Bottom line: the device itself is a marked improvement over Kindle I. Does it beat Sony 505 or Sony 700? That remains to be seen. Obviously there are a ton of reviews out there, but as someone who is currently playing with two Sonys and two Kindles (kinky), let me share my impressions.
First, the big fail:
Remember One of These Things is Not Like the Other? Yeah. Play along with me at home:
Yeah. It’s a mondo expensive device and I have to PAY EXTRA FOR A COVER?! EPIC FAIL AMAZON.
I’m honestly scared to put it in my purse, and am fearful that my keys or my phone, even when I’ve slid it in the pocket of my neoprene laptop case, will crack the screen. I’m revolted that I am fearful of carrying the device, and am really unimpressed with Amazon for resizing the device then demanding that people pay extra for a “designer” case. Heads up Amazon: that was dumb.
A note about the page turning button location: I rather liked the fact that the buttons to turn the page were so long on Kindle I, though I wished they weren’t tilted and so incredibly sensitive. The wide area of places I could choose from to turn the page meant that no matter how I held it, most of the time it adapted to me. Both the Sony 505 and Kindle II limit the places in which you can turn a page, and in doing so limit the ways in which I can comfortable hold the device – and if you’ve ever been squished in a bus seat because you and the person next to you are both wearing enormous puffy winter coats, you can understand why one might need to hold an ebook reader in a rather funky position. Kindle II is intelligently designed such that the buttons click inward, but they are a lot smaller, and limit the manner in which I can hold the device.
Kindle I also had a series of dots across the bottom of each ebook file which would increase in size (hur) as I read and give me a clue as to where I was in the book. Kindle II? No dots! And the pagination system is weird on both devices, so I’m never sure exactly where I am in a narrative. Those dots have often made it an easier decision to stick with it when I’m not entirely enthralled with a book.
But in terms of usability, everything else is pretty much improved. It’s a lot harder for me to inadvertently turn a page, and I love the one-finger slide sleep/wake instead of having to hit two buttons simultaneously. The text is highly defined and the contrast is excellent. I turn the page and the ink redistributes marvelously.
The lack of a case only compounds the existing frustrations I had with the Kindle, most notably that the exclusivity of the content means that I can’t bargain shop and put my cheaper purchases on the Kindle unless I’m willing to crack that mess up, DRM-wise.
My other gripe about Kindle I and Kindle II is that Amazon may be responsive to specific customer service inquiries about books and refunds, but the suggestions email has never yielded a response to any of the queries I’ve sent. A list of features I’d like added that still aren’t present on either device include the ability to manage the content of my Kindle from the Amazon.com website. I’d like to add and remove files from a screen on Amazon.com, and not just by manipulating the content manager on the Kindle itself.
I also dislike the standalone isolation of the sample files because if you download and read a sample, and then buy the book from the device, the full text of the book does not come with a bookmark indicating where the sample ended, allowing you to pick up where you left off. I thought with the Sync feature on the Kindle II this problem would be addressed, but in my experiments with sampled then purchased content, it was not, and I was forced to click a billion times or find the correct search terms to skip ahead to where the sample ended and the rest of the book began. The samples and the full book files are separate documents and there doesn’t seem to be a solution in merging them once one has purchased the full file, either.
I do love knowing that I can email a document to the device without having to worry about remembering to download an ebook file and then move it over to the device once I plug it in. Being able to charge it in an outlet and know that it was still possible to add content wirelessly is a major bonus, as is the access to the Amazon.com bookstore at any time, provided I have a wireless signal. With the arrival of the Kindle for iPhone the capacity for reading across several devices and keeping track of reading progress means that if you don’t want to be seen carrying your Kindle into the bathroom for an extended visit, you can carry your iPhone in your pocket, read, then pick up on the Kindle later.
I will say this: if you’re the type of person who reads a lot of newspapers, or if you read magazines and the type of written content that changes daily, a Kindle is ideal for you, and Kindle II, with the extremely thin profile and the improved click buttons is a great option. That said, it is not the option for me. I am fearful to carry it because it seems to delicate and in danger of epic damage in my bag, and I still haven’t found a case within my price range that works for me. The ease of the Whispernet and the familiarity I have with the device properties after using a Kindle I for almost a year now are not enough to convince me to keep going with my use of Kindle II as my full-time eBook reader.
And since I began using the Sony 505 with the light case and the Sony 700 with the embedded light, I notice when low light or high glare situations make me wish I had an on-board light for the Kindle I or Kindle II. If I had to choose, and, well, I do, since I’m judging the Olympics over here, I wouldn’t pick the Kindle II. It’s a marked improvement, but the lack of ability to bargain shop coupled with the high cost (for now) of a case to protect it from The Hazards in my Bag don’t make this device my favorite.