Earlier this week, I was taking the A train home, reading my Kindle, when a man sat next to me saying, "Well I'll be damned" or something very much like that.

It was his first sighting of the e-book reader "in the wild," and he wanted to ask me about it. Having just received the device a week ago Friday, I didn't have extensive experience, but I love what I've seen so far: easy access to books, the built in dictionary and Wikipedia access, the awesome readability especially versus the iPhone.

The man on the train was Dan Frommer with Silicon Alley Insider, and here's his blog post and photo.

Baratunde & His Kindle In Silicon Alley Insider

What have I been up to on my Kindle?

The first book I finished was by fellow writer Ta-Nehisi Coates. He's written an impressive memoir called "The Beautiful Struggle" which chronicles his life and relationship with his father. I'm actually mentioned in the book since our lives overlapped for a few years in the mid-90s. Ta-Nehisi is an incredibly gifted writer, and he's captured the essence of a period in history with intelligence, grace and humor. I highly recommend it. You can keep up with him at his blog -- required reading for anyone interested in race in America and politics.

After finishing Ta-Nehisi's book, I've moved on to "The Man In The High Castle" by Philip K. Dick.

I also subscribe to a few periodicals including DailyKos, Huffington Post, The Onion, NY Times, Salon, TreeHugger and more.

Greatest Kindle features:

  • Highlighting and clipping pages and sections of books. I marked up Ta-Nehisi's book a lot, and now can go back and refer to those sections easily

  • Built in Wikipedia access. This just changes the game for me. Ta-Nehisi is insanely well-read, and despite our similar upbringings, there were many references I didn't get or had only a vague recollection of. Rather than moving on in ignorance, I could follow up on a topic instantly. This made the book reading experience much deeper and more informative than it might have been.

  • Wireless access to Amazon. It's just great to be able to scan the story, sample and buy a book. Getting content is easy. So easy. The auto-delivery of periodicals and blogs is nice as well. I always have the latest goods on my subway ride.

  • The size. This thing is very small and very lightweight. Lots of people have hated on the design, but I think it's clear that people who love reading books designed this thing. I used to load books on my Palm Pilot then Treo now iPhone, and in all those cases, I felt like I was reading a book on a mobile device. With the Kindle, I just feel like I'm reading a book.

What could use some improvement

  • More books and magazines! Amazon is working on it, but there are many titles I want that are not in the store, especially my peak oil favorites and Vanity Fair.

  • Custom blog delivery. There's a ridiculously small number of blogs (346) you can subscribe to with the Kindle. I'd love to specify an RSS feed and have it converted to a custom, Kindle-ready format. There are just two or three blogs I really want to do this with, but mostly The Oil Drum. That site has become mandatory daily reading for me over the past year.

  • Getting my clips and highlights off the device. I'd like to be able to email, export or otherwise get my book highlights off the device easily. Right now, I can seem them and I guess type them manually into a computer, but we've got a communications path (wireless) between the Kindle and the outside world. If someone knows how to do this, holla!