I finally got a Kindle for Christmas, a WiFi + 3G version. It’s my second try with a dedicated ebook reader, first one was Sony Reader Pocket Edition that I got back in Spring. But there was very little to get excited about it. I’ve read a book or two on it and then left it in the draw because I quite hated the experience. But Amazon didn’t disappoint me with Kindle.
Kindle build quality is excellent, feels like every aspect of the device has been thought through. But what really strikes about the Kindle, especially if you are holding it for the first time, is just how slim and lightweight it is. Front and back panels are made out of plastic, but it’s not a cheap one found in many gadgets. It has a nice and solid feel to it, back panel is slightly rubberised for better grip. Kindle doesn’t have a touch screen, but physical buttons work well enough. If something is working fine what’s a point changing it? In my opinion not everything has to have a touch screen and I really like the feel of Kindle’s buttons. They’ve got sort of rough texturised feel to them. Amazon placed a pair of large page flip buttons on both sides of the device right where your thumb falls when you are holding it. It makes flipping pages really easy and effortless.
The screen is a joy to look at! Text appears sharp and crisp, there is no glare. Contrast levels on the new screen are much closer to the real paper now, on Sony Reader that I had contrast was really poor, text looked washed out on the grey background. There is no such problem on Kindle. But most importantly screen refresh rate has been considerably improved compared to the previous generation of ebook readers. This means that it’s much faster now to flip the pages and the whole process is smoother and less annoying then before.
3G version of Kindle doesn’t come with just a 3G modem, it includes free Internet service in most countries of the world. When a few days ago I landed in Kiev and turned on my Kindle, it connected to the local EDGE network and I was able to use the Internet. You don’t need to change any settings or do anything, it just works! And doesn’t cost a penny! You can access any website over 3G in more then 60 countries, it’s a giant leap forward and sets a good example of how network connectivity should be executed in some devices. I think only this alone is worth of buying a Kindle.
Another feature of Kindle that I really like is newspaper subscriptions. It’s pretty cool, because thanks to the cell data service, fresh copy of newspaper will be delivered automatically to your device every morning. Subscriptions also come with 14-day trials so you can try before committing to paid subscription. I’ve signed for The Times and although I’ve never really liked newspapers, I actually found The Times quite a good read. Perhaps even worth paying £9.99 a month for it.
Text-to-Speech was quite a controversial feature added in last generation of Kindle. It upset a lot of publishers because they thought it would hurt sales of audio books. Amazon was pressured to allow selectively disable text-to-speech feature in books sold in Kindle Store. Only one thing that it did hurt is the customers, because text-to-speech is nothing like a recording done by professional voice actors. I wouldn’t listen to the whole book like this, it’s a rather useful feature that might come in handy. When last night I was reading a book on my Kindle and went to the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea, I enabled text-to-speech and carried on listening to the book. After I was done, I turned the feature off and started reading where it left off. I don’t see myself using it all the time, but it’s better with it then without. It’s just shame that some books in the Kindle Store have it turned off for no good reason.
Social network integration
Kindle includes basic support for Twitter and Facebook that lets you share your notes and short extracts from the content you are reading. One thing that I found lacking about it is that if you want share something, particularly an article from a newspaper, Amazon will add a link to your post on Facebook or Twitter, but it will lead not to online version of the article, but a page in Kindle Store to buy this newspaper or book for Kindle. So it’s pretty much useless if you want to send a link of whatever you are reading to someone else. It is good that Amazon included some basic sharing features, but there certainly is room for improvement.
Overall I’m extremely pleased with Kindle and already half way through my first book.