Why Kindle is a hit...
When Amazon announced their Kindle last year, I bought one. I wasn't too optimistic, as I had read a lot of bad reviews.
However, to my surprise, I've really enjoyed my Kindle experience. The screen is extremely readable -- and while the controls are somewhat limiting, it's very easy to use. And as long as I view the Kindle as a replacement for a book (rather than a replacement for a PC), it has surpassed my expectations. So I'm not surprised to see today's reports that Kindle is a hit.
More importantly, I've found that I have purchased about 3 times more books using the Kindle than I otherwise would have purchased. Surprisingly, the primary drivers of my increased purchases are due to the business model -- not the actual hardware. Specifically:
1) My bookshelves at home are filled with books that I never finish. There's nothing more frustrating than buying a book, getting 20 pages into it, and then deciding that you don't like it. Amazon's Kindle allows you to download the first few chapters of a book for free - so you can make a purchase decision after you've started to read the book. Very cool. I've avoided purchasing more than six books because I didn't like how they began.
2) The average book on the Kindle costs under $10. While it's still more you'd pay at Half.com, the instantaneous download and low price do provide a real benefit. I've downloaded books on trains, at airports and at hotels -- and have found that the experience is seamless and addictive.
The biggest drawback? Reading on planes. Use of electronic devices is prohibited during the first 20 minutes of a plane ride. It's pretty frustrating to see everyone around you reading a book/newspaper, when your Kindle needs to be holstered.