The Amazon Kindle 3G performs its basic functions to perfection. If you do everything the way you’re supposed to, i.e. download and read AZW files from Amazon.com, you will have no complaints. The first things that jump out at you are the electronic ink and how light the hardware is- the font truly looks like a paperback and the Kindle weighs less than a paperback- much less.
There is no glare factor at all, although the opposite is true- come night time, you will need a good light-source. The screen is big enough for reading especially since you have tons of font sizes and line-spacing to choose from. The battery management is mind-blowing. If you leave wireless off, you can go a very long time without recharging via outlet or USB- perhaps a week or more depending on what you do. The Kindle doesn’t get hot even though it’s on all the time and just goes to screen saver (in my case it brings up advertisements because Amazon sells them much cheaper with sponsored ads as screen savers.)
The bottom line is if you want to read books and download them from Amazon it is seamless to do that. Is it as simple as Amazon claims? Well the user can order a book from Amazon and download it to their PC and just drag the AZW file into the Kindle documents folder. The other way which Amazon promotes is to do everything from the Kindle Store and have it work via your Wi-Fi or 3G. Just follow their directions, and beware of using 3G to transfer files because you will get charged. Use your Wi-Fi.
How about navigation? Is it simple enough for casual computer users or smart phone users? I would say yes, it’s easy to use, although an IPhone/IPod Touch is much easier. Kindle is not touchscreen, and it takes a few hours to figure out how and when to use Menu, Home, Back, Backspace Alt, Sym, Up, Aa, and the small touchpad. I have yet to encounter any device that is 100% intuitive- every computer device has a learning curve. The Kindle’s learning curve is not hard at all once you get used to the buttons and what they do.
Other Kindle Features:
The auto dictionary lookup is something that I underestimated, but wound up using for every book I read. It is very easy to implement.
Search works fine and is useful- giving a significant advantage to a digital book vs an analog book.
Highlighting text is good for saving sections for future reference.
“Read back the text” works fantastic. It’s the Steven Hawking voice and he rarely makes an error.
A few gigs is more than enough space for books.
Stuff I haven’t messed with: Adding and playing MP3s in the background (will surely drain your battery and take up space), sharing with Twitter, and actually using the Amazon e-mail system for any purchases (I am a cheap bastard, and personally think Kindle book prices are too high.)
Jailbreak your Kindle (Hacks and other stuff that Amazon doesn’t really tell you):
So…how the heck do I read books if I don’t pay for them?
Well there are free public domain books out there, and you can also scan books for your own personal use as long as you don’t share them (although laws vary). I also had digitized books from years ago in PDF format. So let’s talk about book formats:
The Kindle guarantees that you can read and have the full capabilities of an AZW file and even says that they can convert PDFs via email so it will get into the AZW format (which allows everything in my Other Kindle features section). They also claim there is a native PDF reader if you just drop a PDF on your Kindle in Windows Explorer or whatever operating system you have. My problem with that is the text of a PDF in their reader is too small and you can’t modify zooming in or screen size, making raw PDFs worthless on your Kindle.
If you happen to have PDFs, ePubs, LITs, or other ebook file formats, you need to download a free program called calibre. With calibre you can convert any format to a MOBI file, which the Kindle pretty much sees as an AZW file. 99% of the books on my Kindle are MOBI. I’m sure Amazon doesn’t approve of it since they make money on users downloading high-priced books from Amazon, but I already had a collection of digitized books in other formats. You can theoretically convert old DOC files to PDF using OpenOffice and then convert the PDF to MOBI in calibre.
So let me be clear: calibre is necessary if you want to convert formats to Kindle unless you want to e-mail PDFs using Amazon’s conversion service. For someone like me whose career has been centered around moving files around and convering file formats, I have the patience for this.
Is Kindle a comic book reader? If you have CBZ or CBR files, they are not compatible with Kindle. Put since Kindle can view images you can download a program called Mangle. Mangle will output your comic to PNG files and the program will hack your Kindle so you can actually scroll a comic book and zoom in. If you don’t have Mangle installed, you can’t zoom in a comic book or scroll, making it worthless. It could be argued that even with Mangle you don’t get a full comic book experience because the Kindle is only in black and white and it’s still slow to move around the panels one at a time, but it’s technically workable. Since I use the Kindle to read books, I haven’t really got into the routine of reading comic books on the Kindle, which is shocking to me since I was hoping to use it as the main function.
Does Kindle web work? Not really. The Kindle 3 will freeze on Facebook, Hotmail, Yahoo, and almost every other website. You then have to reboot the Kindle. I don’t blame Amazon for this because the web browser is clearly marked as experimental, although the implication is that 1) it is supposed to work and 2) a firmware update will be coming out. The sad fact is that neither is probably true. I don’t believe their will ever be a Kindle update. This is not an iPod. The 3G and wireless capabilities are used to transfer books from the Amazon store to your kindle and to use Twitter share. That’s it. So checking your e-mail is hit and miss, as is surfing some pages consistently. Wikipedia generally works fine for me, but the Kindle is not a reliable way to surf the net.
So my mistake was getting this particular model- I should have gotten a non-3G model, but not one review or preview was 100% clear in certain terms about how bad the web browser was. Even the YouTube reviews showed that you could do a lot on the Kindle internet, but the truth is the Kindle is not a tablet or pad- it is an e-book reader with some basic internet functions.
Kindle accessories: You have to shell out money to buy a Kindle cover, something I haven’t done and probably won’t be doing. I have my own makeshift case. Don’t buy the official Kindle cover as recommended by Amazon or Best Buy. There is a dirt cheap Kindle protector on Amazon- for like a dollar instead of $50! I did not buy the Kindle lamp only because I hate to buy add-on accessories (feel like I’m being taken advantage of, like when buying a video game system and you only get one controller).
Why did I buy a Kindle? My wife’s laptop broke, and I gave her my Samsung netbook (still the best under $300 value of any portable computer device- it can do everything which a much larger screen than a mobile phone or Kindle). Therefore I wanted a portable device I could carry with me to the office, travelling, resting in the living room, or in the bedroom. My expectations were unrealsitic for Internet access and being a kickass comic book reader. Do I have buyer’s regret? Only on the 3G option- I should not have paid for it, although I’ll never know if one day I will need to hop on the internet in an emergency and it may come in handy.
As an ebook reader, I am gushing about the effectiveness of the Kindle. I’ve read so many books I can’t even review them on this blog. For some reason reading is a lot faster, I have full control over the experience, and the entire reading process is more comfortable for me.
Once you want to do other stuff with your Kindle (or read non AZW files not from Amazon) you’re going to need to get calibre.
If you are on a tight budget, you can look for free books on Amazon and public domain books on the internet. Some authors or publishers literally give away ebooks as well. If you actually have extra money you can almost every book on Amazon and download straight to your Kindle. I just wish the price was a lot lower than the physical book- in many cases it’s exactly the same.
If you are an avid reader, a Kindle is for you, just pay close attention to this review. Let me once again stress that the Kindle 3 is a superb e-book reader for casual and advanced computer users.