Amazon Kindle. My original plan was to use it to pirate e-textbooks and save some money, but it turns out that e-textbooks are hard to come by, and I ended up buying hard copies anyway because they turned out not to be that expensive. Ive always wanted to read Chinese classical texts, but I don't have the money or room for that many books, so I thought Id use the Kindle instead. Thanks to the Chinese Text Project, all I had to do was copy the texts and put it in a PDF file on my Kindle. Now I have all the Chinese classics in the palm of my hand.
But lets get to the Kindle itself. The first thing you notice is the screen. Its like magic, it looks just like paper but it can change like those newspapers in Harry Potter. Its called electronic paper, and I have no idea how it works, but it makes the Kindle stand out over the iPad. It has no backlight, so you need an external light source to read it. The advantage to this is that there is no eye strain like you would get reading off an LCD. It also uses no power except when changing the screen, giving it over a month of battery life. If you were to let the battery die out, it would keep displaying the last page you were viewing. On the downside, the screen is black and white only and can only display static images (no animations) but its for reading books, not playing Angry Birds.
I addition to reading books, the Kindle also has a built in MP3 player so you can listen to audio books or background music while reading. There is also a built in dictionary so you can define words from within your book. You can also highlight passages in books for future reference. One odd extra feature is a web browser, but due to the limitations of the e-ink display, many websites won't look so pretty, its still adequate however for simple black and white sites like Wikipedia. If you get the 3G model, you can browse the web anywhere for free, just don't expect to be able to watch YouTube.
The menu system is simple. The home screen lists all of your books and your progress in each one. If you hit the menu button while in a book, you can see options to highlight text, search the page or book, define a word, or view your annotations. You navigate using a d-pad and a QWERTY keyboard for typing. It takes some getting used to when every mobile device these days uses a touchscreen.
The traditional way of adding ebooks to your Kindle is via the Kindle store, which is built into your device and can be accessed with a Wi-fi or 3G connection. You can also however, manage your books through your computer. Its a simple drag and drop system like MP3 players used before iTunes.
There are three default folders, one for audiobooks, one for ebooks and PDF's and one for MP3 music, nothing complicated. The Kindle is somewhat limited in the file formats it can read compared to other e-readers. Only .mp3's can be used for audio files. For ebooks, only Amazon's .azw book format, Mobipocket's .mobi book format and PDF's can be read. The international standard .epub format for ebooks is not supported. Ive heard in some reviews that some PDF's don't render properly, but Ive had no issues so far. The Kindle has 3.2 GB of storage, which is plenty for ebooks, but as a bonus, you can use it as a USB flash drive by creating a separate folder for files.
For some reason, the Kindle has made me want to read more. Maybe its the convenience of reading off a flat, light slate rather than a cumbersome book where you have to hold the pages, or maybe its the cool screen. Still, I have been reading more in my free time, especially when Im waiting for the bus or something. Id take the Kindle over an iPad any day. I am quite satisfied with my free toy. If your a big reader, a Kindle might be a good idea. If your not a big reader but want to read more, a Kindle will help encourage you do it.
As an added tip, there is software you can use to view and manage your ebooks on your computer. There is the official Kindle App for desktops, but I recommend Calibre, which has many more features, including converting ebooks into Kindle format.
Many ebooks are available for free, legally. Try Googling any books you want before buying them. Project Gutenburg is a good repository for free ebooks, but there are many more out there.