I left my old Kindle Keyboard 3G at a friend's house in San Francisco a few weeks ago, and used the opportunity to upgrade to the new Kindle Paperwhite. Amazon was kind (or crazy) enough to offer $3.99 next-day shipping on a Sunday night at 10pm—a deal I couldn't resist.
Unboxing a brand-new Kindle illuminates quite a bit of Amazon's product philosophy.
No retail packaging
The Kindle ships in a plain blue cardboard box, with little decoration. The only hint on the outside is a subtly embossed Kindle logo. Inside the box are the Kindle itself, a USB cable, and a quickstart guide. Minimal packagaing at its minimal-est.
This all makes sense because the Kindle isn't meant to be sold on store shelves. Amazon is the primary retailer, and consumers know what they're getting—therefore the box doesn't need to sell the product. Contrast this with Apple's box for Macbook Pros—even though they've toned it down in recent years, there's still the air of luxury about the packaging.
After turning on the Kindle (the battery has 50% charge—a nice touch), I can see where Amazon invested their time.
The tutorial is fantastic. It feels like Amazon took their cues from social games, where the on-boarding experience walks you through the major features step-by-step. Here, we learn how to turn pages, use the toolbar to change text size and backlight levels, and a few other common tasks.
And at the final step, there's even an upsell to Amazon Prime. Kudos to whomever put that step in there.
The end of physical books?
The new Kindle feels impressively responsive, and it's a great upgrade for owners of older Kindles.
Of course, I have a few quibbles. It's not always clear whether I've successfully turned the page backwards, because the tap target for going back feels too small and there's no visual indication (other than the "location number" in the lower-left corner) of whether I've gone forward or backward. Also, having dedicated page-turning buttons on the Kindle Keyboard made it easier to read with one hand. Still, I'm confident in Amazon's lock on dedicated reading devices.
As a lover of physical books, I know I'll still buy hardcovers and paperbacks -- they're one of the only physical items I still collect. But with a product this good, I can see why e-books are going to take over, and physical books will become the LPs of reading.