Monday, August 31, 2009

The Kindle part 1 - The elevator speech

The Kindle is an electronic book reader produced by Amazon.

I have owned a Kindle (version 1) since the spring of 2008. Some would argue that it was late in the winter, but at the time I lived in Durham, North Carolina and the sun beamed proudly through all of March that year. In the past eighteen months I have taken it everywhere with me: movie theatres, journeys by airplane, the desolate beauty of the Montezuma Pass, road trips, hotel stays, conferences, conventions, and rides of the genre bus, metro, T, subway, and ferry. A curse upon me for mentioning it, but I have never misplaced it (or my recharge cord). It is stored safely within its default faux leather case and has acquired a signature by someone I respect and a sticker with a snappy saying. The signature is on the gray rubber backpiece, the sticker is on the faux leather cover.

The Kindle draws attention. This is a fact. Young or old, devastatingly beautiful or not, it draws eyes and eager, forward questions. Countless lines at the bank, the cafeteria, the food court, various fast food establishments, and just about anywhere else where I have to queue for more than two minutes. Some encounters are more memorable than others.

The typical encounter begins in one of two ways: either I notice them watching me read or they make an "oh I have heard of that thing but never seen one" noise. Technically there is a third but is merely a variant of the second one with the flavor text being "what the hell is that?" instead. Once this discovery phase is complete I jump in with my pitch.

Amazon should give me some gift certificates. My enthusiastic pitch has sold at least four Kindles (confirmed) and has probably accounted for more.

My pitch (the highlights):

"I love this thing, I have had it for over a year and haven't bought a paper book since I picked it up. I go everywhere with it."

Casually flip the Kindle open and turn off the screen-saver.
Hit the home button and scroll to a random title.
Hand the person the Kindle.

"Try it out. The big buttons on the sides move you between pages. This is the first version. The newest version, version two, has a sleeker is even lighter and thinner. Plus the battery is about ten times better."

They ask how long my battery lasts.

"A long time. If I am doing nothing but reading for an entire weekend, I can get by on a single charge and then some. The wireless devices burns it up faster but the new versions have much much better battery performance. I am jealous, the numbers are pretty sick."

At this point they are staring at the device and tentatively hitting buttons. The electronic ink flashes every time they change pages. 

"Did you see that flash? The screen isn't back lit. It isn't an LED. That is electronic ink. Every time you change screens the Kindle writes the new one in place with electronic ink."

Either they ask about reading in the dark or I mention it.

"Well, it isn't back lit so you can't read it in the dark. However, you can read it in direct sunlight. This makes it great for the beach or reading outside at all. You can't do that with an LED screen."

They ooo and aaah for bit and I grind away with my hits.

"So I have found that I read about 20% faster with the Kindle, and I have never had a moment of eye-strain with it. Also you can adjust the font size with a few clicks."

I demonstrate changing the font.

"And, it has a built in dictionary look up. Check this out."

I demonstrate the look up feature. Since this takes a few seconds I also mention that you can annotate notes and make dog-ear marks on any page.

At this point they ask me about the price.

"I think it is down to $299 right now. Plus, I save at least 20% on all of my book purchases. Yes. 20%. More if it is a hard-cover. release."

The question usually comes up as to the capacity of the device.

"It functions as a 250Mb flash drive, but books are really small. I have about 60 on there right now. I don't know how many I could fit. Hundreds? Probably a lot more. I have a music CD on it right now too, and that takes up some space. Yes, you can play music on the device. The new versions have a text to speech option. You could have it read your book to you."

"You can put all sorts of different files on it. The Kindle will read text files. And it can sort of deal with PDFs. The neat thing there is that you can email a file to your Kindle account and have it transmitted to you for ten cents."

"Most of the books you get on the Kindle are purchased through the Amazon Store."

If my battery charge is high, and I have time, and I know the person, I demonstrate the store. That is a completely different discussion, however.

"Amazon transmits the books wirelessly. It takes about 30 seconds to get it. You can also hook the thing directly into a computer via a USB cable."

And so on and so on. The encounters last anywhere from ten minutes down to an awesome thirty second elevator ride.


I step onto the elevator. Atlantic City is beautiful in the summer and the blonde on the buttonless side is one of the reasons why. An excited couple are on the button side and one of them leans forward and jams the 'L' button after I step in. Unbinding my Kindle and flicking it open, along with the rapid click-click of the two key combination to free it from its random screen-saver is a smooth and practiced process that I can do without looking at the device.

Snap. Fwip. clickclick.

The electronic ink flashes and I am back into a gem of a title by John Scalzi called Android's Dream. I had started the book a few hours before, poolside, and I was tearing through it at my usual page eating pace.


"Oh! You have a Kindle!", the blonde exclaims. She has turned towards me with a bright smile and is leaning forward with nearly all of her weight shifted to the balls of her feet. "Do you like it?"

I smile and hold it at arms length so I can point to it.


"I love it. I have had it about a year and haven't bought a paper book since getting it. I take it everywhere."


"The battery lasts a long time, I read about 20% faster, and have never had any eye-strain."



"Yup. And the books are bought wirelessly through the Amazon store. Right off of the device. And they are all about 20% cheaper than the normal price."

"Oh. That is cool."



"Well, thanks for sharing!", and I am hit with another bright smile as we exit the elevator and head our separate ways.

"Anytime. Good-bye."

I had a longer but similar conversation with a tourist in DC in the elevator of the Savoy Suites that took the entire descent and spilled into the lobby.

And then there was the wedding party pitch. While puddle jumping from Boston to Raleigh last year, I was joined on the plane by a wedding party of young and stunning men and women, including bride and groom. They may have been returning from or headed for some type of pre-wedding party...I do not recall. After boarding and before the guilt of having a powered electronic device active during takeoff, I had my Kindle out.

Whisper whisper never seen one before whisper whisper...

Fortunately for the ego of the groomsman in the seat next to her, the delightful young woman was casting side long glances at my Kindle. I immediately looked up, smiled, and asked if they would like to see it. The stewardess harrumphed, and I amended my statement to indicate the show and tell would begin after the all-your-outs-are-in-for-free chime shortly into our flight. When the chime hit, my Kindle made the rounds through six pairs of hands and I went through my spiel.

There was the conversation with my optometrist, because yes, I will take the thing into a room designed to confuse my eyes and dilate my pupils. The pitch focused on the usual topics with a heavy mention of the variable font size and its benefits for the poorly sighted. Lunch lines, Movie theatre lines, even (although I no longer partake) the drive through at Wendy's.

I no longer begrudge the interruption. I want people to know it is there and understand how great the Kindle is at being an electronic book reader. I have a big sticker on my Kindle that declares "Everything I Need to Know About Life I've Learned by Reading Banned Books." This is not true, but it is a great conversation starter, as is the wonderful device hidden just behind that sticker.


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  2. So what about us Canadians that cannot buy the Kindle? I've heard the Sony Bookreader is our alternative - any thoughts on that?

  3. Part 6, which is scheduled for Friday the 11th is going to be about the Kindle's competitors. I have had the opportunity to look at the Sony product a bit and I have some observations to share. Especially with the latest developments in their choice of book format.

  4. Update: My friend at work that purchased one is having the same elevator pitch experiences. In fact, she told me today that some of those people have gone on to purchase the device.


About Me

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Geek - Gamer - Librarian - Writer. Only awesome at one of those things at a time, unfortunately.

About Fading Interest

After writing op-eds and travelogues for several years, after finishing a few books, and after failing to get the ball rolling with project after project I stumbled into an idea that might just hold my interest long enough to enjoy some level of satisfaction with my writing.