It was a very good plug

A Kindle is coming my way by mail. Via Nicholson Baker in the New Yorker, I have a vivid sense of my first few moments.

It came, via UPS, in a big cardboard box. Inside the box were some puffy clear bladders of plastic, a packing slip with “$359” on it, and another cardboard box. This one said, in spare, lowercase type, “kindle.” On the side of the box was a plastic strip inlaid into the cardboard, which you were meant to pull to tear the package cleanly open. On it were the words “Once upon a time.” I pulled and opened.

Inside was another box, fancier than the first. Black cardboard was printed with a swarm of glossy black letters, and in the middle was, again, the word “kindle.” There was another pull strip on the side, which again said, “Once upon a time.” I’d entered some nesting Italo Calvino folktale world of packaging. (Calvino’s Italian folktales aren’t yet available at the Kindle Store, by the way.) I pulled again and opened.

Within, lying face up in a white-lined casket, was the device itself. It was pale, about the size of a hardcover novel, but much thinner, and it had a smallish screen and a QWERTY keyboard at the bottom made of tiny round pleasure-dot keys that resisted pressing. I gazed at the keys for a moment and thought of a restaurant accordion.

The plug, which was combined with the USB connector, was extremely well designed, in the best post-Apple style. It was a very, very good plug.

Baker is mildly disappointed, very good plug or not. I reserve judgement, but I am guessing Baker lugs not a second suitcase of hardcovers on eight week field trips.

9 thoughts on “It was a very good plug

  1. This is pretty geeky, but I’ve always been interested in getting one to make reading academic papers easier – I hate reading on computer screens and feel guilty printing out several 30 page documents every day. So when you give your full review let us know how it performs in the PDF department!

  2. I’ll be curious to hear what you think. I use one at work (scientific publishing) and I hate the thing. It does what it’s supposed to do, but every single interaction with it screams “this is the very first step of digital book publishing”, not to mention the DRM that’s a constant reminder of why we all hated DRM.

    I love my digital music, and I look forward to having a good way to read book digitally, but this isn’t it. I prefer the Kindle iPhone app to the Kindle itself.

  3. There are other eReaders you can buy if you decide the Kindle is not what you’re looking for. On the others, you’re not bound by DRM, and you can even download ebooks from libraries or for free from some ebook websites. Check out – those bloggers review the Kindle, the BE Book, and the Sony eReader. I’m using the BE Book and it’s pretty swell.

  4. I just received mine (DX) a few days ago. Not sure what you’re planning on using it for, but it has been OK for reading law review articles and case law downloaded from Westlaw; I’m sure it will be fine for other academic reading too.

    The PDF reader is “experimental,” but what that really means is underdeveloped. It can only display the PDFs — it can’t highlight and links don’t show up as links.

    It does read .doc files and .txt files, which is nice; however, the conversion is terrible. I’ve tried downloading articles as these formats onto the device, and while it does allow you to highlight text and click on links, the margins are all screwed up, and it screws up the spacing, so you get stuff like this:

    “In their character as law of the United States, rules of international law and provisions of international agreements of the United States are subject to the Bill of Rights and other prohibitions….”

    which drives me insane. Also, the device is supposed to read HTML documents, however, I don’t think it reads any CSS (which is what, unfortunately, law articles are coded with when in HTML format.)

    So far, it’s looked the best when I’ve downloaded the articles in HTML format, then used Mobipocket Creator to convert it to something Kindle-friendly. Since this is so time-consuming, I’ve just been putting PDFs on it instead.

    Also, the keyboard is junky. I have no idea who would write notes on this thing instead of just with a pencil and paper.

  5. Heh, well, apparently the comments section in your blog is better able to format text than the Amazon Kindle DX!

    Otherwise, you would have just seen a great deal of spacing that separates text at inappropriate places which makes it unreadable.

  6. I should say, you could always use the Amazon Kindle delivery service through whispernet to get .doc or .txt files properly converted and delivered to your Kindle — however, that costs $0.15 per MB, rounding up.

    If you use it, you’ll get a bunch of annoying charges (45 cents here, 15 cents there) on your credit card.

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