Amazon smile logo
It’s on everybody’s Kindle — an e-mail address for contacting Amazon’s Kindle team. (It appears as one of the screensavers: “We love to hear your thoughts on the Kindle experience… send us your input at: kindle-feedback@amazon.com) But last week, something very special happened. Amazon’s Kindle team announced on their Facebook page that they’d decided to share “a few of the messages that made us smile.”

I’ve met people who are skeptical of the Kindle’s popularity — but there’s a lot of real excitement and enthusiasm. (“If my house was on fire,” wrote a user named Alberta, “I would grab my purse, my cat, and my Kindle.”) And another user named Jan reported cheerfully that “now I can read and scratch my cat’s head at the same time. I do not have to stop for page turning.” (She adds that Sam — presumably, her cat — “is happy and thinks this is the greatest invention…”)

The positive comments kept coming, although a few cited specific and practical advantages. Someone named A. Y. e-mailed Amazon to tell them that “the Kindle makes me want to read more.” And Brenda B. thanked Amazon for letting her replace printed books with ebooks. “My husband says I’ve saved his retirement fund because of all the money I’ve saved buying my books on Kindle instead of the bookstore.” (She added that without her Kindle, “I am like Linus without his blanket…)

It’s always fun to hear how other people feel about their Kindles. I tried the same experiment once — and discovered just as much enthusiasm. Last month author Elif Batuman wrote a funny article about how the Kindle lets her indulge in the books she considers guilty pleasures. (“The Kindle is wonderful for drunk people…”) All the positive stories made want to say that there’s obviously “a lot of love out there” for the Kindle.

But then I read something that was actually about love itself. Amazon shared a remarkable e-mail from a young man named Scott, telling the story of a very special night when “the Kindle was going to help me pop the question.”


I began writing down ideas and memories of our relationship and all at once, it hit me. I wrote a short story about how we met and highlighted some of the things we’ve done over the last two years. After a few weeks of writing and editing, I had a pretty solid story saved the file as a PDF, loaded in on the Kindle, and waited until our anniversary.

On the night of our two year anniversary, she opened the Kindle’s box, her face lit up and I could immediately tell that I had bought a winning gift. She was so excited to receive the Kindle, and I was so nervous knowing that I was about to propose using said Kindle. I walked her through how to use the device and then opened up the story I had written. She read the story aloud and I waited for the end of the story. As she finished reading the story, I pulled out the engagement ring’s box, opened it, an proposed.

Obviously, since I am writing this story, she said yes! We’re now planning our wedding for 2011 and I could not be happier.”

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Last week three different Kindle users shared their favorite stories about life with the Kindle. But I’d also heard from Andrea McKinnon, a publicist in Burbank who was “an avid book lover, reader and saver” — until her husband dared to give her a Kindle in May as a Mother’s Day gift…

Within seven days, Andrea was assigned a 250-page manuscript, and she’d had to read the entire thing before passing it on to a publisher. “My choices? Read 250 pages on my laptop or print out 250 pages.” But wait! There was a third choice — uploading the document to the Kindle, and then reading it as an ebook! And — to cut to the end of the story — Andrea now describes herself as “a new Kindle convert.”

“I was also traveling at the time, so along it came with me, to read on the plane and in the hotel, along with the novel I was reading at the time. One small Kindle, two giant tomes en route for work and pleasure!”

And meanwhile, on the opposite coast, a woman named Elaine Bloom was also enjoying her Kindle for an entirely different reason. Elaine describes herself as a LinkedIn Strategist, but unfortunately, she also had a broken left leg. (“I fell on ice in a diner parking lot at the beginning of March…”) It was painful, and her foot was constantly kept elevated — which made it difficult to read in different positions, or even turn the pages of a conventional book. But fortunately, with the Kindle “I could easily read it while I was lying down in bed. I could hold it in one hand and use that same hand to hit the button to advance the page. It would have been difficult for me to hold a book and no way I could read and turn the pages with one hand.” Today the grateful New Jersey woman says the Kindle “saved my sanity….I was able to do a lot of reading when I couldn’t do anything else.

“The only other thing I could do was watch daytime television — which could drive you crazy!”

I put out a call to a journalist’s network last week, asking Kindle users to answer one simple question: what’s your own favorite story about using the Kindle? The answers poured in from across America, but each person seemed to have a very positive experience that was also very unique.

Patrick Kerley, an account supervisor for a PR firm in Washington, D.C., remembered a great Kindle story about his mother. “She and my father were traveling between North Carolina and southern Florida when they blew a tire. The Kindle’s web browser helped them locate a replacement!”

And the free wireless internet access played an even bigger role for Sophia Chiang, a San Francisco entrepreneur on an extended trip through China. She reports the Kindle was a great way to buy “uncensored English magazines like Newsweek, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Atlantic Monthly.” Amazon’s Whispernet network actually allowed her to circumvent the Chinese government’s ongoing news censorship.

Her Kindle also let Sophia beam down travel guidebooks that were written in English. “We went on a last minute trip to a more remote part of China and we got our Lonely Planet guide immediately on the Kindle.” Without the Kindle, she reports on her blog, the only alternative would’ve been scrambling around trying to find a Chinese bookstore, and then hoping that they’d have a travel guidebook, in stock, that was written in English!

Because it was a long trip, Sophia was also glad that her Kindle could last for over a week without a recharge. But her last reason was one of the most exciting. Even though I’ve written a lot about children’s books on the Kindle, Sophia is the first person I know who’s actually using the Kindle to buy ebooks for her children. (“Our kids loved the Kindle and loved being able to buy Magic Tree House, ABC Mysteries series even in the middle of the Middle Kingdom.”)

I’ll have more of the responses from other Kindle users over the next week, but I just want to say that my favorite response probably came from Marc Pittman, who runs a fundraising-education business in Maine. He describes himself as a “proud owner” of an original Kindle 1, and says “I think my happiest moment so far happened at the playground last week. I was using my iPad (*gasp*) when a 5 year old kid ran past, stopped, and shouted ‘Cool Kindle!’

“Kids know where the real innovation is!”

I just have to say it…

Kindle for PC logo
I love the logo that Amazon came up with for the Kindle for PC.

I just found out that my blog is currently the 77th best-selling technology blog in Amazon’s Kindle store. But I’m basically just someone who’s young at heart, loves reading, and wants to share my excitement about the Kindle. Maybe that’s why I identify so much with the boy in the silhouette. If I could, I’d steal that picture and use it as the logo for this blog!

Sometimes the ebooks I read only have one problem. I get so excited about them that I want to stop reading immediately so I can write a blog post about them…

Krazy Kat and Ignatz mouse and brick
I’d blogged the other day about the shortest Kindle sample ever. But I’d forgotten about a funny experience I’d had when I first bought my Kindle.

I hadn’t seen any illustrations on my Kindle yet – except for the screensaver images that kept surprising me every time I put down my Kindle for too long. So I’d searched for a collection of Kindle comic strips, and eventually found one of the all-time classics! Krazy Kat is a strange and surreal slapstick comic strip that first appeared in 1913 – and I’ve always loved it. It’s a simple, sweet world where the cat loves the mouse, and ordering a sample seemed like the perfect way to test out the Kindle’s graphics capabilities.

So imagine my surprise when I’d downloaded the sample to my Kindle, and discovered…nothing. Followed by this sentence.


Enjoyed the sample? Buy Now or See details for this book in the Kindle Store.


Now that’s surrealism – a zen-like sample filled with emptiness and arbitrariness. (I felt like I’d just been clobbered with a brick!) Or was it just another surreal landscape drawn by George Herriman in which everything had disappeared?

I e-mailed Amazon’s customer service (saying that I’d really just wanted to know whether my Kindle would display images of all the comic strips in the book), and in the end it still became a very positive experience. They’d promised that yes, I’d see the actual comic strips – confirming my faith in Amazon’s customer service – and reminding me that if I wasn’t satisfied, “you can return any item purchased from the Kindle Store within 7 days of purchase.”

So I finally purchased An Anthology of Krazy Kat Komics. And though it’s short, and I have to enlarge the images just to read them, I’ll always have a special affection for this ebook, because it included the first illustrations that I ever saw on my Kindle.

And also because they’d sent me the strangest Kindle sample ever.

We are on the cusp of a future already rewriting itself…

Today Apple finally released their iPad – a tablet-sized device that’s the same size (and price) as a Kindle DX. As I argued last week, this proves that the tablet-sized reader is here to stay. And in honor of today’s milestone, there was some interesting perspective from an Iranian-American journalist on The Huffington Post.

To me, Kindle is like the first Black and White TV that showed up in living rooms, the kind that streaked like a zebra in motion and crackled like a kid’s walkie-talkie, the kind that required antennae-fiddling to get a clear picture and decent sound, the kind that families increasingly bought and sat around.

As primitive as it is, it’s the first wave of a much bigger change. Digital readers will become part of our lives, and (as Charlotte Safavi writes), “When it comes to books, I have come to terms with the fact that it is the written word that counts, not the medium upon which it is delivered.”

And I was touched by the example she used: the epic 19th-century poetry collection “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman.


It avails not, time nor place–distance avails not,
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so many generations hence…


I was touched because I was just reading that very poem this Saturday.

And yes, it is available for free on the Kindle

An Excited Update

December 31, 2009

There’s so many things I want to say. I’m reading 10 books at once — Jules Verne, Bret Harte, James Fenimore Cooper, and more. I’m reading Robin Hood, The Three Musketeers, and a mystery by A. A. Milne — all at the same time.

My girlfriend downloaded a cookbook! I’m reading the original Christmas Carol! I even downloaded a sample of Curious George — just to prove that I could! Plus a book I first read nearly 40 years ago…

I’m playing Minesweeper! I’m listening to mp3s! And — if I can believe this book’s description — soon I’ll even be playing Sudoku on my Kindle.

So there’s a lot I want to say. Bear with me until the euphoria dies down…