Customer Reviews: Kindle: Amazon's Original Wireless Reading Device (1st generation)
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Showing 1-10 of 608 reviews(1 star). Show all reviews
on June 13, 2008
I requested and received a Kindle from my wife as a birthday gift. I wanted to love this device; conceptually it is something I have desired for a long time. It turned out to be a disappointment to both myself (because the device didn't live up to expectations) and to my wife (because I ended up wanting to return the gift that I asked her for).

I've read many reviews that complained about button placement and the overall shape of the device. I had expected that these complaints were execrations. Wrong! If anything they fail to properly illuminate how problematic the design is. It is physically impossible to hold the device without repeatedly mashing the page forward/back buttons. If you hold the reader at the bottom, in the right hand (as one would hold a paperback) the point at the lower right of the device pushes painfully in to your palm.

Secondly the display... I spend my life working in front of PC displays. I love reading but dread recreational reading on a monitor. E-Ink is a superb answer or should be. I was under the impression that the kindle used the exact same sourced display as the Sony reader. Now I am not so sure. The kindle seems to have a far grayer background vs. what I remember the Sony had. This of course leads to a diminishment of the available contrast between the background and the text. With my eyes this is problematic, within half an hour of reading on this device I had a blazing eye strain headache. I did however read far longer on a Sony reader in a local bookstore with no ill effects.

Wispernet... The promise of untethered access, to an endless supply of reading material. WHEN IT WORKS... Let me explain. I own a Sprint EVDO smart phone. My smart phone in my left hand had an EVDO connection with a full 5 bars of signal strength. The Kindle in my right hand was bouncing between 1 bar of 1x (1xRTT Data: Much slower connectivity then EVDO) and NOTHING. I would get constant error dialogues that no connection was available while browsing the Kindle store. Meanwhile I could play a streaming video on the EVDO smart phone, no signal issues at all. By the way I am on Long Island in New York, where we are completely saturated with wireless, the issue is NOT the wireless provider.

I could overlook all of these shortcomings, I want a device like this so badly I could but not at the current price. This is a two-fold issue. Firstly the device itself... The most expensive parts of the device would be the display, the cellular radio and the battery, combined and in bulk together cost far less than $100. Yes I understand that currently it's a niche product and there are design costs to recoup. However the sale cost vs. the production cost just doesn't seem realistic. That combined with the second price issue, the cost of books it is downright abusive.

Printing, Binding, Shipping, Cataloging and Inventorying physical books is an expensive process. ALL of that is eliminated in the electronic process. Lookup almost any title that is available in the Kindle format vs. the physical, in most cases the e-book is within 80 to 90% of the cost of the physical book. So almost none of the expense saved by the publisher, is enjoyed by the consumer. Plus of course with a physical book I have an almost indestructible (with care) object that that will always have some intrinsic value. I can lend a book to someone, I could give it away or sell it. Not so with the e-book. The draconian DRM won't allow that. I challenge anyone at Amazon or representing the publishers of e-books to justify their price. Any book more than 6 months old should not cost more than $3 to 5 dollars, even at that price the profit margin would be grossly higher then what they earn on a paperback.

So you have an awkward uncomfortable device, at an unfathomably high price. The cost of media is also high; it costs nearly the same as a physical book but is loaded with DRM that strips you of the freedom that a regular book inherently grants you. Yet I still want one. If any one of these objections were corrected, I could live with the rest. As it stands now, my Kindle is re-boxed and ready to be handed to UPS for a return. My greatest regret is I never had the opportunity to see one in person before I told my wife I wanted one, if I had, I wouldn't have had to disappoint her, by returning what she thought was a perfect birthday gift.
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on December 16, 2007
The device itself works fine. Yes, the screen could be more readable and it's awkward to handle because the previous- and next-page buttons are much too big. (You can't grab the device by its edges.)

I finished reading my first book on the Kindle yesterday (The Kite Runner), and the experience was fine. I really like the ability to preview any book by reading the first three chapters. Web access is clumsy because most web sites expect a much wider screen and clicking on links is roundabout and flakey, but it does work, it's very fast, and it doesn't depend on WiFi. Buying even best sellers for $10 or less is a great deal, as is the free web access.

But the problem is that the books are incomplete. I started the sample of my second book, Under the Banner of Heaven, and I noticed that the footnotes, marked with an asterisk in the text, were missing. (You're supposed to be able to select them as hyperlinks, but they weren't connected to anything.)

I checked another book I had in paper form, Einstein: His Life and Universe, and the only footnote that I could find in the sample seemed to be linked, although I couldn't actually access it since it wasn't part of the sample. Fair enough.

But, then The Path Between the Seas failed. A footnote was marked with an asterisk, but not linked.

I queried Amazon's very responsive Customer Service, and they responded (on a Sunday!) with this: "Kindle Editions are electronic versions based on the original publication issued by the publishers. Occasionally, conversion of that content for reading on Kindle may require modification of content, layout, or format, including the omission of some images and tables and in this case footnotes."

Well, I don't want to read Kindle Editions, whatever they are. I want to read the books as written.

I might be able to tolerate the situation if the abridged books were so marked in the store, but they aren't. I'm also disturbed by Amazon's claim that they have 90,000+ (or whatever) books available, which simply isn't true.

Amazon is very good about returning Kindles (or anything else). They even supply a UPS label that you can print, so all I have to do is drop the box off at the UPS counter at my local Staples store.

No hard feelings against Amazon, who is still my favorite retailer. It's a shame that the Kindle is done in by sloppy preparation and misleading descriptions of the books. Maybe that will change someday, but, until it does, I'll insist on the books I read being complete.
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on November 26, 2007
This was a good effort by Amazon, but their lack of experience in hardware design shows through very clearly.

Major flaws include:

1. The buttons are misplaced and extremely easy to hit by accident causing your page to flip unexpectedly. Inexplicably, the NEXT PAGE button on the left side is only 1/3 the size of the PREV PAGE button, when in fact you want to go to the next page 99.9% of the time. On the right side, the NEXT PAGE button is properly sized, but it consumes nearly the entire right side of the device, all the way to the underside of the unit, making it annoyingly easy to accidentally bump and click. This is something I am certain Amazon will fix in their next version, so you should wait.

2. Page turns are slow. I clocked nearly 2 full seconds. This makes the accidental click even more annoying since it takes you a while to page back to where you're supposed to be. I have seen prototype e-ink displays where the page turn is far faster than this, meaning: you should wait for version 2.0.

3. Page turns have an annoying black flash. Some people report they get used to it, but it's definitely a turn-off for me. I have seen other e-ink device prototypes that do not have this flash, so waiting for version 2.0 might be a good idea.

4. The EVDO cost model is not fully figured out yet. This is evident in their "experimental" browser which the documentation says is "free for the time being". I.e., there are potentially hidden costs that are not know at this time. Again, this means you should wait. Perhaps in version 2 they will go with WiFi which really would have been a better choice since it works in Europe and has no fees or costs associated with it.

5. The Price. $400 would be fine if this were perfect, but with all those flaws you can expect Amazon to be putting this thing on the bargain shelf in a few months. You'll feel stupid paying $400 for a device with these flaws when a new device with everything fixed up is most likely around the corner and probably at a much lower price. Again, all the evidence says: BE PATIENT and wait for version 2.

All in all, a good try, there are some nice things about this attempt. But the price, the poor ergonomics of the button layout, and stuff that is just plain unknown about possible hidden costs for using some features means that unless you're willing to flush $400 down the drain you are better off waiting for the next version of this product.

Good things, or at least better things, come to those who wait.
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on March 20, 2008
I am a student and bought this so I could study for exams without hauling books. After only two chapters of the first book I tried to study, the Kindle blocked me from any more highlighting. Since I can't flip through pages on this thing when exams come, the highlighting/clipping function is crucial. It's misrepresentation and false advertising to promote this product as if you could do "everything" with it that you would do with a book. After spending twenty dollars on a book I can't use or highlight in, I have to spend another twenty to buy the hardcopy so I can highlight as much as I want. You better believe, I won't be buying it from Amazon.

Amazon, no more false advertising. Please let students know that they can't use this device for studying!
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on March 21, 2008
I intended to use my Kindle as a convenient way to access
and read more than a hundred different journal articles in several major subject areas. While I was uploading the material, and Kindle appeared on my computer desktop, I carefully created different folders and subfolders to organize the content for easy access. But when I tried to read my uploads, I soon discovered that the Kindle unit itself doesn't recognize or show any folders at all! As a result, all the many different documents ended up lumped together in one overly long and totally disorganized list. That's VERY unsatisfactory and negates any value the unit would have for uses other than reading one book at a time.
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VINE VOICEon January 3, 2008
Given that the Kindle, Amazon's new electronic reader, rolled out just before Christmas, I thought it might have some buzz about it, despite its $399 price tag.

I haven't seen much (any) and as an early adopter, I thought I'd pass on some feedback.

Imagine the iPOD (or remember when it was) being sold with limited downloadable songs available. In the early days of iTunes, that was the case, but the iPod also had the capability to let you rip your CDs into the player, making your existing collection portable. Without this feature, the early iPods would have been expensive paperweights.

And, speaking of expensive paperweights, I bring you the Kindle. The Kindle relies on the ability to download e-books and claims a library of nearly 100,000 titles. The usability factor gets a zero out of 100,000.

First, though, let me say that the unit is cool enough. I think everything about it technically is fine and the concept of building the wireless into the price of the unit and the downloads is pretty forward-thinking. Amazon, after all, realized that shipping is built into the price of anything you buy at retail stores, so a comparable bottom line price that includes shipping is attractive to online buyers. I think they've kind of done the same thing with the wireless service in the Kindle. I have no complaints about the device itself.

It seems to me that the value of the Kindle is when its mobile. Say, on a business trip you see a new release in the airport for $24.99. You whip out your lightweight Kindle, type in the title, and download it for $9.99, just as advertised. No lugging of the book and you saved money, too. Further, I would think that business readers would be a prime first-mover segment for the Kindle. Let's face it--smart phones and gadgets are the business traveler's manly version of the Coach handbag.

After charging my Kindle, I typed in a current release (an October release from Harvard Business Press). Umm, no, not available. I typed in another. Nope. A third, no. A fourth, no again.

I thought maybe I was wrong, that these titles weren't yet available. I'd been stockpiling some titles in anticipation of the Kindle so I could load up for an upcoming trip.

I went to and all four titles were available in their store. I typed in the title of an elections-related book, out in 2006, into the Kindle and got nothing. Again, it was at the Amazon store.

So, I went back and re-watched the video on and I verify that they have more than 80,000 books, BLOGS, and NEWSPAPERS, and I have to assume right now that that's 0 books, and 80,000 blogs and newspapers. Or, maybe 1 book and 79,999 blogs and newspapers.

The video goes on to say that New York Times Bestsellers and most new releases are $9.99 or less. Well, new releases were a strike out, so I go for a book issued in 2004. Aptly titled, "Seeing What's Next," it sells for $26.36. GREAT! That's only $4.61 more than I can buy it with free shipping from Amazon's website.

Jeff Bezos proudly showed off the Kindle in a video on the website. He's a smart guy and I bet he does a bit of reading. I really have to wonder if he actually used the Kindle before he shot the video. I just can't believe he would have beamed like the 2007 version of the iPod-toting Steve Jobs if he knew how useless the device was.

I emailed the kindle feeback address at Amazon and got the typical response you would expect....we are adding more titles daily, tell us specific title recommendations (which I did in the initial email), etc. All in all, the Kindle, I'm sure, will go down as a stupid thing for which I spent money. It's sad that for every Slingbox, you have to kiss a few Kindles, but that's what has happened.

I think the whole experience is, well, bad, but I thought the post was worth relaying for a couple of other reasons. First, I haven't seen much written about the Kindle except in the Wall Street Journal and a couple of other columns and I thought you might want some insight. Second, I think this experience speaks volumes (pun intended, because there aren't many volumes with the Kindle) about a tremendous distribution gaffe by a company that kind of invented Internet retail distribution in the 21st century.

Amazon seems more intent on distributing the Kindle than someone actually using it. That seems so unlike Amazon. There will be some post-mortens written about the E-Readers (Amazon's, Sony's, and others) and I'm sure Amazon's will go down as a dud. The epitaph may speak to poor technology but, like companies find in the non-Internet world, it really will be because of poor execution.

Kindle: Amazon's New Wireless Reading Device
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on March 1, 2008
I wrote a review of the Kindle back in March of 2008, soon after I bought my first one. At that time I was totally enthusiastic and named the review "Why You Should Buy Amazon's Kindle Book Reader." The text of that original article appears below.

Since then that first Kindle broke. Then the replacement broke. Then the replacement of the replacement broke. In each case, there was no physical damage. The screen simply froze with an afterimage that obscured the display of any new text. Telephone support was prompt to answer my call and did not sound surprised when they heard about the problem. But they had no solution, other than replacing the device. I have run out of patience. I now use a Nook instead.

Richard Seltzer, B&R Samizdat Express
Kindle: Amazon's New Wireless Reading Device
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on June 14, 2009
We had this Kindle for 1 year and two weeks. At that point it died completely, and Amazon would not honor the warranty because it was two weeks over. A product that costs $350 and lasts only one year is not something I would buy again, or recommend to anyone.
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on December 26, 2007
My wife opened the new Kindle on Christmas day. At first all seemed good. The Kindle fired up. We wirelessly downloaded a Kindle book from Amazon. We marveled at the technology and usability. Unfortunately the early delight soured when we found that there was a problem with the little device's sleep mode. It will go into sleep on command and will awaken when the alt-font keys are pressed during the next 2 minutes of sleep. After 2 minutes of sleep it lapses into a coma and will no longer respond to the two key alt-font command to awaken. Restarts and resets do not fix this problem. Turning the device on and off brings it back. Changing the radio from on to off (or from off to on) brings it back. So using this Kindle requires removal from the cover to restart it each time it is put aside for a few minutes. Obviously this unit has a software or hardware issue preventing the sleep mode from functioning correctly. Our disappointment with the Kindle unit pales in comparison to the disappointment with Amazon Kindle support. After 4 and ½ hours of continued recorded assurance that an agent would be available to help shortly, we finally gave up. A call to regular Amazon support yielded only confirmation that the Kindle support line was indeed busy. I would really like to keep the Kindle, but with the initial experience both with the unit and support it seems an untenable purchase. It will go back. Sometimes the cost of early adoption is indeed too high.

Addendum 2/7/08
We have now had the replacement Kindle for more than a month. It works flawlessly.
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on August 6, 2008
If I paid good money for this gadget, and almost full price for the E-version of a book: Why can't I lend my book to other Kindle readers? (think of a paper book you own). Could I give the book away? could I re-sell it? Could I download for 2 weeks a book from my local library?

I understand the limitations of property protection; for instance, if I lend it, I'd have no access to it until it is "returned". If I sell it or give it away, I'd have no access to it ever again.

Not until any electronic form of written material dissemination allows for those normal and expected characteristics of paper-book ownership experience, will many potential users stop considering the Kindle and its siblings as a way for companies like Amazon to take advantage of customers. And it will not be until potential users make a stand on this respect that publishing corporations will make the rather simple modification that will turn E-books into an actual competitor for printed material. As it stands today, Amazon, it is your greed that is in the way to the evolution of the book to its natural next stage.
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