I got hold of a Kindle at work the other day, only for an evening as I had to pass it on. I didn't have it for long enough to form any realistic impression and I did not read a book on it. However, even based on this limited exposure, I thought that the reaction of my 9-year old son, Eoghan, was interesting.
He loved it, and for a few hours it even made it to the top of his Christmas list ...
What really struck me was that his positive reaction seemed to relate to how the device brought together a web experience and a book experience. It made reading more like the experience of the web, and it is the latter that conditions his experiences. But it did it in a way that made the experience portable.
So, he liked the fact that he could see reviews, other books by the author, samples and so on. He liked the ability to search, to browse other titles while reading, to collect materials into his own space.
He thought that the searching was poor, because it required you actually to spell things correctly ;-) His searching expectation includes spelling correction or a 'did you mean' feature.
In short he liked the 'in-book web experience' or maybe the 'in-web book experience'. He liked the ways in which reading a book mapped his more general web experience, and that he could carry it around.
This was in addition to a reading experience which seemed to work very well - he read several of the downloaded samples concentratedly. The expressed design goal of making the mechanics of reading disappear into the experience seemed to be achieved.
Sure, the device is not as smooth as an iPod but this didn't seem to be an issue for him: maybe it would be over time, I don't know. What was more important for him though than any clumsiness of navigation or control was what could be done with it.
The main downside to emerge - remember in a very short exposure - was the size of the available collection on Amazon. He was impressed that various titles were available, but we only found between a third and a half of what we looked for.
That said, Guitar Hero III has gone back to the top of the Christmas list ;-)