Well, I did it. After waiting about four years, and musing about it earlier this month, in the middle of last week I ordered a Kindle 3. I opted for the Wi-Fi, because I didn’t (and still don’t) feel the need for a 3g device.
It arrived a week ago, Friday, and I’ve been enjoying it since then. Though it’s barely been more than a week, I don’t think it’s too early for me to say I’m completely happy with my purchase. And after a recent trip to Borders, I was even more certain that I made the right decision.
The price of the Kindle 3 was right enough that I decided to the lighted cover that goes with it.
I got the cover for a couple of reasons. First, when I make a new tech purchase like this, I want to protect it immediately. So, I wanted a cover from day one. Second, I do a lot of reading in bed, just before going off to sleep. Thus, I’m always in need of a book light.
I have an LED book light sitting on my nightstand. It was the last in a series of book lights I’ve bought, because it doesn’t require buying numerous batteries. It’s rechargeable, so I simply pop it back into its charging stand before I go to sleep. The lighted Kindle cover kind of reminds me of that book light, because I don’t have to get a separate light for the Kindle, or buy batteries for it, etc.
I’m sure that if I’m doing extended nighttime reading on the Kindle, I’ll want to have it plugged in lest the light drain the battery. Now, Amazon says in its advertising for the Kindle 3 that “a single charge lasts up to a month with wireless off.” My guess is that’s with the light off, too. Not that it matters. I pretty much plug it in to an outlet or my computer when I’m not reading it.
Not having owned any of the previous versions of the Kindle, I can’t really compare it to its predecessors. Mobile Tech Review has a good comparison posted.
I’ve seen a few of the older models, and examined those owned by friends of mine, but I can’t say how much better the Kindle 3 is than the previous models. (Friends who own previous models, however, tell me they have purchased the Kindle 3, loved it, and passed their older ones on to family members, etc.)
Reading On the Kindle
That said, my experience with the Kindle has been great. The reading experience is, as advertised, very similar to reading on paper. Amazon says the screen contrast is 50% better and text crisper than before. (You can see a comparison at A Kindle World.) For my part, the screen contrast is very good and very easy on the eyes. The text is clear and easy to read, even at the largest font size.
I did have to get used to the fact that the Kindle is not back lit, and a couple of times I looked for a way to adjust the contrast while reading an ebook. (Then I remembered the light!). As far as I know, the contrast can’t be adjusted for regular ebooks. But the Kindle 3 does offer the option of adjusting contrast for PDFs.
Page turning is pretty fast. I’ve only compared this feature on a few other models and the Kindle won this contest hands down.
Reading PDFs on the kindle
I’ve had a chance to test the Kindles highlighting and annotation functions, and both work well for me. The Keyboard took some getting used to, but in the end I use it much like the touchscreen keyboard on the iPhone. The Kindle keyboard is somewhat easier to use in that regard, and I find myself tapping the wrong key less often than on the keyboard.
Navigating around with the Kindle 3’s 5-way controller is very easy and intuitive. If you’ve used a cell phone, chances are you’ll have no trouble figuring it out. This, I understand, is a big change from previous Kindles, which used some kind of mini joystick for navigation.
(BTW, I initially missed having a touchscreen, but now I think that not everything needs to be touch screen. Kindle seems to be keeping it simple in that department, and it works.)
That the highlights and notes are synched is a big plus. I write on a variety of computers, and it’s nice to have my notes with me everywhere that I work.
I opted for the WiFi verson over the 3g version, and haven’t regretted it. There have been a few moments when I’ve forgotten that my Kindle doesn’t have 3g, and tried to reach the Kindle store without being on a wireless network. No biggie. I either connected to an available network (which the Kindle remembered thereafter) or waited until I got to a WiFi network.
Once connected to a network buying a book from the Kindle store is easy.
Many people have expressed concern that the Kindle requires one to be “locked-in” to
Amazon as the only place to get books. However, that’s not exactly so. Kindle accepts a number of document and image formats — Word, PDF, HTML, TXT, RTF, JPG, GIF, BMP, etc. It also reads unprotected ebooks in mobipocket format. (In 2005, Amazon acquired Mobipocket, the formerly French-owned company that produced the Mobipocket reader.)
Thus, I’ve been able to download books from sites like the Gutenberg Project, ManyBooks.net, Feedbooks, SmashBooks and other sites, and load them on my Kindle by dragging it to the documents folder on the device, or by emailing them to my Kindle address to be processed by Amazon and loaded on my Kindle at the next synch.
If I had to guess, I would say that in the future a lot more ebook sites may well start offering books in mobi format, in order to access the market of Kindle users. Either way, I think that the number of options for buying ebooks for Kindle will continue to grow.
I’ve also made use of Calibre, a free and open source ebook managment app, for getting books on the Kindle. It’s also handy for converting documents to a number of ebook formats. eCub is another option, but I haven’t tried it out yet. Likewise, Jutoh.
But that’s not the only way I’ve been able to get books for the Kindle.
Browsing For Books
The webkit browser on the Kindle 3 is labeled “experimental.” My guess that Kindle plans more development on this, but doesn’t want to get anybody’s hopes up. It take a bit of getting used to, but it’s usable for reading news, etc., and Kindle’s “article mode” for reading articles makes it a bit easier.
But I’ve also bookmarked the sites above, and have been able to download books directly from them using the browser on the Kindle 3. Very nice.
About five days after getting the Kindle, I walked into a Borders near my office, and had an opportunity to briefly compare the readers they had on display to the Kindle I tucked under my arm. I had already tried the Sony Touch and Sony Pocket readers on an earlier visit to Borders, and very nearly bought one, but decided to wait. I’m glad I did. I wasn’t that impressed with the navigation, the slow page turning, etc. Plus, I’d have paid more for either of the Sony Readers than I finally paid for the Kindle.
Borders had a few other readers on hand. I was most curious about the Kobo reader.
Admittedly, I was intrigued by the quilted back, but that wasn’t enough to convince me. While the Kobo is probably the simplest to use and among the easiest ereaders to learn, it wasn’t as feature-rich — I thought — as the Kindle was out of the box. But I’d recommend it over the Aluratek Libre, though the Aluratek is cheaper, because the Kobo reader offers a better reader experience.
The Velocity Micro Cruz table and reader left me underwhelmed. Both seemed to want to be an iPad, but both left me wanting an iPad instead. I’m pretty sure if I bought one I’d end up wishing it was an iPad.
I walked out of Borders without an ounce of buyer’s remorse, even happier with the choice I’d made than when I’d wandered in. Right now, I expect that I’ll get a lot of use out of the Kindle 3. In fact, I already am. It’s the one piece of technology that’s almost always with me — along with the iPhone. After all, I always have a book with me, to take advantage of reading time while commuting, riding an escalator, or waiting in line, etc.
In fact, I got a clue as to how much I’ve been using it when Parker asked "Why do you carry that everywhere with you?" I explained to him that it was a way of reading books, which he understood because he knows that I always have a book with me.
Well, now I can have a lot more books with me. I can have my entire to-read stack with me. And that’s a very good thing.