I’ve got an Amazon Kindle 3G, now known as the Kindle Keyboard 3G, purchased in August 2011. I held out on buying a Kindle for a long time, because I was something of a book purist (I believed books should have pages you could turn and have that ‘book smell’). But my fascination with tech eventually got the better of me (along with the fact that I was going to be travelling and really wanted something to help pass the time) and I picked one up. I’m pretty happy that I did so and this post is going to sum up why.
Apart from the whole ‘physical book’ thing I was also pretty skeptical of how text would show up on an electronic screen. Most screens are pretty terrible to look at when your outdoors, and reading a screen when, say on the bus (where you’d have variable sunlight what with building shadows and all), didn’t strike me as a good thing.
Amazon’s Kindle deals with that issue very efficiently with their E-Ink Pearl technology, lack of backlight and non reflective screen. The result is a screen that actually reads like paper and does not have the reflective issues that plague conventional screens. I have the Kindle Android app on my phone, but don’t really use it that much because of the pain it can be to read on its screen, especially when out and about. I don’t like using stuff when it’s plugged in so I pretty much only use the phone app when the Kindle is charging.
The E-Ink tech uses very little power because there is no backlight on the Kindle’s 6″ display. Just like a regular book, you will have to have decent lighting to be able to read. You can play around with the font size and a couple of options of that ilk, but otherwise it functions just like an actual page. This is because E-Ink tech only uses power to put the text on the screen, leaving the text on it indefinitely, and there is no backlight or any kind of illumination involved. You could probably get away with thinking of it as a sort of electronic tattoo that the Kindle manipulates. The end product is clear, easily readable text that doesn’t give you any eye strain (provided you’ve got the font set to something you’re comfortable with). This allows the Kindle to display its killer standby screens, which differ each time it sleeps, and are simply awesome to look at. When I took my Kindle out of the box, there were instructions on the screen to charge it and stuff, which I honestly thought was a removable screen protector but was actually the screensaver. When you take a break from reading, the Kindle remembers your page, so forget about bookmarks. If connectivity is enabled, the Kindle will sync where you stopped reading to other devices so you can continue reading your book on the PC without having to search for where you left off.
No backlight also means that there is no battery power used to light the text, which greatly increases the battery life. Taking 4.5 hours to fully charge, the battery life on the Amazon Kindle is simply brilliant. With the connectivity turned on, it can last upto ten days depending on usage, which is pretty decent when I compare it to my cellphone that needs to be charged on a daily basis. But when you turn connectivity off, that’s when the Kindle really shines. Without the Wifi/3G on, a normal charge can last upto a whopping two months. For a 1750mAh battery, thats pretty awesome. Of course usage can be a major factor, but for me, anything over a week is stellar in my book (no pun intended).
As mentioned earlier, I bought my Kindle before I had to do some travelling, and this was mainly why I bought the 3G version. It has turned out to be very useful for me. The basic Kindle Keyboard is exactly the same, with Wifi connectivity alone. The 3G has both Wifi and 3G connectivity. The 3G side of things comes courtesy of a sim card inside the Kindle that connects to a mobile network provider and then to Amazon’s Whispernet network. I believe the sim card in my product is from Vodafone.
The magic of the 3G version is that there are no extra costs once you buy the Kindle. You pay for the content of course, but the actual network connection is provided and paid for by Amazon. What’s more, you get 3G connectivity in over 100 countries. That’s right, Amazon deals with the whole ‘roaming’ issue that you’d get when taking a phone abroad, and lets you download your content whenever you want it, wherever you want it, with no roaming fees. Furthermore, with the experimental browser on the Kindle, I’m able to do some basic web surfing as well, such as checking my mail, news, and social media. Video and audio content is out of the question but that’s not what I bought it for. It’s been very handy for me when I was stuck without the internet a few times and wanted to check my mail.
I’m really happy with the actual weight of the Kindle. It’s lighter than a paperback and with the cover I got for it, just about the same. The cover by itself is pretty cool too. I bought a leather cover that came with a light built into it (no sense in leaving the Kindle all vulnerable to the world). This is an official product, not third party. The best part about this cover is that it has no batteries at all, not even rechargables. The Kindle has two little holes on the left side that the cover slots into with metal clamps, and the light is powered by the Kindle’s battery itself. The actual light extends out of the cover and retracts away nicely when not in use, and the cover is quite sturdy. I think whoever designed the cover and it’s compatibility with the Kindle is a veritable genius. Because of this though, I don’t think my product’s battery will last two months. Not that I’m complaining.
Software wise the Kindle works well. I’ve heard of a small number of people having issues with their Kindle’s freezing a lot but I haven’t had that problem. While reading, you have the option to highlight, annotate and make notes on what you’re reading, as well as instantly look words up via the dictionary. It also has a ‘read aloud’ function that reads books out loud, provided the content publisher has enabled the function, as well as reads out what menu options are being highlighted. The Kindle has about 4GB of memory on it, about 3 is accessible to the user, and can reportedly store upto 3500 books. Even if you do manage to fill up the Kindle, you can delete your e-books off it and download them later as they’re always on the Amazon cloud. It also reads PDFs and MP3s on it too, if you copy them over via USB, and has a social media function so you can post notes and stuff to Facebook and Twitter. Text content reads well and pages turn easy with the buttons on the side. There are two sets of ‘page turning’ buttons, one on the left and one on the right, so you switch pages with whichever hand you’re holding the Kindle with. That said, when you’re using a cover its virtually impossible to use the left buttons without bending the cover backwards (which to me feels unnatural).
A major gripe I have with the Kindle is the non inclusion of numbers on the keyboard. To type numbers you need to either use the symbol button and go from there (which is somewhat manageable), or hit the alt button before every number key press (which can be a nightmare when inputting passwords as you can’t see what you’re typing). There have also been quite a few times when the 3G connection simply refused to work and just sat idle, no matter how much I hit refresh. These instances were relatively shortlived, though to me they were an eternity.
The only things you’ll ever need when it comes to the Kindle are the Kindle itself and its charger. Though I would recommend one, a cover is not essential for a Kindle, and as it doesn’t actually need to be plugged into a computer there are no system requirements at all. The charger is basically a plug with a removable micro USB cable, which saves the need for a separate cable for PC connectivity. The USB cable is quite long as well, which I suspect was introduced so people could charge the Kindle and read at the same time. I personally don’t like doing that, as I don’t want the micro USB port on the Kindle to wear out (had to RMA my phone once because of this very reason).
All in all I’d say I’m very happy with my Kindle. It cost me £152 in August 2011 and its presently going for £149, so its value hasn’t really diminished with the release of the 4th generation of Kindles and the Kindle Fire. Interestingly, I paid £49.99 for the leather cover and its price is now £50.99. So, even after six months, my combined purchase has depreciated by just 2 quid. WIN! There are a couple of easter eggs as well. The classic Minesweeper game can be played as well as GoMoku (think Connect Four, just with five pieces) when you press Shift+Alt+M (for the former) and Shift+Alt+G (for the latter).
I totally recommend the Kindle. 3G or not, its a great device to keep up with your reading on. Though I was wary at first and only bought Kindle versions of books that I actually had (just in case I didn’t like reading on the Kindle), I happily buy books on my Kindle now without a second thought. A word of warning though, this is probably not the kind of thing that a non reader should buy. If you’re not the kind who likes reading, this device is not gonna magically change you unless you really want to read.
On that note, I’ll go now.
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