i hesitated but ended up going anyway, riding to belmont on wobbly bike wheels due to the icy and snowy road conditions (not to mention all the new potholes). i spotted a few other cyclists, hardy riders like myself (either that or recklessly stupid). to each i offered a courtesy nod but none reciprocated the gesture. city bicyclists are an unfriendly group. i left my house rather early because i wanted to beat the rain/sleet storm that was heading our way. by the time i made it there was already a few flurry flakes floating in the air.

i've always thought ebook readers were kind of stupid. i didn't think they could ever take the place of real books and seemed like a waste of money, the kind of gadget only a techy book lover with disposable income would buy and only to show off to others.

so it's kind of ironic that i'm now using my father's hand-me-down kindle all the time now. i use it every time i go to the bathroom (too much info?) and i read from it every night before i go to bed. i could see how having a tablet might be a cooler experience, especially since it could surf the web, but from a purely book reading standpoint, the kindle serves its purpose pretty well. it's light enough that i can hold it in one hand and not get tired. i love that i can "turn" a page using one hand as well, either left or right. i also like how i never have to turn it off since e-ink doesn't draw any additional electricity once it displays a page. the ultra-long battery life is a nice bonus (weeks without charging) but not something i notice too much.

possible improvements might be a color e-ink display and maybe a touchscreen, but the key would be to keep it cheap, around $100. i don't think amazon makes too much money from kindle device sales; most of the revenue stems from electronic book and periodical sales, especially since it's crazy easy to access the online store via wifi (or G3) and buy a book in a matter of seconds. unfortunately for amazon, i've yet to buy a single electronic edition from them, getting all my reading materials online through other grey market methods.

i got a chance to take a closer look at the bambook, the chinese kindle. it's slightly bigger than the 3rd generation kindle, but the screen size is about the same. the kindle has a brighter screen, and also a more legible chinese typeface (i believe it's a droid truetype).

button-wise, it only has next/previous page buttons on the left-hand side of the device, like it was designed for only left-handed use. however, when it's placed in its case (which came with the device), the left side is in the book margin so it's even harder to access those buttons. fortunately the bambook has a little navigation joystick (similar to the 2nd generation kindle) on the right side which can also function as next/previous buttons.

the bambook also doesn't have a keyboard but instead just has a numeric pad, which can also type words like you would on a cellphone. it also has a large circular control that provides easy access to favorites and the bambook online store.

material-wise, the bambook is made of a plastic material that can feel slippery when compared to the kindle which is coated in a rubbery material that makes it easier to grip.

the kindle 3 sports stereo external speakers while the bambook only has a mono external speaker (although both have headphone jacks that provide stereo output). both devices can read text. the kindle does it in an unnatural voice (choice of male or female) and i don't know who would ever use this feature. the bambook has a more impressive reading capability. it reads chinese, and the rhythm is so perfect that i can't tell it's not a real human voice. i think part of it has to do with the tonality of spoken chinese (lot less variability compared to english), but there must also be something else going on, like the bambook reading brain is parsing each chinese character into tangible words. the only bug is since it can't know what's on the next page, there's a monetary lapse in word logic when it picks up the reading again. my father said he might actually use the chinese reading feature when he's driving.

the bambook comes with a faux brown leather case with a soft faux suede lining on the inside. the kindle doesn't come with a case, but i bought one for cheap ($9) from dealextreme. the kindle case is made from a soft faux black leather and makes the kindle look very distinguished, like a leather-bound book. both cases have a magnetic clasp, although the kindle case makes a satisfying click noise that i sometimes play with just to hear it.

functionality-wise, my father listed a few interface issues with the bambook system (e.g. doesn't show up on the desktop as an external drive, input field defaulting to pinyin text when it should be numbers, no actual pdf support unless you count the sloppy html conversion utility in the device application, etc). it only arrived on tuesday so he's still figuring things out. from his explanation, i get the feeling that the bambook is still a 1st generation device and has room for improvements. it looks a lot like the 2nd generation kindle (white as well), which makes me think that the chinese designers used that as their template when creating the bambook (the typical blueprint of a knockoff). but when the 3rd generation kindle came out, it made the just released bambook look a bit dated. i'd be curious to know how the bambook is selling in china. for all it's faults, the bambook still has one thing going for it that amazon doesn't have: a large repository of chinese books, with new works added every day.

i watched LA confidential (1997) on one of the many showtime channels. that's a great movie and a real treat to see it unedited (unlike the regular sanitized broadcast cable version). i love seeing russell crowe and guy pearce in the infancy of their fame, as well as simon "mentalist" baker (even more unfamous!), playing a tragic gay hollywood actor.

i tried to make a break for it after dinner, but was surprised to find it raining once i opened the front door. in the street light i could see the bands of precipitation and up above i heard the patter of raindrops striking the awning. i decided to wait it out, hopeful from the doppler radar that there might be a clearing in half an hour. but the rain didn't seem to let up so finally my father said he'd give me a ride. i'm glad he did because it turned out to be more wet than i realized, and i would've been thoroughly soaked (if not in danger of slipping on some icy patch in the dark).