Product Type: Amazon Tablet PCs / eBook Readers
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E! Have you seen this book?!
Amazon Kindle 3
Member Name: SWSt
Amazon Kindle 3
Advantages: Fantastic, easy-to-read screen, huge capacity, excellent battery life
Disadvantages: Fluctuating price of books, awkward text entry, slow menu speed
The Kindle 3 is slightly lighter than its predecessor, although it's only a matter of a few grams, so most people will barely notice. That said, if you're planning on taking a Kindle on a trip, a few grams can make a difference to your luggage weight, so that's not to be sniffed at!
Size wise, it's about the same size as a paperback book. It's nowhere near as thick, however, and is so thin that I can actually slip it into my coat pocket with no trouble at all. This makes it highly portable and far more convenient to carry around than a standard paperback.
Thanks to its compact size, the Kindle is very easy and comfortable to hold. You can hold it as you might a traditional book (with one hand about half way down on either side), but it's light enough to hold in one hand for long periods (something which can't be said about a print book). It's very well designed so that however you hold it, your fingers naturally fall over the Next/Previous page buttons (located halfway down both sides of the device) which means that turning a page is as simple as... well, turning a page.
If you've used an earlier model Kindle, there are two immediately obvious differences. One of these is an improvement, the other less successful. The step forward is that the screen is a little bigger than the one from the Kindle 2. This is obviously a good thing, as more text can be fitted onto the screen at once, reducing the amount of times you have to "turn the page". It's not massively bigger, but it does marginally improve the readability of the device.
The less successful change relates to the keyboard which sits beneath the screen. On the Kindle 2, the keyboard only occupied about three quarters of the width of the device and so felt a little cramped. On the Kindle 3 this has been rectified so that they do occupy the whole width and are a little bit bigger and better spaced. Yet, for some odd reason, this renders the keyboard even more difficult to use. I find typing a very slow, cumbersome and inexact process. On a standard (or even three quarter sized) keyboard, I'm pretty a pretty fast and accurate typist. On the Kindle 3, I'm anything but. Even typing a few words takes far longer than you might expect and I find myself frequently mis-typing words. Personally, this is not a major issue as I never annotate books, so the most I ever do is looking for books on the Amazon Kindle bookstore (and even then, I mostly do this on my PC). However, if you're the type that likes to add lots and lots of notes to your reading matter, it's a source of frustration.
On the plus side, the cursor keys have been improved. The old joystick control of the Kindle 2 has been replaced by up/down/left/right buttons which are far more responsive. On the downside, the Select button (which sits in the middle of the direction controls) is smaller and once again, I find it all too easy to hit the wrong button when I'm trying to press Select.
Apart from the slightly increased size, the Kindle 3's screen hasn't changed that much - but there's a good reason for that: the screen was already almost perfect! It is very clear and the black e-ink text stands out well against the grey background of the screen, making it very easy on the eye. Indeed, after you've been using it for around 5 minutes, you will have completely forgotten that you are reading from a screen; the text is so clear that it is easily a match for the standard printed word.
This is even true in direct sunlight. I've read my Kindle out in the garden on bright summer days (we did have a couple!). Normally, direct sunlight is the bane of electronic devices and the screen glare renders them unusable. Not so with the Kindle. The built-in anti-glare technology means it is just as readable in bright sunlight as in a room lit by electric lights.
The one continuing downside is that there is still has no backlight, so you can't read it in low light conditions. This is presumably because of the impact this would have on battery life, but it would be nice to have it as an option to switch on and off, as needed.
Software and Interface
The built-in Kindle software is very well-designed. Initially, it can be slightly confusing, as some options are only available from certain screens, but you soon get the hang of where everything is and if you really get lost, pressing the Home button is a handy shortcut to take you back to the opening screen.
The device has a number of clever tricks up its sleeve to aid readability. It remembers the furthest point you have read in any book on your Kindle and "opens" it at that point when you select it. The software also provides quick and easy options to leap to a particular page, go to the start/end of a book, or even move to a specific page, making navigating your way around texts a doddle. You can also add your own notes (or view those written by others), although this is not something I make any use of.
The software can sometimes be a little bit slow, particularly when navigating the Kindle's menu screens. There can often be quite a long delay between selecting an option and anything happening. There's no indication (along the lines of the Window's egg timer), so you're sometimes left unsure whether to wait or try selecting the option again. This is a minor frustration, but one you soon learn to live with.
Thankfully, standard navigation within books is a lot smoother. Pressing the Next or Previous page produces a more or less instant response and the new page takes only a second or two to appear. One potential issue (which bothers Mrs SWSt, but not myself) is that whilst the page is "turning", the screen "flashes" and turns black before the new text is delivered. Mrs SWSt find this annoying (indeed, she says it is worse on the Kindle 3 than it was on the Kindle 2) and renders the device unusable for her, although I hadn't noticed it until she pointed it out and it doesn't worry me in the slightest.
The standard Kindle 3 has the capacity to store around 3,500 books, although I'm unlikely to ever come close to filling it! Unless you are a seriously voracious reader, it's going to be a long time before you need to start deleting titles from your device (even then, you can download them again at a later date for free). If you're running short of space to store books in your house or simply want to carry a load of books around with you at once, then it's a fantastic option.
The Kindle's battery life is very impressive. These days, we are used to devices like the iPhone which need charging every day. I'm able to use my Kindle for a good 2-3 hours every day and still only need to charge it about every 3-4 weeks. You can even extend this battery life by turning off the wireless connectivity if you're not using it. At last! An electronic device that isn't going to massively increase your electricity bill!
If you already have an Amazon account, you can link your Kindle to your existing account so that your physical book purchase and your Kindle purchases are all done through the same account. The registration process was very easy, simply requiring you to make sure you are connected to the internet and then add in your Amazon account details. The whole registration process took less than 2 minutes and was very straightforward.
Once you have registered your Kindle, you can browse the bookstore and make purchases. Using the Kindle, this can be a slightly frustrating process, particularly, if you want to browse the titles available. Browsing is done by category (thriller, murder mystery etc.) so you first need to know which category to look in (not always obvious) and are then presented with a long list of books you have to wade through, with only limited options for re-ordering the list. Browsing can be quite slow experience as the wireless is not the fastest in the world (regardless of your broadband speed) and you often need to wait 30 seconds to a minute for the page to load properly. Personally, I find it easier to go to the standard Amazon website (where you have much greater control over how you want to view items), find books I want to buy and then return to my Kindle to look for the exact item and purchase it.
On the plus side, whilst the Kindle store itself might be quite slow, the actual purchasing process is pretty quick with most titles taking less than a minute to download to your device.
One issue I do have with the Kindle Store is the price of some of the books. There are many reasonably priced titles (some costing as little as 49p), but there are hundreds of titles which cost MORE than their printed counterparts, which is obscene. I have even come across at least one title where the price of the Kindle version was £2 more than the cost of the hardback! Amazon washes their hands of this, claiming that all prices are set by the publishers and that they have no control over them.
Moreover, prices can fluctuate massively. I recently bought a Kindle book for 99p. Just two weeks later, I happened to see the price for the same title had risen to £4.99 for no obvious reason, other than the publisher decided they wanted to make more money. My advice? Scan the Kindle bookstore on a weekly basis and if you see a book you want, snap it up there and then to guard against future price increases. The worst that happens is the book sits on your device unread for a few months until you get round to it.
The Kindle 3 costs £109 for the wireless only version and £152 for the wireless and 3G option. The main difference is that for the former, you need access to a wireless broadband connection to download books from the Amazon Store; with the 3G version, you can download them from anywhere. Personally, I'd say don't bother with the 3G version as you can't use the 3G to do anything else, such as surf the web. Generally speaking, as long as you plan in advance and download a selection of books before you leave home, there's no real need to pay the extra £40 for 3G functionality.
Of course, the Kindle 3 is itself now obsolete following the release of the Kindle 4, which is smaller and around £20. Having briefly used a Kindle 4, however, I still prefer the design of the Kindle 3. The functionality between the two is more or less identical, but if anything (thanks to its complete lack of physical keyboard), the Kindle 4 makes text entry even more difficult!
The Kindle is a great little device. It's never going to completely win me over to the world of e-only books and there are some books I will still want to buy in physical format to keep and display. However, if you do a lot of travelling and want to carry a load of books around with you at once without adding to the weight of your luggage then it's a great piece of equipment to own.
(c) Copyright SWSt 2011
Summary: A great device
|Ease of use:|
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