Kindle Fire: An eReader review from a bookseller.

Here’s why you can believe this Kindle Fire review: I sell books for a living. I never intended to own an eReader. I did not write the review immediately.

I can’t say whether I’m more ashamed of having crossed the paper line to admit ownership of an electronic book reader or the fact that I am thoroughly enjoying my Kindle Fire. Here is my redeeming admission – although I’ve read several books during the short course of my ownership, the eBooks are not the main reason I am enamored of the device.

If I had written something literally out of the box, it would not have been approving. I would have been wrong, had I written it then. I really, really wanted to like the thing, once it was in my hands. Not because I had paid so much money for it – the fact is, I got it for nothing, basically. It was a purchase made with my credit card rewards points. (There is some degree of truth to those commercials.) Didn’t pay a dime. It would not have been a good review had it written it then, because the thing did not work most of the time.

And it turned out to be my own fault.

When the box arrived, I had no WiFi connection. This – if you also do not have unsecured internet available – is a drawback. Those expensive iPads and iPhones that connect directly to the internet, by way of a 3G wireless connection are certainly at the advantage. The Kindle Fire doesn’t offer 3G. Open the box and you need to be in the vicinity of an unsecured connection to the internet.

I wasn’t.

After driving to Panera bread, a chain restaurant offering fresh-baked breads, soups and coffee, I connected to the internet. At least, I thought I did. As it turned out, those error messages I received were correct. I wasn’t making a good connection seated in my car out in the parking lot (didn’t want bread, just internet). At some point, (which I later determined to be a critical instructional event) there apparently was a message about downloading this and that, and it being important, and how to do it. I missed it all.

What happened was, the Kindle Fire was trying to download foundational information from the net. It was interrupted by my bad connection, the file was corrupted (my guess), and the beautiful little tablet was forced to shut off every few minutes for the rest of its short life. Amazon graciously provided a new one, without penalty. They even paid the postage to return the Fire that I may have inadvertently ruined. I cannot imagine a company in the United States with better efficiency and customer service.

The replacement was Fire’d up (pun intended) in an area rich with WiFi connectibility and it could not have gone better. Immediately, the KF was up and running. The only problem was, the home internet connection was less than desirable.

Still, I did not write a review.

Having managed to download a couple of free books, I was content for a couple of weeks to read those 19th century literary treasures converted to electronic form. I enjoyed (and became addicted to) the solitaire game. I read some more. I tried to reach out to the internet and was foiled – not by the Kindle Fire, but by the little blue box on my son’s computer desk. He controlled the wireless router, you see. He didn’t know the passcode, so he said, and could not share it with me.

Before writing a review of the Kindle Fire, I was able to slip into the controlling computer. (His.) I changed the access code to the ISP. I altered the secret password into the WEP encrypted router. I changed the name of the network login. He would never know the difference in logging on to his online blast’em gaming programs. My own mission completed, I pressed the button summoning the Kindle Fire to life.

It was, and is, a life-altering experience.

Admittedly, for those of you owning smartphones, this is everyday stuff. For those of you with iPads, more power to you. For the rest of us hoping that a $199 device could possibly offer something akin to that experience, here is what I can tell you:

The graphics are amazing. Sharp. High-resolution (overused, but really the only description that is accurate.) Combined with the downloading portal offered by Amazon, the Kindle Fire offers a seamless connection to just about anything you could ask for: movies, books, videogames, and web access.

The touch-screen buttons are small and don’t respond in the manner I’m guessing Amazon hoped they would. My fingers aren’t exactly delicate, but I’m not severely disfigured either. I have to press several times to get a response, and the keyboard repeatedly displays letters I’m sure I never pressed. That being said, I’m still happy.

With an Amazon Prime membership (a whole other story), I receive unlimited streaming of movies and television shows. Free. I would not have seen Inspector Poirot’s first episode without the free offering. It would never have occurred to me to watch Tommy Lee Jones in The Electric Mist, based on a novel by the excellent writer James Lee Burke – the sixth in his Dave Robicheaux detective series. I read his books, but it is a guilty pleasure to take the movie along with you from the couch to the kitchen, continuing to watch the Louisiana bayou action as you grapple the bag of chips from the cabinet. Tough to do with a paperback.

Beyond the free books (and those new bestsellers offered for purchase), the free television and Amazon streaming movies (along with a much wider selection offered at a fair price), and the free applications like Angry Birds and chess (beatable on the second try), there is the immediate access to the internet and the entire world it encompasses. Sure, the keys are small on the Fire, but they are certainly bigger than that of the smart phone. So is the screen.

Without reservation, I will admit to loving my Kindle Fire. Oh, okay. It is not an iPad (at more than twice the price). I can live with that.

In the meantime, I find myself eating supper thinking about whether I want to finish that Sherlock Holmes book (free), watch another episode of Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot (in my case also free), or discover another great stream-able movie like the Stieg Larsson trilogy that begins with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (once again, free with my Prime subscription). Having watched all three films, I can’t imagine how the American version can surpass the Swedish trilogy, even if it is subtitled.

Certainly, there are faults to the device, but as a confirmed book reader and early-day computer aficionado, I have to confess that the pluses outweigh the minuses. Even in my profession as a bookseller.

If you have access to WiFi and can direct your fingertips more nimbly than I am able, you will have no difficulty loving the Kindle Fire.

But come in and buy a book. We’ll talk about why when you get here.

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