Holding the Kindle 2 with One Hand
This first batch of pictures shows how I hold the kindle in a comfortable and balanced grip.
Unfortunately, as you can see, when I do so, the control buttons are nowhere near where my thumbs rest! This is a fundamental design flaw.
So, the alternative is the "palm" hold, where you place the corner of the unit in your palm and use the thumb for page navigation. This appears to be how the unit was designed for one-handed reading.
Since one-handed reading is one of the primary selling points of the unit, the design seems flawed. Yes, if you're reading a novel with one hand, the unit holds quite naturally, letting you page forward with ease. However, the way they force you to hold the unit makes it feel much heavier than it is, putting a torque on your wrist.
For me, holding it in the center, like in the first picture, is the most comfortable. But holding it that way, I can't turn pages!
I've found that two-handed operation is really the only practical way to comfortably use the Kindle2 for anything other than standard reading of novels. For newspapers or other documents where you're jumping to the menu and so on, you have to move to the two-handed grip.
The irksome thing about this is that they could have designed it so that you could have a much more useful one and two-handed operation. This would have required just a couple of changes.
As it stands, it's a two-handed device. For that, your thumbs naturally fall perfectly on the prev and next page buttons. So that's a success.
Redesigned one-handed operation
(and more convenient two handed operation.
First, the page turning buttons should be rockers. Press the top of the rocker and it goes back a page, press the bottom and it goes forward (or vice-versa, I'm not sure which would be more intuititve.) The buttons could be the same size as the current "next page" buttons.
Next, the navigation nub needs to be placed where it's actually useful, which is right next to the next and prev page button. Even with two handed operation, the position of the num makes me feel carpel-tunnel pains almost immediately. Not good!
At the bottom of the images, I've done a rough Photoshop mockup of how I would move the controls so that you could actually more ergonomically control the Kindle2 with a single hand. You'd probably still have to use two hands to hold it when running through menus, but at least you wouldn't have to let go with your right hand and move it to a new location to do the controls.
The disadvantage to this arrangement is that the controls are tighter together and it would be harder to accurately control while wearing gloves.
In addition, I had to move the keyboard keys so they weren't all lined up in neat rows. When you type with your thumbs, it's much more natural to have the keys skewed. Plus, it puts them on diagonals, which gives significantly more space between the keys.
Comments on the Physical Design
Many of the published reviews complain about the large amount of unused space around the screen. Having used the device for a few days now, I completely agree with Amazon's decision to design it this way. A device of this size needs dead space around the screen so that you can hold it comfortably. Without this space, you'd be forced to grab the screen.
I don't like fingerprints on my screen - I find them distracting and they make me want to clean the screen. The matte screen of the Kindle would likely be damaged by frequent cleaning, reducing the display's contrast. This is also an argument against a touch screen.
While one could add protective plastic screen protectors, those would add glare and diminish the sharpness of the display, reducing the utility of the Kindle for its primary purpose - reading
In light of these days of use, I feel that the physical design of the Kindle is well thought out and relatively comfortable. However, I still feel that the controls could be rearranged for even better operation, it's clear that the Amazon team did their homework.
As noted on the summary page, the current layout does seem ideal for reading while in bed or on the toilet, probably some of the most common reading locations! As such, I'm sure many would complain if the control positions were altered. However, I have to imagine that there's some optimization that could be done to improve the location of the navigation nipple.