Amazon Kindle ebook Reader Review
Today, Ebook readers indeed have become a compelling choice after addition of most-wanted, Tablet like, features such as internet, flash-enabled browsers, mp3 capabilities and much more.
Ebook readers have been around for a while (2004, Sony Librie) now, but it was never until Amazon Kindle, that ebook-readers were “taken-seriously”. The good thing today is that readers have choice with e-book readers! There are some worthy ebook readers Barnes & Nobel’s Nook Touch Reader & Nook Color, Kobo etc. to name a few. But Just as iPad is the king of Tablets (fortunately or unfortunately), Amazon Kindle is proudly the counterpart in ebook readers!
With the first Kindle turning up in 2007, to date we have the third generation of Kindle, that Amazon calls Kindle simply, and we shall call Kindle 3 for the purpose of distinction from the earlier versions of Kindle. (note: Along with Kindle 3, there is Kindle DX, the latest generation kindle also available). Amazon Kindle 3 is absolutely spectacular piece of engineering at a very low price tag (of just 139 USD). But does a low price tag mean parting with quality features and some essentials? Let us jump to the in-depth-critical review of the device and find if it is worth buy?
When it comes to design and looks, Amazon has drastically revamped its e-reader. With its sleek design, lighter body yet sturdy built, Kindle 3 can proudly stand in line of beautiful electronic products. Kindle 3 is 21 % smaller in size than previous generation kindles measuring about 7.5 inches x 4.8 inches x 0.335 inches (HWD) while boasts the same 6 inch diagonal display. The device is thin, thinner than iPad 1 (0.53 inches) while almost as thin as iPad 2 (0.34 inches). Kindle 3 has also lost significant weight! Kindle 3 is 15% lighter at 8.7 ounces for Wifi + 3G while 8.7 ounces for Wifi only model lighter than any paperback book!
The Page turn buttons get the major makeover. The page turn buttons (Page forward/page back) are considerably reduced in size and are located on both sides of the devices (unlike Kindle 2, where the next-page button was housed on the right side along with home button). The buttons are also silent and do not produce any noticeable clicking sound when pressed- very favorable for bedtime reading.
Though the shrunken size of the buttons does add to reduce the device size and make it look prettier, users who are accustomed to large buttons of Kindle 2 will find the newly designed buttons difficult to click. Also when picking up the e-reader you may happen to accidently click the buttons, quiet often, and change the page they were reading, that can be very annoying.
The home button previously located on the right side of the Kindle 2 has been housed on the bottom of the tighter-keyboard. The 5-way controller is fairly larger and placed within the QWERTY keyboard. The associated back and menu buttons is now separate buttons on the keyboard. In attempt to reduce the size of the device the keys are fairly tightly placed. You will find yourself pressing the Back and Menu button accidently when using the 5-way controller- something you will take time to get accustomed to. The 5-way controller may itself seem to be unfashionable for users familiarized to touch-screens.
The bezel of the e-book reader is narrowed. The power slider too is located on the bottom of the device along with Headphone Jack, MicroUSB, Charge Indicator, and volume controller. The replacement of Power button is an unnecessary rather appears to me as point-less change that will trouble users who are accustomed to power button at the top.
Other minor changes include rubberizing the back of the device. Some users have registered complaints to have eye-irritation from the chemical treatment done to rubber back of the device, nevertheless, we did not experience any itching; perhaps the rubber back makes it easier to grip also making it feel burly unlike iPad and iPhone that feels relatively flimsy with glass! You also have a choice this time! Along with the classic white Kindle, there is a graphite-colored Kindle available.
Owing to the compact size and lighter weight the e-book reader is perfect to plunge it in the purse or your hand-carry. You can comfortably hold the device for prolonged session of reading without straining your arm.
The keyboard gets some noticeable tweaks as point out earlier. Firstly, the keys are prominent and easier to press. Lettering of the keyboard is reported to wear of quickly with use. The entire row of number keys has been pushed in a single sym button on the bottom. This will be bothersome for users who wish to enter numbers in some text field, particularly when entering their passwords of their Amazon account. But this is just to re-establishes the fact that Amazon Kindle 3 is yet again a great reader but a poor writer (and for sure we don’t mind that).
Kindle uses high resolution display technology called electronic paper ink to give a feel very similar to that of newspaper and paper books. The e-ink screen is not backlit like iPad or iPhone’s (or like our monitors or TVs) vibrant LCDs. With the e-ink screen you will be able to see the screen even in bright light outdoors without being disturbed by the glare you experience with LCDs. Nonetheless, on the downside, you will need a light source to read with the device in environments with subtle light. A simple repercussion is that you will not be able to read with kindle at night in bed; that most of us love to. For this Amazon, offers an optional LED lit cover “Kindle Lighted Leather case”. The cover does not ship with the e-reader and will cost you an additional.
The biggest advantage of e-ink screen is the minimal (or no) eye-strain posed by it in contrast to typical LCD devices. The argument “LCD vs. e-ink screen” (particularly eye-strain posed by each) has been extensively thrashed out over the internet. In my view, e-book readers with e-ink screen are more pleasant to read particularly for elaborated reading sessions. And especially when all day long you concentrate on your computer or laptop, having to read on Kindle at the end of the day, is a soothing. Also, reading on e-ink screen is pretty close to reading an actual book, so you don’t really have the feel of reading an ebook.
That said, the e-ink screen is definitely the reason for the popularity of e-reader and particularly Kindle amid iPad and iPhone; as most readers opt for e-ink devices to read on than a LCD.
Furthermore, Kindle 3 also gets the e-Ink Pearl Screen, after Kindle DX. Thanks to the new display that the letters in the text are bolder and standout (pop-out a bit), making even smaller sized text more readable. Amazon claims that the new contrast is 50% improved. The new high contrast display with background even whiter and letters noticeably darker, makes reading even more comfortable. You can also adjust the contrast according to your ease of reading. The page turn rate has also been reduced.
Like various improvement Amazon introduces in the latest generation kindle, it also boosts the battery life. The battery life of Kindle 3 with Wi-Fi switched on lasts for as many as 21 days for Wi-Fi only version while for the Wi-Fi+3G version the battery life is 10 days remarkably longer than Tablets and other counterparts employing touch-screens.
Kindle does not come with a removable battery. This means, the device has some life—you cannot expect it to live with you forever. One day the battery will get old, reducing the battery life and eventually it will die and so will your device.
Amazon has doubled the internal storage of the device. Now instead of 2Gb (where 1.4 was available for the user) you get 4 GBs of internal storage with approximately 3GB available to the user. Kindle yet, does not support SD card for expandable memory. A big CON!
Wi-Fi and 3G
Kindle 3 comes with built-in Wi-Fi supporting 802.11b or 802.11g standards; but Kindle does not connect to enterprise or ad-hoc Wi-Fi networks. Kindle 3 is also available in Wi-Fi+3G model. Wi-Fi only model costs you 139 USD while Wi-Fi and 3G model costs 189 USD.
The Reading Experience
Line spacing and Text size
You can increase the line-spacing and font size of the ebooks, something you cannot accomplish with paper books! You can choose from 8 different font sizes. This feature can be very pacifying for tired eyes while reading on an ebook reader. But interestingly, you can only enlarge (or decrease) the text size of the ebooks and the feature is not available for the Home Screen. That is if you ever wish to increase the font on home screen to aid you read the book titles—you won’t be able to do that! Therefore readers with poor eye-sight will not be able to benefit with this functionality in any case. You can also select from 3 different typefaces Regular, Condensed or Sans-Serif. Sans-Serif, among the given is the best choice as it further darkens the text making it prominent and easy to read.
You can read with kindle in two different orientations i.e. landscape and portrait orientation. Reading comics, scanned PDFs, 2 column PDFs or books with images is much more comfortable in landscape mode; as the PDFs now fit to the width of the screen and also the font is enlarged. To switch to your desired orientation you will have to manually press a key on the bottom of the keyboard and select the option with 5-way controller. This is not so ‘cool’! Definitely a built-in accelerometer would have done a much better job.
With Kindle 3 you can actually listen to ebooks! And not just eBooks, magazines, blogs, documents etc. The feature can be restricted by right-holders. Also the feature is disabled in PDF files. Feature also available on Kindle DX.
Reading PDF books/Files
Kindle 3 has Native PDF support like Kindle 2 and Kindle DX, however reading PDFs might not be a wonderful experience. Where it is a blessing that Kindle 3 can handle you PDF documents; you must remember that PDF documents are not meant to be read on a 6-inch (diagonal) screen. The text on the document is far too small to be read comfortably. But that surely is not a problem of Kindle (yes, but it’s important to mention in the review!). The unlikable situation can be helped by 3rd party solutions such as MobiPocket eBook creator.
To read a PDF format ebook simply drag the PDF files in USB to your device. Ofcourse you can activate hyperlinks, look up words in the dictionary, add notes, highlight, and add bookmarks, search, jump to certain pages, and pan and zoom.
Very sad to register that the file format “EPUB”, yet not supported. But sure you can convert the EPUB files in Kindle compatible formats.
Kindle 3 comes loaded with two dictionaries The New Oxford American Dictionary (the default) and the Oxford Dictionary of English.
With Kindle, aided with Whispersync, you can always keep track of the book you are reading! You can synchronize your reading location across various devices such as iPhone, blackberry or other Kindles. Kindle does not save your page numbers, instead saves the location where you left. But do not completely rely on Whisp! It can indeed deceive you!
Share via Social Networking!
Whenever you come across something interesting that you desire to share with your friends, you can do it simply with Kindle. Simply highlight the text and share over social networks like Facebook and Twitter via Wi-Fi. Okay, here is an issue! There is a limit to what you can share! You can only share one paragraph, if the highlighted text increases to two paragraphs (or more) then Amazon shall parse and cut it short.
Popular highlights & Lending books
Just recently Amazon too has announced the “Lending/Loaning book service”. That means you can share books with friends who own a kindle or Kindle app on supported devices. And yes, you can see the interesting pages/passages in the book you are reading in sight of other readers with Kindle!
If you are a music freak then you can enjoy background music while you are reading a book (I know, a weird idea) with the rather crude mp3 player. Yet another issue! The player shall play songs in the order they were added to your Kindle. You will not be allowed to select any random song from the Music folder. So, inshort, you will never reach the end of your play list.
The WebKit browser, still an experimental application is pretty good. If you are looking for a full0fledged browsing experience with Flash, Java Applets, Shockwave and colors, then you are at the wrong place- you better use a Tablet instead. The browser, as for an e-reader does a decent job. You can search or look up Wikipedia in a snap. You can view most websites in Article only mode that is very beneficial most of the times. Browser, still in its experimental stages is prone to hang, so beware.
Amazon Kindle 3 is definitely justified to be the king of e-readers offering almost all of the essential features that an ebook reader must have at the most affordable price. Some 3rd party apps and included experimental pages complement the reader making it stand out counter-parts. If you read a lot of books (not really PDF documents) then Kindle 3 is surely the best buy!