When the Kindle was first released, I thought it was a great idea. I am one that likes to read. The problem is I like to read multiple books at a time and carrying 4 or 5 books around was always a challenge. In addition, the space books have taken in my house is insane. I have boxes of them and while I know my library would love to have them, some I have yet to complete and others are reference books. I saw the Kindle as a savior to relieving these issues, but at the $250 intial price tag, it seemed a bit steep.
The device sat on my Christmas and Birthday list over time and I never received one. It wasn’t that no one wanted to get it for me. The device just wasn’t “sexy” enough for me to want to push the issue. It is a pretty simplistic device and nothing “gadgety” really stood out that made me absolutely want it.
When the iPad was released this year, my first thought was this was bad news for the Kindle. How could it possibly compete with the beauty of the iPad screen and the fact that you could even get a Kindle application for the iPad itself? The price points could definitely be an issue for the iPad, with the most expensive iPad over $800 and the cheapest Kindle at the time still in the $200 range. Of course, if you were looking for a large screen and only e-reading ability, the price point between the Kindle DX (larger Kindle) and iPad low-end unit was under $50! So I thought to myself, this could be the beginning of the end for the Kindle and took the device off my wish list.
Slickdeals.net is one of the greatest deal sites out there in my opinion. I have saved (and lost from purchasing more than I really need!) a lot of money from using the site. It was two weeks ago when they posted the Kindle (older U.S. only edition) for $110, refurbished. It took me awhile to ponder whether it was worth buying now or just waiting for the point in time when I purchased an iPad. After watching the device go in and out of stock, and reading the reviews on the refurbished devices (which many seem to believe were brand new – just the older version), I decided to take the plunge. For $110, it was worth checking it out.
Now I am a gadget freak. I love the latest and greatest, but at the same time, I am trying to become a little more pragmatic with my choices. I own and Sony PSP and a Nintendo DS, and I will be the first to admit, I don’t need them both (these days, it seems I need neither). So when I started to use the Kindle, I was amazed that such a “non-sexy” gadget, could grab my attention so well. The Kindle does what many other devices miss the mark on – it does what it is suppose to – very well. The Kindle was not created to compete with a device like the iPad (although some would believe the iPad set out to compete with the Kindle). The Kindle is simply an e-reader that mimics reading a real book – that’s it – nothing fancy. I have to say, after using it a few weeks, I love it, and would even consider continuing its use, after I obtain my iPad.
There are a few different versions of the Kindle (6 inch screen) and Kindle DX (9.7 inch screen):
The first generation Kindle, which is no longer sold by Amazon;
Two versions of the newer 2nd Generation Kindle – a US only and a US/International. The “US only” means you can only get internet service (book store included) in the US. The “US/International” supports internet both in the US and overseas.
There is also the Kindle DX, which has a larger 9.7 inch screen. The Kindle DX supports both US and international. The new 2nd generation Kindle DX has also just been released with better screen resolution.
(Note that AT&T provides the US/International service, while Sprint provides the US only service).
The Kindle that I purchased is the 6 inch 2nd Generation US only version.
Here is what I discovered:
- Easy on the eyes
- Convenience of the Amazon Store
- Battery life
- Size (for the smaller one)
- Flexibility with reading other documents
- Syncs all your devices and everything is backed up
- Text to Voice
- Outside of an e-reader, other areas are sub par
- No internal light
- Subscriptions can be expensive – free content is not free
- Cost money to read other docs
Let’s look at the Pros first. The number one advantage to the Kindle and perhaps the main reason I wanted to get one was the ease on the eyes. I am constantly in front of an LCD screen, whether it be my work PC, my Blackberry, a PC at home or my TV. My eyes can only take so much before I feel the strain, and the Kindle offers relief. The Kindle screen uses a technology called e-ink, where the words look to be floating on top of the screen and mimic a book. The screen is also pretty sharp, so despite only being in grayscale, the illustrations look pretty good. Unlike an LCD screen, this type of reading format is much easier on the eyes and adds other benefits, like less power consumption.
The Kindle is very user friendly. There are few bells and whistles to the Kindle and navigation and control is very easy. There are buttons to navigate on both sides of the device and a pretty decent keyboard on the bottom. Since I already had a Kindle account, the device was even already configured to my account and ready to go once I opened the box!
Having a book store with you 24/7 is a huge plus. Just knowing if I want a new book that I can purchase it immediately, eases my mind about going shopping or buying a book when I really don’t need it at that specific time. Amazon provides free internet access to the bookstore via Sprint or AT&T (depending on which Kindle you own – you don’t need to sign up or do anything with either provider), where you can sample or purchase material, all downloadable within minutes (usually under a minute). There is also a lot of free material in the Amazon store that you can download, including classics and books of the month.
Since the Kindle does not use LCD technology the battery life is amazing. The device can go about a week with the wireless turned on and up to two weeks with the wireless off. That is quite a long time for any device!
The Kindle size is a perfect fit. The six inch version that I own fits snug in my cargo shorts pocket. Anywhere I go I can take the device with little effort. Even the larger DX version is no worse than carrying around a day planner. Much better than carrying most books around!
The Kindle not only can display the content from the Amazon store, but has the ability to read word documents, pdfs and other text based files. Pdfs can be placed directly on the device using a PC connection, while the other documents have to be e-mailed to your Kindle e-mail (you get one of these once you setup a Kindle account) for reformatting.
If you read your material on different devices (i.e. Mobile phone or PC), one of the great features built into Amazon’s process is a sync up to the last spot you read in your material. So if you read up to Page 16 of your book on the PC and then hop onto your Kindle, the Kindle will startup at Page 16. In addition, all your material is archived at Amazon (that you purchase with them), so you can always get it back, if you lose or delete the information from a device.
The Kindle has the ability to read to you. The purchased material has to have this feature turned on and the voice is robotic, but it is not bad if you want to give your eyes a rest or are in a dark place. The Kindle also has the ability to play music or other audio files.
The Kindle is not without some disadvantages. They include:
It’s an e-reader – that’s it. If you cannot get passed this fact, then the Kindle might not be for you. It has some “Experimental” features, which are decent given the expectations, but they certainly don’t compete with other devices. The Kindle has a web browser, and it does the trick if you need quick access to G-mail, or a mobile site. Given the internet service is free; this could be a huge advantage to some people. If you already own a smartphone or phone with a web browser though, you will likely find those devices better. The text to voice is an advantage, but at the same time many of the books do not have this feature turned on, so it is still developing. Remember, the Kindle is great at e-reading, but if you are looking for other features that you might find on a device like the iPad, you are barking up the wrong tree.
The Kindle does not have a backlight. This can actually be considered a good thing, given it would hurt the battery life, and all you really need to do is purchase a separate pocket light. Still, it’s inconvenient when it’s dark, so it would be a nice option.
Subscriptions to newspapers on the Kindle can range from about $10 – $20 a month. Given you can read much of this content via the web on the paper’s websites, this can be pricey. The same goes for the blogs you can sign up for access on the Kindle (which are about $2 a month). Even so, if you’re looking for the convenience, it might be worth it, but for this type of material, I prefer the old fashion way of reading online via a PC or my mobile phone. All the subscriptions come with a 14 day free trial, so I do recommend trying one out to see if it is something for you. I ordered the Newsday paper (local LI newspaper), and did enjoy having it delivered each morning instantly, but again, the price was not right.
Any of the content (like word documents) that need to be converted to Kindle format, costs .15 cents per megabyte. While .pdfs can be placed on the Kindle directly from a PC without any cost, I was not able to do this with my word documents. If you have a lot of documents you want to carry around this can become costly.
Overall, I am really impressed with the Kindle. It provides what I want it to do, which is allowing me to read multiple books at my leisure, with the convenience of mobility and ease on my eyes. Given that Amazon has also been dropping the price of the older Kindle devices; the pricing is very attractive under the $200 range. If you are looking for more than just an e-reader, and ease on the eyes is not a major concern, I would then recommend something like the iPad or just using a free Kindle application on your mobile phone.
Some of the questions I have heard around the Kindle have been provided below with my answers.
Why the Kindle over the iPad?
As stated above – the Kindle is an excellent e-reader and if reading books in a digital format that best represents the way a physical book is read, is what you desire, than I believe this is the device for you.
The Kindle has also been around for a while and all the initial issues that come with first generation seem to be worked out.
Should I get an iPad instead?
If you want to be able to do other things on the go (like watch movies, play games etc) and e-reading is just one of them, then you would want to check out the iPad. Eye strain and price are also factors to consider.
In addition, beware first generation products – not saying the iPad is a bad device (I will likely have one sooner than later), but there will be newer generations to come – this is almost certain (although not guaranteed).
Why does Amazon provide other devices use when that could cannibalize Kindle sales?
Amazon makes its money off the material it sells in the Amazon Kindle Store. The Kindle is only one avenue for getting users to buy the material. By offering the Kindle applications on other devices, Amazon is actually trying to cannibalize those device’s offerings (for example, Apple’s E-book store). Before I even owned my Kindle, I had already bought 2 books from the store and was reading them on my Blackberry. Think of the Kindle as a cell phone, and the books are the services that are then later used on the phones. The wireless providers make their revenue from the services they provide, not the phones.
What devices is the Kindle application available for use?
The devices so far are the iPhone/iPad, Blackberry, and Android
What about the other e-readers?
Yes, Barnes and Nobles has the Nook, and while I was actually impressed with some of the features (especially in store features), it is the first generation and there are already some issues being reported. I suspect B&N will give Amazon a good run for its money, but I am confident Amazon will still fare well given the time it’s been in this space.
Borders has the Kobo and while it is one of the cheapest on the market, it does not offer the free internet and just doesn’t strike me as anything special.
Sony has a very good e-reader that is compatible with many different formats, but from what I have read it is not as user friendly (need to know how to upload etc) and there is no internet connection.
In all fairness, I have not played with these devices and am only making generalities from what I know and read on the web. I feel like there will eventually be some merging with someone like Borders making a deal with Amazon, hence having three or four major players in the e-reader business. Again – just gut feelings I have looking at the playing field. Nothing known or read for sure. Only time will tell…
Conclusion – Highly Recommend
Practicality Score – 4.0 / 5.0
Practical use – E-Reader
Target Market – people who like to read and want a simple e-reader; desire to have instant access to over 500,000 titles; not looking for other features such as games, movies, planner etc.
Alternative devices/Competition – Nook, Kobo, Sony e-readers, iPad