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Yesterday, I had a chance to play with the Amazon Kindle, a connected eBook that is generating a lot of buzz. Here are my impressions:

Form factor
The general form factor is OK. It’s a little thick, but all in all, it’s usable and most importantly, it is *light*. The display size is “good enough” but depending on your tastes, you might want something larger (like a letter size). I’ve dropped a business card to show you how big the screen is. I don’t like the pouch/case, as it prevented me from using my left hand to type or click on the next/prev buttons. A vertical flip case would be much better.

Display
The e-ink display is very comfortable to read on, and that’s no surprise. It feels just like the Sony reader that we tested in Tokyo a couple of years ago. The refresh rate is quite slow (visible when flipping the pages), but it’s not a problem as pages are mainly static.

So?
I like the idea behind the Kindle: an always-connected eBook with up to 4GB of storage (via SD card) is a good thing. The choice of using a wireless carrier’s network (vs. WiFi) has some advantages, like having an always-on connection with incremental updates and access to Wikipedia.

Unfortunately, this always-on connection seems to be the main roadblock to get free content (Amazon pays for the bandwidth). I feel that $399 is simply too much and It is necessary that users have access to *free content* (in addition to paid content), via USB. Also there’s no support for PDF (which would have been useful to get free content)

eBooks have the potential to shake the industry, but the pricing, data formats and distribution models have yet to be worked out.

Thanks to Francis from Transnets for letting me play with his device and Mathieu from L’Atelier for snapping the photos.

Update: PDF can be converted to a format supported by the Kindle. It is also possible to email the Kindle with a PDF attachement for a cost of 10 cents (per email). Apparently, there’s an anti-SPAM feature, but we’ll keep you updated.

Filed in Top Stories . Tags: Hands-On.
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