As long as the internet connection is running at a decent speed, I can go to Amazon.com and download Kindle books and magazines directly to my laptop, then use a USB cable (which the Kindle comes with) to transfer documents from my laptop to the Kindle. I can also transfer PDF and text files to read on the Kindle, which comes in handy for some of the reading I'm doing for my master's program.
I wish the screen were backlit so I can read it in lower light (like on airplanes at night without the harsh overhead light on), but in general it's very easy to read and it's easy on my eyes. After a day of staring at my computer screen I can still come home and read the Kindle screen very comfortably. You can increase the font size. There's a little tracker at the bottom that tells you how far along you are in the book, which I love. I'm always obsessed with how many more pages I have left in a book.
With Kindle-specific files, you can highlight, make notes, and look up words in the dictionary instantly. You can jump around between locations, go back to the table of contents, and skip ahead to chapters. I'm having a little trouble with the bookmarking feature, so I find myself jotting down the location number (rather than folding down the corner on a real book), when I want to jump around in a book. PDF and text files are not as easy to manipulate. If all the features of Kindle-specific files are available for them, I haven't figured them out yet. I know that with PDF files, you only have two choices for font size (small and not quite as small), whereas for Kindle files there are five or six sizes.
I love handling it. It took me a few days to get used to it, but now it's completely comfortable in my hands. I can hold it with one hand and press the button to turn pages while juggling a beverage in the other hand while the cat jumps up into my lap. I bought a case for it, to protect it while transporting it, but when I'm reading at home I generally take it out of the case so I can hold it easily with one hand.
Recently I successfully wrote my first paper for a course using source material directly from my Kindle. I highlighted portions of the text and saved them in the My Clippings file, then opened that as a text file on my laptop. From there it was easy to copy/paste the quotes I wanted directly into the paper I was writing. Going paperless like this is huge for me. Once I got the hang of it, it definitely saved time in not having to copy the notes longhand from a book, then type them into a Word document.
Some other comparisons of using it overseas as opposed to in the United States... If you don't have the wireless thing turned on, the battery lasts about two weeks rather than one week, so you don't need to charge it as often. If you're overseas in an area that does have wireless access, you'll be charged for each direct download, whereas wireless access is part of the cost of the Kindle when you're in the United States so there's no additional charge. Wherever you are, you can still download directly to your own computer for no extra charge. Not all titles are available overseas. When Amazon thought my computer was in Burundi, I had a limited selection of titles to choose from. But for some reason it now thinks I'm in the United States (I did not change the settings in any way; it just happened on its own somehow) and I have the full selection at my disposal. One last thing -- if you're in a non-wireless area, you can't subscribe to magazines and newspapers; you have to purchase each issue separately and download them to your computer, which costs more than having a subscription.
I haven't tracked if it's saving me money or not. I'm downloading a lot of free or $1 ebooks (Goodreads and Project Gutenberg are great sources for free ebooks, even if you don't have a Kindle), because I like a lot of classics and some of the public domain documents are handy for my courses. But, am I also buying more new books, at least during this initial, new-and-exciting-gadget phase? Probably. However, most new books on Amazon are $9.99 for the Kindle edition, whereas the new hardcover editions cost more. On the other hand, I rarely bought hardcover books and usually waited until cheaper or free paperback editions were available. Lots of hands and variables to consider there.
Just this week I realized something I hadn't considered before. Once I'm finished reading something on the Kindle, I can't pass it off to someone else. If it's a book I think Mike will like, he has to borrow the Kindle to read it, which means I'm not using the Kindle. I give a lot of books away to friends, my office library, or PaperbackSwap.com. Now these books are taking up digital space instead of bookshelf space. I'm not that concerned about the digital space -- the Kindle can hold thousands of books. But not being able to share those books is bothering me now. I still have plenty of real books to give away; I don't think my personal library will be diminished any time soon.
Now if you'll excuse me, a book I want to read is releasing today. I have to go refresh my Amazon page to see if it's available for download yet.
Image from Amazon.com. I was not compensated in any way for this post. Items were purchased by me for personal use.