It’s been four weeks since I’ve received my Kindle 3 WiFi, since receiving it I’ve read over 10 books and a couple of short stories on it so I think it’s time for a review. The Kindle isn’t my first ereader, a year and a half ago I got a Sony Touch PRS600. Although it was still working fine there were some reasons I decided to upgrade.
The main reason why I wanted to upgrade was the new screen. Both the new Kindles and the new Sony models use the new Pearl screen which is much clearer than the previous generation screens. The PRS600 had a touch screen which was an extra layer on top of the eInk screen, this meant the screen was also more reflective and less clear than readers with the same screen without the touch screen layer on top of it. The casing PRS600 wasn’t completely closed which meant that on my reader several annoying dust particles had managed to get stuck between the eInk and touch screen layer, which was very annoying. Sony’s current models do not use the extra touch screen layer so it should be the same as the Kindle, later I will explain why I chose Kindle over Sony.
I really love the new Pearl screen, the background is a little whiter, the letters seem to be a bit darker and the screen has a matte finish which doesn’t reflect a lot of light. On the Kindle you also have the choice of 3 fonts: regular (serif), condensed (serif) or sans serif; small, medium or large line spacing; fewer, fewest or default words per line; and 8 font sizes. There is also a hidden menu where you can set if you would like to have the lines left or fully justified. I especially like the choice of fonts and after some experimenting I found that I prefer the condensed font.
Ease of use
One of the reasons why I hesitated to buy a Kindle 3 was the lack of touch screen. On my Sony I regularly looked up words in the dictionary by double tapping on a word. I was also used to navigate using the touch screen. I doubted having to use buttons to navigate and use the dictionary was practical. Luckily, the Dixons at the airport had a Kindle on display, after playing with it for a while I saw that despite it not having a touch screen the navigation and looking up words is very easy. To look up a word you scroll to it using the 5 way navigation button, when you get to the word the first 2 lines of the dictionary definition pop up at the bottom or top of the screen, if you want to read the full entry just click on the enter button, to go back to the book press the “back” button. I also love it that you can use the dictionary as a stand alone, from the menu you can open it and search for a word, which wasn’t possible with the PRS600, although I think it is possible with later models. The Kindle comes with 2 dictionaries, and English and an American. If I remember correctly you can also buy other dictionaries if you want to.
Buying books is both easier and harder for the Kindle. Most ereaders use the ePub format, books in this format are widely available in online stores. The Kindle uses the Mobi format with their own type of DRM (actually, they have two types of DRM), there are stores that sell Mobi books but if they are DRM protected (like BooksOnBoard) you have to register your Kindle with them. If the books aren’t DRM protected (Smashwords) than you can just download them and transfer them to your Kindle when connecting it to your PC with a USB cord. Buying from Amazon is very easy and you have two choices how to shop. You can do it on your computer, you find the book you want and click to buy it and send it directly to your Kindle, you only have to switch on the WiFi or 3G on your Kindle and it automatically downloads the book. You can also shop directly from your Kindle, but you have to keep in mind that having WiFi or 3G switched on and surfing the store (many page refreshes) drains you battery. Amazon also stores the books you bought from them, so if you have deleted them from your reader but want them again you can easily download them.
My biggest problem was what to do with books I’ve already bought, they are all ePubs and the Kindle can’t read that format. Non-DRM protected books can be converted to Mobi format using a program such as Calibre. DRM protected book, however, can’t be converted. This doesn’t mean you cannot read them on your Kindle, there are ways to “liberate” your books from DRM, both ePubs and Mobis. If you like to back up your Amazon bought ebooks on your computer you might want to consider liberating them. Many people who had a Kindle 2 ran into the problem that they couldn’t just upload their ebooks from their computer to their Kindle 3 because the ID changed, they had to download them one by one (Amazon doesn’t offer a bulk download option).
I really like how easy it is download books from Amazon, it might be a bit too easy. In the past weeks I’ve bought several free or cheap books, it’s just one click and it’s on your reader. You have to keep in mind, though, that some books might be cheaper somewhere else. A couple of days ago I discovered that two writers I like, Joseph Nassise and William Meikle, also offer several of their books on Smashwords for less than on Amazon.
Another thing I like about the Kindle is the option to sort my ebooks into “collections” (Sony ereaders also have this option). I make collections per genre and for book series, you can put a book into multiple collections. You can do this directly on your Kindle and it’s very easy (you have to have registered you Kindle with Amazon and connected your Kindle via WiFi or 3G with them before this option becomes available). There is also a plug-in available for Calibre, but each time you add or delete a new collection you have to reboot your Kindle, if, like me, you only put a couple of books per transfer on your reader it’s quicker to do it manually on you Kindle.
The Kindle 3 also has some experimental options. You can surf the internet, which is rather slow and a drain on the battery, there are apps available (only for those in the US currently) and you can connect to Facebook. This last option is also shown at the end of each book, you can upload a message to Facebook telling people you have finished a book and tell what you think of it.
Another major reason for getting the Kindle is because of battery life. Every once in a while the Sony just lost it’s charge overnight, usually the day after I charged it. It didn’t happen often, every 6-8 weeks, but after going on holiday and worrying about not being able to read during the trip to or on the way back from my destination made me think of getting another reader.
On average I charged my Sony once a week, according to the battery meter the battery was usually half full. I can’t really say much about the battery life of the Kindle yet because I hook it up to my computer several times a week and it charges that way too. According to Amazon the Kindle, with WiFi and 3G off, can last up to a month with an average use of 1 hour a day, so 30 hours. I usually read more than one hour a day (on average 3+ hours I would guess) but I usually have WiFi off, unless I want to download a book. I think it might drain a bit faster than my Sony but I don’t mind that since the Kindle is more reliable (plus I can charge it with my PowerMonkey, my PRS couldn’t be charged with it).
I decided to buy a wall charger with my Kindle (although can probably also be charged with the universal USB charger I already have). It’s faster than charging it via the computer and you can charge it whenever I want, you cannot charge the Kindle when the computer is off and it can actually drain the battery when the computer goes into sleep mode.
One thing to keep in mind when putting a lot of books on your Kindle 3 is that each book needs to be indexed (for easy searching). When you put a couple of hundred books on your Kindle in one go this might take a while and it’s a good idea to plug it in to a charger since indexing is a big drain on the battery. Sometimes a book can get stuck indexing, you usually notice this when the battery drains fast. To find the culprit go to the home screen, open the search screen and put in a nonsense word like “aghoie”, it will tell you that it didn’t find it but that some books aren’t indexed yet, you can look at which books aren’t indexed, delete those and reupload them to your reader (if the problem persists reformat the books in Calibre)
The reason why I decided to go for the Kindle instead of buying another Sony was mainly because of Sony’s customer service, or lack thereof. Their idea of fixing a problem with current models is make a new model, instead of updating the firmware of the current models. For instance, my reader had couldn’t have both borrowed PDF and ePub on it together, they solved this with the next generations readers whilst this, to me, seems to be a problem that could have been solved with a firmware upgrade.
Amazon‘s service record is amazing (according to online forums). If you have a problem within the warranty period they usually exchange the Kindle, there are even reports of people breaking the screen of their Kindle by dropping it and Amazon still exchanges it without costs. Sometimes to exchange reader that are out of warranty. Of course, one could be cynical and say that Amazon looks at their readers like they’re printers: they sell the machine (Kindle/printer) cheap and have no problem exchanging it when their is a problem, effectively losing money on it, but they make that up by making money on the supplies (ebooks/cartridges). However, nobody forces you to buy that $15 book. I can usually find something to read for a couple of dollars. If not there are always freebies available and of course the public domain books (both on Amazon and other sites such as Gutenberg). Of course I still buy the new Stephing King book for (probably) around $15, but all in all ereading has turned out to be much cheaper for me than reading dead-tree-books.
There are only four points of critique.
First, the charging indicator light. It’s on the bottom on the Kindle and much brighter than the one on my Sony (not visible when on my night stand). I usually charge my reader overnight, the amber light indicating it is charging is okay but the green light indicating it is charged actually woke me up the first time I charged it overnight.
My second complaint is that on both the Amazon website and on my Kindle the price of the items on my wishlist aren’t listed. You always have to click on the item to see the price. I use gift cards to buy on Amazon (then I don’t have to pay currency conversion charges for each ebook I buy) so I have a limited budget, seeing the prices of the ebooks on my wishlist makes it easier to pick a book depending on my current budget. I’ve emailed this to the customer service and they would send it on to another department, so maybe, one day, the prices are listed.
Third, when surfing on Amazon looking for ebooks I occasionally see an ebook listed for a certain price and when I click on the book to read the review and the synopsis the price listed is different. This often happens with books listed as on sale on the front page, the sale doesn’t apply to the Netherlands. This can be very frustrating when you see a book you like listed as $1.99 and when you click you see you have to pay $5.65.
Finally, I wish that it would be easier to get a Kindle. In the US and the UK it’s available in various brick-and-mortar stores. It is also available on many local Amazon website (UK, Germany, etc). For people not living in one of those countries they have to order from the US. The price listed on the US website doesn’t include shipping, VAT and import duties (the latter is included in the final price so you don’t have to worry about receiving a bill weeks later). I knew this so I wasn’t caught out, but it would have been cheaper if I had bought it in the UK when I was there on holiday. However, Amazon ships very fast. I ordered mine on Friday and received on Monday morning before 9am!
I really love my Kindle: the screen is easy to read, there’s hardly any glare, the battery life is good and it’s easy to get books. I chose the WiFi only model because I am usually in a place I can connect to WiFi, if not then I always make sure I have enough books to choose from when I finish an ebook. There are some points that can be improved, mostly to do with the Amazon website.
I would give the Kindle 3 WiFi 9/10.