Just over a week into the Kindle ownership experience and it's time to share my findings (along with a few thousand others who are no doubt finding exactly the same thing).
It's not perfect, not yet, but it's good. Oh yes, it's very good.
My first experience with an e-reader (e-book reader?) was about 18 months ago when a colleague won an early Sony reader in a competition. At the time I was quite impressed but unsure if I'd want to use one on a regular basis. The way the screen refreshed at every page seemed a major flaw.
The Kindle still has that same flaw. Is it irritating? At first, yes, very. But once you become absorbed into the story you become oblivious to it - as oblivious as the act of turning a physical page. It may seem unlikely when your first see it as it blackens the whole screen but you simply don't notice it at all after a few pages (or more, I guess, if the story isn't grabbing you).
The quality of the screen, on the other hand, really is remarkable and I can testify that the lack of back-light really does all-but-eliminate eye-strain. I've comfortably sat for hours reading it in the same way I would read a paper book. I didn't go for the case with built-in light as I never read in bed so chose the standard cover instead. It's fine, sits comfortably in the hand and never suffers from the problem that some thick paperbacks suffer: namely that the print sometimes runs so close to the spine that it's difficult to read, uncomfortable and prone to shadows from the surrounding pages.
The proof of the pudding, though, came when I switched to another book - in paperback. I had expected it to feel like an old friend and make me realise how imperfect the Kindle was. It proved to be the opposite: it served to illustrate how good the Kindle is.
I can't see me giving up on paper books, not just yet. For starters, not everything is available on Kindle, and how do you get a signed copy of an e-book? But the Kindle is mightily attractive, and the ease of purchase of a new book is compelling.
Finally, I'm going to focus on the iPad vs Kindle debate only briefly. They are not competitors: the Kindle is (to all intents and purposes) a one-trick pony, the iPad a multi-function device. As a techy-geek of course I want an iPad, but it's much harder to justify. The Kindle - apart from being cheaper - has a specific purpose. I've already used it to read and comment on another book and will use it in future to proof-read my own writing. I can't justify the outlay on a iPad as just another boy's toy.
The biggest drawback? We only have one, and when my wife want to read a book I've just finished it's going to be a dilemma as she won't use the laptop or the iPod to read it there, which means potentially relinquishing control of my new toy...