Our perceptive local critic and professional associate Phillip Martin wrote a feature about a Kindle Amazon gave him for a ten-day trial. (Can't give you a link, unfortunately; it's behind a subscriber wall.) I read it with interest as a Kindle convert.
And what I found was that it's very hard to evaluate the impact a Kindle will have on your reading habits unless you become a Kindle user. Ten days isn't going to cut it, because in ten days you don't reshape your expectations and your behaviors. You don't download a month's or a year's worth of reading material, because you don't have a month or a year. You don't download any books at all that you have to pay for. You don't go to the trouble of grabbing free books as text files off Project Gutenberg and sending them to your Kindle's free conversion e-mail address. You don't do any of this because you've only got the thing for ten days. There's no sense making any investment at all -- in time or money -- to make the thing, you know, actually useful. There's no sense in putting more content on the machine than you could read in a few sittings.
So what you do is evaluate the interface. How does the text look? How do the controls work? How does the experience of using it feel?
Only you're not actually using it. You've got it at arm's length. You're not going to become a Kindle person -- you're keeping your journalistic objectivity. And I know how this sounds, but the Kindle can only be measured by how it changes you as a reader once you've begun using it for your reading.
I got a massive thousand-page book in the mail a few days ago. Over the next couple of weeks I plan to read it. But when I packed my briefcase this morning, struggling to turn that concrete block of a book in some direction so it would fit, I wished it were on my Kindle, right alongside the other book I need to read for next week. Why am I carrying huge tomes of information around as separate physical objects when their contents could so easily be combined with hundreds of others on one device?
I'm not really trying to heap scorn on those who "don't get it." Heck, I just joined the majority of people in the world by getting a cell phone; clearly I didn't get it for almost two decades. But I know that now that I have one, I'm going to have a different relationship to telephony, connectivity, and information than I did before. I couldn't know who that person would be by trying out a phone for ten days. Only by committing to become cellular-enabled Donna -- at least provisionally -- can I know whether that's a person I would want to be.