Using a Kindle 2 out in the sticks

With all the news recently on the Kindle front — the new large-screen [DX launch last week](/ec-news/article.php/3819046/Amazon+Enlarges+EBook+Play+With+Kindle+DX.htm) and today’s launch of a Kindle Store optimized for the Safari Web browser on iPhone — one can almost forget that the Kindle 2 was just released in February.

Indeed, Amazon’s push into the e-reader market is in full swing. The DX is aimed at nothing short of salvaging the newspaper industry, while the optimized Kindle Store for the Safari Web Browser will be tailored for the size and shape of the iPhone and iPod touch screens.

But despite Amazon’s recent developments in the e-reader arena, the Kindle 2 is still the big hitter in the company’s e-reader line up, so I decided to take a closer look.

As recent refugees from Manhattan like myself are fond of saying, more people lived in my old apartment building than do in my current rural town. Here folks wear Carhartt and the thermal dynamics of woodstoves and the state of one’s maple syrup sugaring shack are hot topics. 3G and Whispernet technology? Not so much. So it was with plucky New England spirit that I tested out the Kindle 2 in a place where there’s not a [Frankenpine]( in sight.

Naturally, it’s not surprising that the 3G coverage doesn’t cover out where I live, so undaunted I took the Kindle 2 “to town” and was impressed by how easy it is to use. The claim is true: you really can download and be reading a new e-book in less than a minute. I handed the device to a friend who doesn’t know anything about e-readers, and much to my chagrin, she purchased “Act Like a Lady, Think Like A Man” for me in less than 40 seconds.

The Whispernet technology, which is the Kinde’s free, built-in, wireless connection, lets you tap into Amazon’s Kindle Store from anywhere you can access Sprint’s EVDO cellular data network — no computer needed, no Wi-Fi hot spot hunting. This is really the key to the Kindle’s appeal, though alternatively, you can shop for Kindle publications from your computer and have them wirelessly sent to your Kindle 2 by simply hitting the one-click purchase button.

The Kindle 2 delivered also delivered on its promise of longer battery life, a chic, slim design and features you’d want in an e-book, namely easy page-turning, search, navigation and e-periodical purchasing functions. The keyboard is easy to use, too, which is nice for folks who don’t like typing with their thumbs.

Another improved feature in the Kindle 2 is its charging system. Instead of an AC adapter, you use a micro-USB device, with a detachable cable so you can also charge the Kindle by connecting it to a USB port on your computer, which is pretty nifty.

I think any e-book fan, will certainly love the Kindle 2. There’s still room for some improvement — for instance it won’t work overseas, you can’t read native PDF or Word files on it, you can’t remove the battery, there’s no expansion slot for adding memory — but these are not deal-breakers. In fact, it’s a pleasure to use the Kindle 2 because there’s literally no learning curve, which is a pretty big plus given that the e-reader market is still in its infancy. And even the lack of coverage in some rural areas can be balanced out by the added convenience of having a Kindle Store at your fingertips. If you want to buy a book, you don’t have to drive 45 minutes to the closest bookstore.

Still, and this is no knock on the Kindle 2 but rather my own opinion on e-readers in general, after spending all day on a computer, I personally don’t want to scroll, select and five-way-navigate my way around to read a book, magazine or paper no matter how easy it is to do so. I really just want to turn the page. (And not worry if my toddler yanks it out of my hands and throws it across the room, which is another story and topic entirely, but I digress.)

And e-readers are so darn precious. There’s no denying the cache of owning such a sexy gadget, but I’m afraid to toss it in my car — let alone in my beach bag or backpack — for a day trip without the fear of utterly destroying it in what is a decidedly unkempt lifestyle, carrying case or not.

But that’s me, and I’m sure writing that puts me squarely in the league of the [Terry Semels]( who failed to embrace the future when it was dumped in their lap — and I’m OK with that. I also realize e-readers are not a trendy fad destined to fade away, even if the masses don’t adopt them anytime soon. And if the devices improve upon the already stand-out Kindle 2, I’ll be OK with that, too.

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