Unboxing Amazon's Kindle

A simple photoessay depicting the very iPod-like packaging for Amazon's Kindle ebook reader.

I got my Kindle ebook reader from Amazon yesterday. It was very attractively packaged, and I've been looking for an excuse to do a traditional unboxing blog post, so here we go.

[Later update: my Kindle review is online now .]

When I opened the outer box the Kindle was shipped in, I found a second folded-cardboard sleeve inside protecting the product.

Kindle protective cardboard sleeve
Kindle protective cardboard sleeve Peter N. Glaskowsky

Inside that was the packaging for the product itself, a book-like box held shut by an elastic band around a post recessed into the "cover". This box would look reasonably attractive on a bookshelf, helping to reinforce Kindle's place in one's library.

Kindle bookshelf box
Kindle bookshelf box Peter N. Glaskowsky

This bookshelf box reminded me of similar packaging Apple has used for iPods. The elastic closure on the Kindle box is a better way to keep the "book" closed than the separate paper sleeve Apple uses. The Kindle box looks more like something you'd want to keep and use.

Kindle bookshelf box alone
Kindle bookshelf box alone Peter N. Glaskowsky

Inside the bookshelf box, the Kindle is displayed on one side; most of the accessories are on the other side.

Kindle bookshelf box open
Kindle bookshelf box open Peter N. Glaskowsky

The contents of the box include the AC adapter, a USB "mini B" cable, the user manual, and a leather cover protected by tissue paper. The Kindle and accessories are held in trays made of the usual recycled egg-carton type material. I didn't even notice the leather cover at first; it was held snugly under the Kindle tray. I took this picture later, after I found it.

Kindle bookshelf box contents
Kindle bookshelf box contents Peter N. Glaskowsky

The Kindle itself was wrapped in the same kind of clear plastic that Apple uses for iPods, right down to the pull-tab to release the wrapper. Under the wrapper, the Kindle screen was further protected by another piece of plastic bearing startup instructions.

Kindle in protective wrapping
Kindle in protective wrapping Peter N. Glaskowsky

Disregarding the instructions for a moment, I decided to see if the Kindle would power up, and it did. (Indeed, the battery was fully charged.) The "amazon kindle" logo was the first thing to appear when I turned the unit on.

Kindle booting up
Kindle booting up Peter N. Glaskowsky

It took a few minutes to boot up, but eventually I got this "welcome to amazon kindle" screen.

Kindle welcome screen
Kindle welcome screen Peter N. Glaskowsky

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Kindle already knew who I was-- there was absolutely no initialization process. I didn't have to enter my name, Amazon password, or anything else. The gizmo already had a "personal" letter to me from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos thanking me for the purchase.

Kindle in leather cover
Kindle in leather cover Peter N. Glaskowsky

Kindle comes with this nice leather cover-- smooth on the outside, sueded on the inside-- that only just barely hangs onto the Kindle inside. But when the cover is closed, there's another elastic band attached to the back of the cover that can be stretched around the front to keep it closed. This seems secure enough.

Kindle in closed leather cover
Kindle in closed leather cover Peter N. Glaskowsky

I was also surprised to learn that the cover really is made of leather. Some vegans are already bemoaning this choice, and while I don't share their beliefs, I agree that Amazon has basically written off those potential customers.

Sony ships its PRS-505 Reader with a synthetic cover and offers a leather cover as an extra-cost option. Amazon probably should have done the same.

Handling my Kindle confirmed my previous expectation that it would feel lighter than the Sony Reader in spite of being slightly heavier, just because it's significantly larger and therefore less dense.

However, Kindle isn't as thick as the specifications suggest. The case tapers from left to right, and both the top and bottom edges are also tapered. It feels pretty nice in the hand, in part due to the rubberized back panel, under which the (user-replaceable!) battery and SD card slot are located.

All in all, Kindle doesn't look so bad in person. It doesn't look or feel like a high-end product the way iPods do, and I wish it was made in a dark color; the white border around the reading area is likely to cause glare when reading outdoors. But all in all, Kindle's industrial design is fairly reasonable.

However, the huge page-turning buttons on the long edges do make handling the unit awkward. When I showed my Kindle to other people, handing it around almost always resulted in an unwanted page-forward or page-back action. I found only one secure way to hold the unit in my left hand that doesn't risk turning the page: with my hand curled around the side of the unit and my thumb pressed just above the "3" key.

Unfortunately, the cover interferes this grip; the cover isn't flexible enough to fold around behind the Kindle, so my hand has to curl around the bottom edge of the unit instead. Much less secure, and it leaves the cover flapping around. As I said, the cover isn't very secure anyway, so when I'm reading something on my Kindle, I expect I'll usually be taking it out of the cover.

Oh, one other nice thing that can only be appreciated in person: the cursor bar along the right side of the main display appears to consist of a liquid-crystal shutter above a mirrored surface. Rolling the scroll wheel selectively clears a small square of the shutter, revealing the mirror. When the liquid crystal is off, it diffuses the reflection from the mirror, producing a smooth white finish. As you can see in the boot-up picture above, the cursor bar also acts as a thermometer-style progress indicator. As I said before, this is a new kind of user-interface feature. Without knowing what it cost to add, I can't say whether it was really worthwhile, but it's nicely done.

I'll be doing some reading over the weekend and I'll be back with a full "Gizmo Report" review sometime next week.

About the author

    Peter N. Glaskowsky is a computer architect in Silicon Valley and a technology analyst for the Envisioneering Group. He has designed chip- and board-level products in the defense and computer industries, managed design teams, and served as editor in chief of the industry newsletter "Microprocessor Report." He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. Disclosure.

     

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