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I recently purchased an Amazon Kindle 3G (New Generation) and several collegues and friends have asked for my view on it, so I thought I would put down a few quick thoughts:
The Kindle, in short, is an excellent eBook reader. It is fantastic for downloading books with ease and reading them (as you would expect) on a clear display. The screen is an "e-ink" screen which means it actually looks and feels like a book when reading (it is black and white, no colour). It is not backlight which means, like a book, you need to read it with an over head light or mini light. But the value of this is that it does not feel like you are reading on a computer. This is really great because if you are reading a novel, etc. it does not feel like you are still at work reading on a PC (if you know what I mean). It also reduces eye strain. In addition, this means you can read the Kindle in bright light, like on the beach with no reflection.
Looks and feels great. Light weight and easy to just throw in a bag. At the price (£109 for the Wifi version, and £149 for 3G and Wifi version) means you are less worried about it than a £600 iPad or the like. It is functional tool at the end of the day.
Downloading books is really easy. There is a fairly wide selection at Amazon Kindle Store, as well as a lot of free books (mainly classics such as Dracula, Treasure Island, Iliad, etc.). Other classics are really cheap. I picked up Don Quixote - a book I love - for 59p. It is brilliant to have a copy wherever I go - especially such a large book in the paperback version nicely stored digitally. You can also organise your collections really easily.The Kindle also arrives already linked to your Amazon account. So no setup, just take it out the box and use.
I have the 3G Kindle which means you can access the Amazon Store with a Wifi connection or while on the move via 3G (apparently in dozens of countries too). There is no cost for the 3G which works seamlessly without a Wifi connection. You can also connect to Wifi - that works perfectly too. This mainly means you never have to connect the Kindle to your computer via the supplied USB cable. You can download books all directly on 3G or Wifi- no clumsy transfers. The only time you will have to connect to a computer is if you want to download an audio book. They are took big to send via Wifi or 3G. If you do connect to a computer is works like a flash drive, you can see directories (audbile, documents, books, MP3) and can drag and drop if you like.
You can charge the Kindle via USB or through the mains plug provided. A charged Kindle seems to last forever. Amazon claim up to a month and no need to charge. I don't know but my Kindle has not needed recharging since I got it about a week ago (compared to the iPhone which you need to charge each day). So I think the claim about long battery life is true.
Reading books is a pleasure. You can change font size and number of words per line with ease. You can also mark the text with bookmarks, and make notes in the text for reference later or highlight sections. One handy feature if you are reading a book on several platforms (say on your iPhone, Kindle or Desktop, which is a good feature in and of itself - different Kindle platforms sync to your Kindle books via Amazon) is that you can "Sync to Furtherest Page Read".
You can also send documents to yourself to read. This works well. You can setup your own Kindle address (yourname@kindle.com). When you send a document to the address it appears on your Kindle and you can read it. I have used Word and Pdf documents, and both transfered well and were readable in Kindle format. This is a really handy feature if you have to read a lot of documents for work, and instead of taking a pile of paper with you you can take them all on an electronic reader. If you send and download documents via the Kindle address using Wifi there is no charge, however, if you send or receive on 3G there is a charge. I have never had to do that but I think it is 20p or 50p a document (you can set your account to a maximum download charge per item so no hidden surprises). But if you just plan ahead and send when on Wifi then there are no problems or charge.
When you are reading you can also highlight specific pieces of text and immediately tweet the "quote" or send to Facebook. You can also add your own note to it. Nice and sweet.
The Kindle comes with a web browser which works just fine. You can use it to visit most websites. Pictures display although all in black and white. There is no flash, video, etc. The browser works best if you use mobile sites (e.g. m.guardian.co.uk; m.facebook.com; m.google.co.uk, etc.). Mobile Google Maps (text directions) at m.google.com/maps also works. All these mobile sites display well and load quickly. It makes reading key articles really easy. One handy feature is "Article Mode". So if you link to a web article and click "Article Mode" the article is formatted to the Kindle screen making it easier to read. It seems Kindle is suited to really reading articles like this. In short, navigating websites is possible - but a bit clunky. Using mobile sites however means you can look at news and reviews (as well as Twitter and Facebook) and read it comfortably in paired down format. You can also subscribe to blogs via the Amazon Kindle Store (I think about 50 or 60p a blog) - but I find I can get most news through mobile sites. Googel Reader in mobile is also readable. Overall however expect a content driven browser experience not a graphical or smooth contemporary website feel. For most use this is fine - like if you want to catch up with the news ot Twitter feeds. The fact this can be done with Wifi or 3G for free is great. You can also check email but again done best on the mobile versions of Gmail. The keyboard is fine for short messages - I do not think however that it is condusive to writing a long email or using as an email substitute but it can be done.
You navigate the web (and Kindle as a whole) via a little four way square controller (like a flat square version) of those early laptop navigation nobs. It is fine for most functions. Not the smoothest in the world but for most tasks on the Kindle absolutely OK. If you are used to a touch screen with your iPhone you keep wanting to navigate the screen via touch - but your brain soon adapts. I suppose one good thing for an eReader is that no touch screen means no fingerprints. So the screen is always clean and clear (but you lose some navigation function).
There are few other neat little features. You can load it with MP3s (via linking to a computer) which means you can listen to music while you read if you want. Some books also have audio enabled and so they can be read to you by a sort of computer voice. It also plays audio books (but in Audible format, so you have to download from there or in MP3 but Audible books also play via iTunes). There is also a Mindsweeper game hidden on the Kindle which can be accessed via a series of key strokes.
So overall, what do I think? Well, if you are considering a Kindle remember it is an eReader. That is, as obvious as it sounds, really what it is. Great for reading books and documents, and carrying around a lot with you in a lightweight way. It is not an iPad or an iPad light - it does not have the smooth feel of an iPad or a flashy screen. But the Kindle is a brilliant tool for reading and the screen absolutely perfect for reading. If you love reading you will love the Kindle. You can surf via 3G or Wifi for news, and updates or use Twitter and Facebook (all in black and white) through the browser. This is still developing - but perfectly functional, especially when using mobile sites. What I would say again, however, is remember you are buying an eBook reader. See all the other stuff as nice add ons. Don't buy it for all the other bits. Treat them as a bonus. In short, I am really delighted with the Kindle. For the price it is worth it, and priced right - you don't feel like you are being ripped off for what you get. I am sure later versions will eventually have a smoother browser, probably an email app, more game apps, colour screens, better navigation, touch screen, etc. But for now get one and enjoy it for reading, and carry books and documents with you digitally. I am really enjoying it...
 
Brandon Hamber
14 September 2010


Find out more about the Amazon Kindle 3G (New Generation).
 

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