The Kindle reviewed

<p>UK readers finally got their hands on the Amazon Kindle this week after the retailer finally began selling the device outside of the United States. Two years after it was first launched, is it exciting enough to capture the public's imagination? I'm not entirely convinced.</p>
<p>Although first things first, what's good about it? One thing stands out. You can be reading your first purchased book within minutes of taking the Kindle out of its box. When I boot it up, I get a welcome message from Amazon.com c.e.o. Jeff Bezos telling me how excited he is to have me as an early customer. Bless. The Kindle store is accessed using the Menu button on the right of the device and you can search through more than 280,000 titles using the keyboard at its bottom. Once you finally select a book, one push<br />
of the navigation stick buys it. It's ridiculously easy. Actually, it seems so easy that someone could pick up your Kindle and buy a pile of books from your device for a laugh. Nevertheless, within a few minutes of switching it on, I was able to buy Michel Faber's marvellous<i> The Crimson Petal and the White</i> and have it downloaded to my device.</p>
<p>But the problem that is bound to strike a Kindle owner is what books are available. Take this week's top 10. Random House choosing (for now) to keep its powder dry and not sign up to selling its books on Kindle means you can't read <i>The Lost Symbol, Cross Country, Unseen Academicals </i>or <i>Found Wanting</i> on a device you paid some &pound;200 for. Yes, there are issues regarding territoriality and securing rates of discount but your average Kindle owner<br />
will think 'who cares? I want to read Dan Brown'.</p>
<p>A search for Patricia Cornwell's <i>The Scarpetta Factor </i>by using the keyword 'Scarpetta' hilariously leads you to a book called <i>Computational Neuroscience</i>. Unsurprisingly, given<br />
its visual content, <i>Guinness World Records 2010 </i>is unavailable. There is no sign of Clive Cussler's <i>Arctic Drift</i> either. However, you can buy other titles in the top 10, namely Hilary Mantel's <i>Wolf Hall</i>, Josephine Cox's <i>Born Bad</i> and Cecelia Ahern's<i> The Gift</i>.</p>
<p>As for reading, you quickly get used to the weird black flash as you turn a page and the device has a nice heft to it. It does feel nice to hold in your hands. The text to speech function is interesting but only as a curiosity. A good book thrives on atmosphere and <i>Crimson Petal</i>'s corking opening sentences are rendered rather ridiculous by the robotic voice (with a choice of male or female intonation).</p>
<p>The keyboard is difficult as well. I felt like I had to push hard on each key in order to type. It's hard to put my finger on why (no pun intended) but it's a poor piece of design if you<br />
feel a device won't respond to your touch. Other bugbears for me are the lack of web browser and ability to read blogs&mdash;both decent selling points for the Kindle.</p>
<p>I'm unconvinced, particularly considering I would have to pay around &pound;200 to own one. I think its problem is that for all its ease in downloading books wherever you are, something that is an admittedly fantastic feature, it doesn't have that great feel that, say, an Apple device would have. It looks decidedly old-school, particularly when placed alongside Barnes &amp; Noble's intriguing Nook, which was unveiled this week and at least looks contemporary.</p>
<p>I still think a hybrid device will be the one that ultimately captures the imagination of the public, where a user can read about something and then examine content online. I am going to use the Kindle over the next few days to see if it grows on me. But at the moment it's merely an interesting curiosity, rather than a must-have device.<br />
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