We’ve been a huge fan of the Amazon Kindle since it first launched, although the Kindle DX with its 9.7-inch screen proved too bulky. With iBooks on the Apple iPad, Amazon’s own cross-platform Kindle app and the Sony Reader Touch Edition, is the third version of Amazon’s Kindle still the e-reader king?
Amazon’s introduced two versions. The 3G version we tested enables wireless transfers anywhere, but for £109, you can get a WiFi only version, which is perfect if you can time your downloads to being in the vicinity of a WiFi hot spot.
21% smaller than its predecessor, the Kindle is slimmer than a paperback book and at 247g, light enough to carry in a bag and hold in one hand. We’re a big far of the new charcoal (or graphite) exterior which seems more sophisticated.
The QWERTY keyboard is now over four lines, the keys are tiny, so typing isn’t comfortable for prolonged periods, but it’s fine for the off web address and book title.
The joystick (which we never really had an issue with) has been replaced with a more comfortable square four-way controller. Menu and Back buttons are integrated into the keyboard, instead of on the rim. Page forward and back buttons are slightly smaller, but still on either side to suit right and left-handed readers.
At six inches, the screen size is unchanged, it’s not as bright as the Apple iPod, but e-ink is far more comfortable on the eye, so there’s less chance of strain. Contrast has improved by 50% in comparison to the previous Kindle and you can really tell the difference – text is more vibrant and bursts out from the screen. Amazon has improved the page turning speed by 20%.
The Kindle Store
One of our main complaints about older versions of the Kindle is that you had to buy books from the US store, so for example if you like biography’s, the choice was very US centric.
There are 400,000 books and 1 million free books. Love them or loathe them, from Jeremy Clarkson to Paul O’Grady; Ian McEwen to Jilly Cooper and Margaret Thatcher to Tony Blair, there’s a good selection of titles by English authors.
Prices are still in dollars, but compare favourably to other eBook websites. Expect to pay $4.23, (approx £2.70) for current commuter favourite ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,’ compared to £3.99 on WHSmith.co.uk and Waterstones. Robert Harris’ Lustrum is $6.33 (approx £4), compared to £4.08 on WHSmith and £4.99 on Waterstones.
It takes around 60 seconds to download a book, but like previous versions you can still try a sample chapter and cancel a purchase if you make a mistake. Purchases are synched to your Amazon account, so you can use gift cards.
Storage has had a welcome boost, so it now holds 3500 books. But once you’ve brought a book you can read it on any Kindle format, including the Kindle App on an Android or Apple handset, which isfine for those time wasting emergencies.
Among the extras, PDF support enables you to transfer work documents onto the device. Text to speech reads out the words, you can playback mp3s and even browse the web using the basic browser. BBC News takes its time to load in (around a minute at least) and is black and white with very rudimentary text and images and a magnifying glass you move around the page to enlarge text. The pages are a bit slow to load, but it’s fine for checking headlines.
Amazon quotes a 10-day battery life with WiFi on and an impressive 1 month if you turn it off. With moderate use in the evenings and on our commute during the week, we easily got 10-days use.
A criticism of the Kindle is that it doesn’t have a backlight for reading at night or in dim light. Our device came with the Kindle Lighted Leather Cover, which is available in a range of colours including pink, brown, orange and green. The top right corner pulls out to reveal a small, but perfectly acceptable reading light, powered by the Kindle battery. Our only gripe is that the light feels flimsy, so don’t leave it anywhere where someone can sit on it. And at £50 it’s very expensive, but for bookworms, this is a small price to pay for the convenience.
If you’ve already got a Kindle there’s no reason to upgrade. The enhancements, while impressive, are subtle and don’t make a huge difference to the Kindle’s overall working. However if you’re looking for your first eBook reader, this is the best device on the market at the moment. The inclusion of WiFi and it’s £100 price makes the Kindle immensely affordable (the Sony Reader Touch Edition is £200) and (lets face it), while 3G is nice to have it’s a luxury. Most people can easily time their book downloads to proximity to a WiFi hot spot or download multiple titles at once. The extras, such as the browser, aren’t great, but if you want a good browser, then get an iPad, the latest version of the Kindle is first and foremost about reading and to that end, it’s the best on the market.