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Two newspapers a day, seven magazine subscriptions per month, and a couple of book purchases keep you on top of current events. But habits consume one heck of a lot of trees, and it’s hard to carry a pile of books onto airplanes. Amazon.com has an alternative: Kindle. Kindle is both an electronic reader device and a wireless content delivery service. With it, you can subscribe to and read a variety of content — books, newspapers, magazines, blogs, and more — without wires, synching, or effort. My Kindle came with a “Welcome Donna” message right out of the box. Setup frustration is nonexistent, because Kindle ships ready to use. It does not require a computer. You can manage your content from the device or from Amazon.com. The device can hold approximately 200 titles, depending on the format (fewer for audiobooks). The price for content is much less than for traditional paper versions. For instance, The New York Times via Kindle is $13.99 per month, while the Seattle Times and San Francisco Chronicle are offered at the bargain price of $5.99. Choose from a wide variety of national and international newspapers. Current magazine subscriptions include Fortune, Time, The Nation ($1.49 per month), Forbes, Salon, The Atlantic Monthly, and more. There are thousands of books for purchase — most New York Times best sellers go for $9.99 — and they are sent to your device within 60 seconds of purchase. Each purchase is stored in a media library on Amazon and can be reloaded or even downloaded to your computer for storage. The real benefit, however, is that you can read and access any or all of these media without using a single sheet of paper. The problem with most text readers is that the text isn’t as clear on the device as on the printed page. Kindle is different — text is clear and easy to read, and for those with failing eyesight, the text can be adjusted to six different sizes. It is comparable to reading a book. THE BENEFITS Kindle includes a built-in dictionary, and users can create bookmarks and annotations (which can be exported). Another cool feature: Kindle remembers when you closed the book and always opens to the last page you read. There is a keyboard for use, and previous and next page buttons for navigation. The device is portable. It weighs 10.3 ounces, and at 7.5 by 5.3 by 0.7 inches, it’s thinner and lighter than most paperback books. It’s not the prettiest device — it’s white and gray and comes with a protective case, battery charger, and USB cable. But it’s tailor-made for the business traveler. Not only does it hold a lot of content, but it also has an on/off wireless mode on the back so it can be used in flight. Battery life is exceptionally good. When wireless is turned off, the device stays charged for about a week. When it’s on, you only have to charge every other day. And Kindle is fully charged within two hours, so it truly is a portable device. There is built-in functionality to search Wikipedia online or look up definitions from a dictionary. Likewise, you can search the Web and the Kindle store directly from the device. It offers wireless access via Whispernet, Sprint’s national high-speed data network, which does not require a “hotspot.” There is no fee for the wireless access. But one of the slickest features is Ask Kindle NowNow. You can submit up to three questions on almost any subject at a time, and real people research the question and send you the answer, typically within 10 minutes. As a test, I typed, “When was Amazon.com founded?” (I know, I threw them a softball.) In five minutes, I received a detailed response, not only with the dates I was looking for, but also some background information about the formation of the company and Jeff Bezos’ vision. Best of all, this service is completely free. Speaking of free, there are no surprises with what you will be charged for. You pay for the device, for the content that you download, and for sending your own text files (per unit), but that’s it. No hidden charges. THE DRAWBACKS • Price. Kindle isn’t cheap: $399. But when you think of what you’ll save in terms of monthly subscriptions and purchases alone, you might be able to justify the cost. Price isn’t deterring sales. Amazon is out of stock and is not promising a specific delivery date. And it’s a hot item — eBay lists Kindle for more than double the retail price. • The device really needs a backlight so you can read it in dimly lit places (e.g., airplane, bus, bed). • You need to read the electronic manual. Not everything is intuitive. • Until you get used to the placement of the buttons, you’ll find yourself accidentally moving to the next page. • Security. There is no password mode on the device, so if it gets lost or stolen, it’s possible for someone to make purchases without your authorization before you can contact Amazon.com to secure the account. • Currently, Kindle is only shipping to U.S. addresses. But if you’re an environmental technologist and you want to save some natural resources and have the latest — and, in my opinion, greatest — gadget on the block, then you have to meet my new friend, Kindle.
Donna Payne is CEO of Payne Consulting Group, based in Seattle. This article first appeared in Law Technology News , an ALM publication.

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