Amazon Kindle Hands-On and Questions Answered (Gallery)

Amazon_Kindle_In_Hand.jpgWe got a unit, played with it, and shot it from all angles including the hidden SD card slot and the surprise "pleather" protective case. In this post, NYC reporter Jen Hooker and I answer many of your most pressing questions—hell, maybe all of them—including browsing the web, playing music and transferring books and more:


Take a look at the screen shots:


• How long was initial powerup? 4 seconds (but our demo unit may have been booted up before).

• How long does it take to turn pages? One second or less.

• How comfortable is it to hold? Very comfortable. It's nice and light. It feels right in the crease of your hand, between the thumb and forefinger. The downside is that it's very easy to hit the Next Page key accidentally.

• How easy is it to use the scroll wheel? Easy and intuitive.

• Can you change the font size everywhere? No. You can change the fonts of books, but when attempting to alter the size of text on the home screen, we got a message that said "Sorry, you can only change the size of text while reading content." It doesn't say you can change the font setting globally, either.

• How responsive is the keyboard? Turns out, not very responsive. It sometimes takes a second after you type the key for the letter to appear. (Good thing there's no text-messaging app?) Placement of the Delete key is awkward because it's directly above the Enter key, and it's easy to confuse the two.

• What does the connection cost monthly? Nothing. And in case you are curious, the EV-DO service is from Sprint, not Verizon Wireless.

• What happens when you connect your Kindle to a PC or Mac? It goes into USB Drive Mode and shows the contents of the Kindle. Here's what we saw when we plugged in:Kindle_USB_Disk.jpgCan you transfer documents straight to the device? In our testing, we only got MP3s to show up when we transferred them via USB. PDFs, RTFs, and JPEGs did not appear when we copied them to the Documents folder on the Kindle. Stay tuned as we get further in on that, but for now, it sounds like you really do have to e-mail it up.

• How do you convert files? Once you have set up your approved e-mail addresses at, you need to send JPEGs, Word docs and other files (but NOT PDFs!) to your Kindle e-mail address from your standard address. But guess what: a SMALL FEE of 10 cents will be applied per e-mail attachment, so careful with that. When we tested, our conversion of one JPEG and one Word doc took about 20 minutes all said and done.

• Can I backup and store the books on my PC? Yes. We downloaded a book, and then copied it to the Mac and deleted it from the Kindle. We checked and it was definitely gone from the Kindle. And when we copied it back over from the Mac, it appeared again. Of course, Amazon recommends deleting books to save room, but downloading them from the cloud when you need them, rather than storing them on your PC. But at an average of 300-400KB, you shouldn't really have a problem storing tons in your personal virtual warehouse.

• Can I read the books stored on my PC? So far, "no," but that could change. The files are in a .azw format and we don't have a .azw reader. Do you? Either way, it's probably an easy thing to cook up for Windows and Macs, so maybe it'll happen. But why would Bezos want you reading his $9.99 downloads on your shiny laptop? There are economic reasons why this might not happen.

• What is the SD card slot for? As far as we can tell, the SD is mainly for extended storage. It is easy to send stuff from the Kindle to SD, but it's not evident how you can move documents off of SD and onto the Kindle.

• What's the deal with the dictionary? Inside the Kindle is the Oxford American Dictionary, but you can only look up words that you run across while reading—you can't just type them in. Also, you can eventually download preferred dictionaries, and select which one you want to be primary.

• Can I browse the web on this thing? Since the EV-DO service is free, we suspected that the answer is "no." But it turns out, you CAN browse the web! Something called "Basic Web" browsing available in the "Experimental" section of the menu, along with "Play Music" and "Ask Kindle NowNow."

• How do graphics look on the web? There are two web modes. Default mode lets you see text but pictures come in tiny and hard to see. Advanced mode displays the web page the way you'd expect on a normal browser, but it cuts off text and is harder to manage.

Default browser mode:Kindle_Default_Mode.JPG

Advanced browser mode:Kindle_Advanced_Mode.JPG•How do you play music? The "Play Music" feature is in the Experimental page (Menu>Experimental). So far we can only play MP3s on it, and with no metadata on the screen. The songs just play. AAC was attempted and apparently doesn't work. (You can also click Alt-P to play music when you are in another part of the reader.)

• What file formats are supported? Kindle (.azw), text (.txt), unprotected Mobipocket (.mobi, .prc), Audible (.aa) and MP3 (.mp3).

• How long did it take to search for a particular book? In our test, it took 12 seconds.

• How long was the actual download? The download was nearly instantaneous—there's a bit of sleight-of-hand because when you click "buy," it takes you to the "OK" screen and then after that you go to the home screen to see the list of titles you own (in your Kindle account). By the time we checked the home screen, the book was downloaded. We believe the 60-second statement, but we'll see if we can clock this stuff on average (without going broke!!!).

• What's in the library, aka Kindle Book Store? There are already plenty of books, 90,000 in all, including 101 of the current NYT bestsellers. Don't believe us? See for yourself at the Amazon Kindle Store.

• Will it be available at brick and mortar? Probably not, at least not yet. Bezos only said available at Amazon, and we doubt Barnes & Noble is begging to sell.

• Is the screen really "easy on the eyes"? We say yes. It's definitely mellower than a laptop, though the screen's sharpness isn't as great, so that might bother some people.

• Can you underline text? Not exactly, but you can "highlight" which places a thin box around the text you want to call out, so in a sense, you are doing the same thing. You can also add margin notes to specific passages.

• How does it compare to the Sony Reader? We haven't done a comparison of our own yet, but Gadget Lab did one that you can read here.