An updated supplement to this review is here.
I saved up some dollars and bought a Kindle from my local Target store, after thinking about it and debating the wisdom of doing so for several months.
As tends to be the case with items I research heavily before purchase, I'm enamored with it; the eInk screen effortlessly and gracefully destroys any desire to use an LCD screen for more than a few minutes. The Kindle I purchased, the third generation with wi-fi only, has a very quick screen refresh rate and excellent contrast, allowing me to read an entire novel without any eye strain (which I managed this weekend).
Amazon, in their overly joyous Kindle welcome letter, described their thesis behind the device as one that allows you to get lost in the text, and forget you're reading on an electronic display rather than a paperback novel. They have succeeded. What I love about this is a willingness to be more about the content and less about the container, something I've discussed before.
When I'm reading a book, I don't want all of that tablet crap with video and music and fancy effects. I want to get lost in a book. That's why I read. And the Kindle succeeds. The occasional image assists in the text, but the text itself is displayed clearly and beautifully, better than any other device before it. This is what makes it stand apart from tablets and smartphones, which are designed to repackage a smaller screen rather than a superior one.
I've mostly filled my Kindle with books that were on Project Gutenberg, Baen's Free Library, and Baen's CD's, though I will admit to downloading a few books that I either own physically or borrowed from the library and never finished or got around to. I'm moving out this summer and I intend to take as little as possible with me, because I won't have a very big room, so this helps. I wish there was an official way to re-format things though.
The biggest problem is finding books that are well formatted, because there's a large quality gap between the best and the worst. I also sampled a few free books from Amazon, but their formatting is nowhere near the best and their DRM is too much to handle. I don't expect to buy many books from them, aside from the occasional free or dollar download - there are enough places to buy or download DRM-free ebooks for me to not waste my time. (12-19-11 EDIT: I have since found ways in which to strip out the DRM using Calibre and various plugins. Thus, the Kindle store is more open to me.)
The Kindle does one thing well: it lets you read books. It's probably the best device I've ever seen on such a level, and this is why I love it so much. I'm very impressed, and I believe the benefits will allow me to focus on what I love to do - reading books - even more.
Whether or not it's minimalist to you is simply a matter of necessity. But I consider it a triumph.