Today the grateful New Jersey woman says the Kindle “saved my sanity….I was able to do a lot of reading when I couldn’t do anything else.

“The only other thing I could do was watch daytime television — which could drive you crazy!”

I put out a call to a journalist’s network last week, asking Kindle users to answer one simple question: what’s your own favorite story about using the Kindle? The answers poured in from across America, but each person seemed to have a very positive experience that was also very unique.

Patrick Kerley, an account supervisor for a PR firm in Washington, D.C., remembered a great Kindle story about his mother. “She and my father were traveling between North Carolina and southern Florida when they blew a tire. The Kindle’s web browser helped them locate a replacement!”

And the free wireless internet access played an even bigger role for Sophia Chiang, a San Francisco entrepreneur on an extended trip through China. She reports the Kindle was a great way to buy “uncensored English magazines like Newsweek, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Atlantic Monthly.” Amazon’s Whispernet network actually allowed her to circumvent the Chinese government’s ongoing news censorship.

Her Kindle also let Sophia beam down travel guidebooks that were written in English. “We went on a last minute trip to a more remote part of China and we got our Lonely Planet guide immediately on the Kindle.” Without the Kindle, she reports on her blog, the only alternative would’ve been scrambling around trying to find a Chinese bookstore, and then hoping that they’d have a travel guidebook, in stock, that was written in English!

Because it was a long trip, Sophia was also glad that her Kindle could last for over a week without a recharge. But her last reason was one of the most exciting. Even though I’ve written a lot about children’s books on the Kindle, Sophia is the first person I know who’s actually using the Kindle to buy ebooks for her children. (“Our kids loved the Kindle and loved being able to buy Magic Tree House, ABC Mysteries series even in the middle of the Middle Kingdom.”)

I’ll have more of the responses from other Kindle users over the next week, but I just want to say that my favorite response probably came from Marc Pittman, who runs a fundraising-education business in Maine. He describes himself as a “proud owner” of an original Kindle 1, and says “I think my happiest moment so far happened at the playground last week. I was using my iPad (*gasp*) when a 5 year old kid ran past, stopped, and shouted ‘Cool Kindle!’

“Kids know where the real innovation is!”

The best Kindle image ever?

June 30th, 2010

I just have to say it…

Kindle for PC logo

I love the logo that Amazon came up with for the Kindle for PC.

I just found out that my blog is currently the 77th best-selling technology blog in Amazon’s Kindle store. But I’m basically just someone who’s young at heart, loves reading, and wants to share my excitement about the Kindle. Maybe that’s why I identify so much with the boy in the silhouette. If I could, I’d steal that picture and use it as the logo for this blog!

Sometimes the ebooks I read only have one problem. I get so excited about them that I want to stop reading immediately so I can write a blog post about them…

Krazy Kat and Ignatz mouse and brick

I’d blogged the other day about the shortest Kindle sample ever. But I’d forgotten about a funny experience I’d had when I first bought my Kindle.

I hadn’t seen any illustrations on my Kindle yet – except for the screensaver images that kept surprising me every time I put down my Kindle for too long. So I’d searched for a collection of Kindle comic strips, and eventually found one of the all-time classics! Krazy Kat is a strange and surreal slapstick comic strip that first appeared in 1913 – and I’ve always loved it. It’s a simple, sweet world where the cat loves the mouse, and ordering a sample seemed like the perfect way to test out the Kindle’s graphics capabilities.

So imagine my surprise when I’d downloaded the sample to my Kindle, and discovered…nothing. Followed by this sentence.


Enjoyed the sample? Buy Now or See details for this book in the Kindle Store.

Now that’s surrealism – a zen-like sample filled with emptiness and arbitrariness. (I felt like I’d just been clobbered with a brick!) Or was it just another surreal landscape drawn by George Herriman in which everything had disappeared?

I e-mailed Amazon’s customer service (saying that I’d really just wanted to know whether my Kindle would display images of all the comic strips in the book), and in the end it still became a very positive experience. They’d promised that yes, I’d see the actual comic strips – confirming my faith in Amazon’s customer service – and reminding me that if I wasn’t satisfied, “you can return any item purchased from the Kindle Store within 7 days of purchase.”

So I finally purchased An Anthology of Krazy Kat Komics. And though it’s short, and I have to enlarge the images just to read them, I’ll always have a special affection for this ebook, because it included the first illustrations that I ever saw on my Kindle.

And also because they’d sent me the strangest Kindle sample ever.

We are on the cusp of a future already rewriting itself…

Today Apple finally released their iPad – a tablet-sized device that’s the same size (and price) as a Kindle DX. As I argued last week, this proves that the tablet-sized reader is here to stay. And in honor of today’s milestone, there was some interesting perspective from an Iranian-American journalist on The Huffington Post.

To me, Kindle is like the first Black and White TV that showed up in living rooms, the kind that streaked like a zebra in motion and crackled like a kid’s walkie-talkie, the kind that required antennae-fiddling to get a clear picture and decent sound, the kind that families increasingly bought and sat around.

As primitive as it is, it’s the first wave of a much bigger change. Digital readers will become part of our lives, and (as Charlotte Safavi writes), “When it comes to books, I have come to terms with the fact that it is the written word that counts, not the medium upon which it is delivered.”

And I was touched by the example she used: the epic 19th-century poetry collection “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman.


It avails not, time nor place–distance avails not,
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence…

I was touched because I was just reading that very poem this Saturday.

And yes, it is available for free on the Kindle

An Excited Update

December 31st, 2009

There’s so many things I want to say. I’m reading 10 books at once — Jules Verne, Bret Harte, James Fenimore Cooper, and more. I’m reading Robin Hood, The Three Musketeers, and a mystery by A. A. Milne — all at the same time.

My girlfriend downloaded a cookbook! I’m reading the original Christmas Carol! I even downloaded a sample of Curious George — just to prove that I could! Plus a book I first read nearly 40 years ago…

I’m playing Minesweeper! I’m listening to mp3s! And — if I can believe this book’s description — soon I’ll even be playing Sudoku on my Kindle.

So there’s a lot I want to say. Bear with me until the euphoria dies down…

It Begins

October 31st, 2009

Okay, I did it.

At 12:38 a.m. on Thursday, October 29, I bought my Kindle — refurbished — on Amazon.

And thus, the journey begins…