Kindling…. e-book readers

Friday, January 14, 2011 at 10:01:32

In addition to the new Droid phone, a Kindle was sat waiting in my stocking at Christmas. I’ve kept half an eye on the ebook reader market since it started up, but not being an avid reader of novels it has interested me less. In particular the relatively high cost, lack of PDF support and lack of colour have been drawbacks. With the 3rd generation Kindle the price (111) is low enough not to feel ripped off!! OK, its still not colour (although there are colour readers available elsewhere) but you cant complain for the money and its not a deal breaker for my uses. There are actually 3 versions of the Kindle available: wifi, wifi/3G and DX. The DX is slightly more unusual in that it is designed for businesses and is able to render an A4/LTR page at 100% resolution. Its only available in the US and $379. So you need a good reason to buy it. The 3G version utilises the Amazon paid-for Whispernet to deliver content on the move. This didn’t worry me at all, and indeed the ability to use 3’s Mifi or the tethering capability built in to Android 2.2 (or through Barnacle wifi tether) means its easier enough to connect. So 111 for the standard version is a bargain.

Out of the box it is surprisingly pleasant to hold and, without hesitation, the screen is superb. The e-ink technology used to display images draws no power once the image is displayed (hence the long battery life) and is very crisp and sharp. As someone used to reading from LCD panels, this was a fantastic change. For that reason alone, it is well worth doing any e-reading on the device. It uses a micro-USB port for connection/charging and comes with a cable as standard. There is no case supplied and given that the screen is the most delicate part it is well worth ordering one at the same time.

Connection to a PC is straightforward and you can just drag-and-drop files on to the Kindle drive, including Kindle files, MOBI, PDF and MP3s. Yes, the Kindle supports playing MP3s, in part because it has a text-to-speech engine for reading text. PDF support I am led believe is not complete but given the wide specification of the format thats not surprising. I’ve thrown a variety of fairly standard documents at it without problem. Reading 12pt in A4 is really pushing it… until you realise you can rotate the page to landscape. Its OK but thats really why the DX came out

The networking capabilities are well handled. Connecting to a hotspot is easy enough and there is a web browser included. Given the limitations of the screen (its not meant for dynamic content) it does a remarkably good job. OK you’re not even going to come close to mimicking the experience on an iPad but given the size, weight and capabilities it is good. And given it has a physical keyboard you can do things like add notes and look up words in the dictionary.

Kindle is more than an ebook reader, but a brand. You can install Kindle reading applications across multiple devices, including Kindles, PCs, Android/Apple phones. And Amazon can synchronise both the content and metadata. That’s to say book notes and position in the book are stored so if you start reading on one device, you can carry on in exactly the same spot on another device. Not sure how useful that is in practice though! Amazon uses wifi/Whispernet to deliver books; Kindle Store integration is excellent and buying books and receiving them easy. If you have a document you want converted all you have to do is email it to your Kindle account and it will be converted and delivered to your device. A useful facility.

Managing collections of files I found less easy. I would like to be able to create directory structure on the Kindle the groups files in to collections. This doesn’t happen and relies upon you tagging files in to collections individually (as far as I can see). Not very practical if you want to put 30 files on to the device. I hope this is one area where they can be a little more proactive.

So that’s it for a short round-up. Excellent device that, by its third generation, is well conceived and rounded. Next post on some further experiences in use.

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