8 June 2011

Review: Amazon Kindle 3 Wi-Fi + 3G

The Kindle is arguably the most popular and well-known e-reader on the market, and it's name has become synonymous with e-books. 

From Amazon

The product arrives in a cardboard container, with a very brief instruction manual, USB  cable and plug. I got the Wi-Fi/3G model which costs £152 direct from Amazon, a cheaper non-3G version is available, and there is talk of a special offers version, which displays ads in exchange for a cheaper ticket price, being released in the UK (it is already out in the US) although no date has been given. The small instruction book provided in the box gives you the essential information about how to turn on and charge the device, and a more comprehensive user manual is available on the device once you power up. 

Whilst intuitive to use, if you're used to a touch screen it takes a little while to train yourself not to touch the screen. There are buttons on the left and right sides of the screen and a keyboard at the bottom. Overall the kindle feels sturdy and light, perfect for travelling, although I have now experienced how fragile they are, and would urge everyone to buy a shock proof case as the case is easily damaged by knocks.

The e-ink screen is very easy to read off of, and does not give you eyestrain, although there is an annoying half second of black every time you turn the page. The text size is customisable by pressing the Aa button, which is handy for .pdf document. The interface is very useable, although a marker to show when you have completed a book would be nice, and if you have a large collection of books it takes a while to browse through them. I have over 1,000 books stored and still have 2GB of space left, so no excuse for running out of reading material and no reason to buy the 3G version if you use Wi-Fi. The Kindle is a little slow when synching, downloading or browsing but it's not a problem once you get used to it. A more major issue is that there is no display of the synopsis of the book on the main page, which, if you are looking for something to read, can be annoying. 

There is no standard e-book format, and therefore when considering which e-reader to buy you need to consider where you will purchase most of your books from. The market is still quite limited in the UK, and this means that buying books through the Amazon site is your best bet for compatibility. The Amazon site does have one of the widest selections of e-books in teh UK, so the ease of compatibility is a big plus for the device. A major downside of using the Amazon site is that you have to enable 1-click buying, which I do not link as it links your credit card to the device. I have concerns about buying too many books, as it you cannot add books to a basket before purchasing, and also worry about what should happen should little hands (or less honest big ones) get hold the device, however Amazon has a good reputation for refunding accidentally brought books if contacted within seven days. 

The Kindle will display .doc, .docx, PDF, HTML, .txt, .rtf, .jpeg, .gif, .png, .bmp, .prc and .mobi files, as long as they are unprotected (non-DRM). This does provide you with some options other than Amazon for acquiring e-books and many sites such as Smashwords, allow you to choose formats or sell books without DRM. 

The format of the Kindle means that the books currently available from e-libraries in the UK will not read on the Kindle, although library lending has been enabled in the US. This for me is a major disadvantage of the device and would make me consider another type of reader in the future. The Amazon lending scheme is also unavailable in the UK, preventing you from lending and borrowing books from other Kindle users. Again, this may change in the future. 

Price wise, many books on Amazon are cheaper than their paper counterparts, with a large proportion of books under £5, although some books, particularly those from the larger publishers, are more expensive than their paperbook equivalents, and as a potential buyer, you need to look into your popular authors/genres and compare prices if this is important for you. Amazon does provide a list of free books and there are many 'give-away' sites where you can obtain a free copy of a book, often in exchange for a review on Amazon. It is important to note that not all books are available in e-book form, and there are geo-restrictions on some books, meaning that you cannot buy the electronic version in the UK. Again this is something you need to consider, particularly if you have a limited number of authors you read. Overall the restriction on formats and the pricing is an issue I don't see improving as Amazon and the publishers have a captive market.

The Wi-Fi is easy to set up and is useful for buying and downloading books, as well as downloading firmware updates. I personally like the 3G, as it there is nothing to pay, and you can use it to access the internet aboard. If your area does not have 3G (coverage can be checked on Amazon's website) you can often still connect using the slower GPRS connection, which still allows you to download a book in under a minute. If you use 3G or Wi-Fi you can sych your books between devices, using the free Kindle reading apps, so for example, you can read a chapter on your Kindle, then carry on reading from that point on your Andorid phone. The web-browser is simplistic and the poor navigation due to the five-way direction controller, is a pain for anything more than checking e-mails and accessing Amazon.

Battery wise, I can get about two and a half weeks with heavy use and Wi-Fi off. This is less than the 30 days Amazon promotes, however it is better than my phone and laptop and is more than enough for my needs. Others have reported longer use, and it heavily depends on usage and the number of new books you add (indexing uses up battery). With Wi-Fi on the battery drains quickly so I'd recommend turning it off when not in use. 

The Kindle can display illustrations and due to its 'newness' can entice children into reading. However due to the monochrome screen and the small display size, I would suggest that the Kindle be saved for children who are beginning to free read, and so are less reliant on pictures/colour. 

Key Points

- Light and easy to hold
- Great display and contrast
- In-expensive
- Large e-book store
- Speech to text function

Overall a fantastic device, with some limitations and is format restricted. Good for mainstream readers and those who do not want a multi-function device.

The Kindle is available from Amazon UK in either the Wi-Fi + 3G version or the Wi-Fi only version.

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