A date with Kindle

<p>When I&rsquo;m first introduced to Fiona I am slightly apprehensive. She has been a mysterious figure in the publishing industry for the past three years, with no real confirmation that she even exists at all. And her reputation has been built up so much that I am worried I may be let down by her. But when I first spot Fiona, a slab of white plastic with a six inch screen, I am slightly excited.</p>
<p><img width="250" height="110" src="/documents/UserContributed/image/Bookseller%20Images/Kindle2.jpg" alt="" /></p>
<p>Fiona is the codename that Amazon has given to its long-awaited Kindle eBook device. Many observers have suggested that it may be the publishing industry&rsquo;s &lsquo;iPod moment&rsquo; and it will succeed where many have failed in popularising eBooks. It was given a high profile launch by Amazon c.e.o. Jeff Bezos in the United States yesterday but the Bookseller was one of the first people outside of Amazon that could spend a few minutes with the device.</p>
<p>But UK based &lsquo;early adopters&rsquo; &ndash; the tech savvy early purchasers who can make devices such as these a hit &ndash; will be disappointed. Only those with a US credit card and billing address can buy the device, which is retailing at USD399. And Amazon said that it will not ship the devices to anywhere outside of the United States and even if someone did get their hands on it, they would have no way of accessing the wireless capabilities of the Kindle. They are also tight-lipped about when the device will be available worldwide. Those expecting a sleek design classic like the iPod will be disappointed. It may be as slim and as small as a paperback, but it is a bit on the ugly side to say the least. But a few minutes spent in Fiona&rsquo;s company and you begin to warm to her charms.</p>
<p>The screen is as readable anywhere as a normal paperback is &ndash; you will need a light to read in the dark. You flick pages backwards and forward using buttons located on the far left and right of the device. There is a spinwheel located to the right of the six inch screen, which you can use to access your library of books and newspaper or blog subscriptions. And there is a keyboard located below the screen, which you can use to add annotations, search throughout your entire library or look for specific titles off the Kindle&rsquo;s own store. The wireless compatibility means that you can buy titles direct to your Kindle, without having to turn your computer on. And the device can hold up to 200 books &ndash; enough for a very long holiday.</p>
<p>So how does it read? Very well actually. The slightly old school interface of the screen reminded me of an Etch a Sketch. When you turn a page, the screen momentarily flashes black, which I found quite charming for reasons I still can&rsquo;t put my finger on. The e-Ink makes the text easily readable and it is highly portable. I could easily imagine curling up on the sofa reading from it.</p>
<p>But is it worth USD399? This is the big question. Comments on Amazon&rsquo;s website have been largely negative, complaining about the device&rsquo;s looks, its price, its incompatibility with various file formats and its DRM (you cannot &lsquo;lend&rsquo; an eBook to someone if you buy it for your Kindle). But the iPod was slow to get off the mark too amid similar concerns. It may not have the iPod&rsquo;s drop dead looks, but the Kindle could well be something you grow to love.</p>