Mmm, sounds like an episode of a 70s tv drama, a criminal gang, or a group of friends wrongly convicted of arson by an overzealous judiciary. Of course, it is none of these things. It is instead the latest version of Amazon’s ebook reader. And a very fine specimen it is too.
Mine arrived about three weeks ago and I am very happy with it indeed. Although it features a couple of nice experimental features (e.g. an mp3 player and web browser) it is, purely and simply, an ebook reader. A very, very good ebook reader.
Of the two models available, I opted for the cheaper, Wi-Fi only variety and was delighted to find that, true to the blurb, I was able to get a book in 60 seconds – 61 Hours by Lee Child to be precise. Aside from an objection to spending an extra 40 quid, I just couldn’t see the point (or perhaps I could clearly see the risk) in having access to an (almost) always available 3G connection that would supply me with a book in 60 seconds or less.
Anyhow, I plugged my new toy in to charge (it does come pre-charged but it’s always best to give new gadgets a bit of a boost) and turned it on. There was a longish pause whilst it went through it’s initial set-up phase after which I was presented with the obligatory how-to guide. I promptly closed that and got on with the business of connecting it to my wireless hub (a snap! it found the hub asked for a password and connected with ease) and getting things ready for the arrival of my first paid for ebook. Firing up ye olde PCe, I hopped over to Amazon, paid my pennies, chose the “deliver to my kindle” option and moments later there it was, a copy of the 14th Jack Reacher novel waiting on the Kindle’s home page. Whew! So far, so good, so fast.
So what about the business of reading an ebook on the Kindle 3? Well, it does take a bit of getting used to. The Kindle is very slim, does indeed weigh less than a paperback and sits quite comfortably in one hand but, when holding it securely in one hand, I found it a bit awkward to reach to page buttons. Things improved with practice however and now holding the kindle and “turning” pages one-handed feels quite natural.
The other thing you have to adjust to is the page-refresh mechanism. Each time you turn to a new page, the entire screen flashes into inverse white text on a black page before settling into the normal black text on a white page. This is very disconcerting to begin with but, as with finding the best way to hold your Kindle, you quickly adapt to this consequence of the E Ink technology that is used to display pages. Aside from adjusting to this “flash”, the quality of the Kindle’s display is excellent. Text is displayed clearly and can be read at any angle and so far the display has proven glare free. This clarity is (obviously) key to a good reading experience and that is exactly what the Kindle provides.
So far I haven’t annotated any text because the keyboard is too small and fiddly for my fingers. But I can see that feature proving useful in the future and I’m sure that with a bit of patience and practice, I’ll get used to the keyboard.
The battery life is excellent, I’ve only just charged my Kindle for the first time since it’s initial charge – even though the indicator was showing around a third of the charge remained. I reckon that would have been enough to see me through as much as another week of reading. Watch out though as there’s a point where it seems the battery lacks the power to connect the Kindle to a wireless network. Before I recharged mine it would detect a network but would not connect and after charging it connected without any bother.
The Kindle has a host of other features which I still haven’t explored, mainly because I’ve been too busy reading stuff – the aforementioned 61 Hours and also some free ebooks downloaded from manybooks.net, one of several locations where you can download public domain and creative commons texts in a variety of formats including those supported by the Kindle. I rather suspect that these other features will remain unused given that the Kindle is able to store about 3,500 books. I really do like to read. A lot.
What else is there to add? Well, if you get a Kindle you will need a cover for it. Although it’s a reasonable robust piece of kit, it struck me as wise to protect it from any inadvertent bumps, scratches or scrapes when being carried in my bag or when left around the house. I opted for one of Amazon’s own covers in Apple Green. Not cheap at 30 quid but it is a very good cover – leather, with a “soft, grey, microfibre suede interior”, a clever clip in hook system to hold the Kindle inside and an elastic band to keep the cover closed. Adding a cover makes the Kindle seem book-like when you are reading – not a huge selling point as such but it may make a difference.
So, if you are looking for an ebook reader, I can strongly recommend this latest incarnation of the Kindle. It really is an extremely well designed and very user-friendly reader. There are a couple of things to get used to but nothing that will really put you off – especially if you choose something you’re very keen to read which is why a chose 61 Hours, I think Lee Child is a very good author indeed and Jack Reacher is such a cool character (yes, yes, sad, I know).
Anyhow. Want an ebook reader? The Kindle is just the thing.