Anyone who's ever needed to wait for anything -- a doctor, a bus, a spouse, the end of soccer practice -- knows that a book tucked into a bag can be the difference between pain and pleasure.

Anyone who's ever needed to wait for anything -- a doctor, a bus, a spouse, the end of soccer practice -- knows that a book tucked into a bag can be the difference between pain and pleasure.

The Amazon Kindle is that book on steroids. Since I got mine a few months back, this slim electronic device has given me a chance to catch up on bestsellers and the day's news from anywhere. It lets me tote what would otherwise be pounds of paper in one lightweight (10-ounce), pocket-size volume.

The Kindle ($400 at amazon.com) is great for several reasons. First, no one but you can see the device -- it fits into an included pocket-size, black leather cover with the outward look and feel of a nicely bound journal. Trashy mystery, trendy novel, timeless classic or The New York Times -- they all look the same from the outside.

Second, the potential content of a Kindle would fill a decent public library. More than 90,000 books are there for the downloading (for free or up to $10 for most titles). You'll find lots of bestsellers, along with classics you skipped in school, reference volumes and some "books" that don't exist in physical form but have been published just for the Kindle. Then there are the magazines and newspapers, from the wacky Onion to the venerable Reader's Digest.

Third, you don't need to be a techie to make the Kindle work. Establish an account with Amazon, register the device, use a wireless connection, and connect. Then you just need to pick your titles and they'll be delivered wirelessly, in seconds, to your Kindle. You can read them immediately or store them for later, and pick more anytime.

More pluses: No monthly fees -- just pay for what you want to read. You can keep about 200 books, newspapers or magazines at a time, and more if you purchase an expanding SD card. Text is displayed on a six-inch, easy-to-read screen, and you control the type size. Words are traditional black on white, and the wireless battery will last for at least five hours of reading before charging. (To recharge, plug the Kindle into the charger just like you do a cell phone.)

But there are some disadvantages. Not all books, magazines or newspapers are available on Kindle, and the keyboard, used primarily for e-mail functions, can be frustrating to use. There are no video or web-audio options. You can't give away a book when you're done. And the gadget itself isn't cheap.

Still, it's sleek, slick and pretty easy to use. Countering the frustrations of any multi-tasker, it is access to fact and as much fiction as you want or need.