I have been enjoying my kindle 2 for several months. I'd like to recommend it as a great gift for yourself or someone close to you.
I am probably one of the least intuitive people around when it comes to technology. I've bought quite a few gadgets that have ended up collecting dust as I never really learned to use them properly. My short lived relationship with a Palm Pilot ended in frustration when I didn't learn how to back it up on my PC and all my carefully inputted data was lost (more than once!) My kids use it now for a doodle pad. My husband says I have a "black thumb" when it comes to anything electronic. If there is a way to break it, lose it, or misuse it, I'm right there doing it. This is why it is so astonishing that I have grown to love my kindle 2.
I learned how to use it easily within a few minutes. It is so intuitive- my four year old enjoys it and can page back and forth reading classics such as George MacDonald's The Princess and The Goblin or Mary Pope Osborne's The Magic Treehouse. My tween age son uses it for Shakespeare- I downloaded the First Folio (35 plays from the Bard) for all of 99 cents! It's quite a favorite amongst my children and I have recently learned that if more than one family member has a kindle, all e-books may be shared with a single purchase. My friend can even access her kindle books and magazines from her iphone!
Cool features include 6 different options for font size, and text markers by "location" to bring you to the same line of text whether you use the biggest or smallest of fonts, as page numbers would vary too much to be useful. A male or female voice can read to you, though the voices are a bit stiff and robotic, and they make small mistakes such as using alternate pronunciation that don't fit context with heteronyms such as read/read or live/live. You can connect speakers or earbuds/headphones for this feature. Magazines can be downloaded as a single issue or a subscription, but the subscriptions cannot be canceled from the kindle- the user must go to amazon's "Manage my kindle" area to do this.
I have downloaded quite a few classic books for free and spent about a dollar on many others. So far, the younger children's literature has been somewhat limited, but I imagine that as prices drop, more will become available. I am a bibliophile and I never thought I would love a paper book replacement, but this device is so clean and glare free that I forget I am not looking at a paper page. I recently read "War and Peace" on the kindle, and it sure was easier to tote around than the paper version!
I'm sure that color kindles will be available within a few years, to make the illustrations a bit more interesting. I love the beautiful pen and ink type renderings which fill the kindle 2 screen when it isn't in use. Obviously though, color would be more attractive with other types of art. Black and white is easiest on the eyes for text, and mostly that it what kindle is all about.
The kindle 2 holds a charge for a long time. I think I plug mine in about once every week or two. If you are not careful with the five way button, sometimes you do end up getting the wrong result. I purchased a book accidentally this way, but amazon has a handy "did you purchase this by mistake?" option which permits you to cancel the order if you act right away.
Now that I have a fair amount of material on the kindle, I can see a problem I hadn't noticed earlier. The kindle allows each user to arrange books by purchase date or alphabetically by title or author. This seems like it would be enough, but it actually would be better if books could be filed according to category. Having everything in one large list is a bit cumbersome.
That being said, I still think the kindle is a great investment. The kindle price has dropped quite a bit since its debut. Originally about $400, a kindle is now just over $250. With the capacity to hold hundreds of books, many of them free or just a few dollars, it's a sensible purchase and not a luxury item for those who are avid readers.