Thoughts on the New Amazon Kindle 3

Let me get this out of the way first: I Support E-Book Reading Devices! And yes, this is another article on the Amazon Kindle device. If that pisses you off, then please stop reading right here! I don’t have a problem with other people dismissing these devices but where I do have a problem is when some people deem these devices as totally unnecessary. I’ve mainly read these statements in various forums and comment boards across various websites. Not that any e-book reading devices on the market now are near perfection in any way but I strongly believe that these reading devices have made strong headlines (who can say otherwise?) and have made other portable devices also incorporate some type of e-book reading capabilities as well. What the Amazon Kindle did for the ebook business can be compared to what Apple’s iPhone did to shake up the smart phone trade. It’s truly amazing. Since I will be purchasing a Amazon Kindle 3 sometime after it releases at the end of this month, I decided to take a deeper look into it and offer my opinions.

UPDATE: I have written a more detailed and complete review of the Kindle 3 which you can read here.

Mind you, I’ve never owned a dedicated e-book reading device before. My two primary methods of reading e-books as of right now consists of my laptop and my iPhone 3G. With the price slash of the Amazon Kindle 3G to $189 and with the introduction of the Amazon Kindle Wi-Fi only edition at $139, there has never been a better time to purchase one. I’ll take a look at some of the features of the new Kindle 3 and offer some insights. Since I’ll be purchasing the Wi-Fi only model, that will the focus point in this article. However, the 3G version should be near identical, except for the fact that it supports a 3G connection (free, without contract).

You can purchase the Kindle Wi-Fi only version here: Kindle Wireless Reading Device, Wi-Fi, 6″ Display, Graphite – Latest Generation

I’m writing this Kindle 3 preview with no prior real-world experience with the previous generations of Kindle’s. I’m only writing the features and specifications of what I primarily see on the Kindle 3’s homepage on Amazon and offer my opinion (mainly the pro’s and con’s) of them. If you find any errors on my part, please notify me and I’ll make the corrections.

 

The Good

– Size Difference –
The Kindle 3, as advertised on Amazon, has a 21% smaller body size than the Kindle 2. This is great news to me because I thought the Kindle 2 looked a bit weird and a bit too long/big. The Kindle 3 boosts the same 6″ reading area as the Kindle 2 so no change there. Two major changes from what I can see are the joystick/controller placement and the thinner Next/Previous buttons.

Size Comparison

– High Contrast E-Ink Screen –
This is arguably one of the main reason I really want a Kindle! Why? Because I can’t stand reading for an extended amount of time on my iPhone anymore! It really does hurt my eyes. I already spend so much time in front of a computer on a daily basis. Add the amount of time I read ebooks on my iPhone and I’m just asking for trouble. In fact, I’m starting to think that I may need glasses sooner than later. Word of advice: please do not stare at a computer screen (or any other bright LCD monitor) for long periods of time when in darkness. This can ruin your eyes over time like how it did to mine. With the e-ink screen technology on the Amazon Kindle and on many other similar reading devices, they say the reading experience is one you would get when reading directly from a book/newspaper itself. Because the screen on the Kindle isn’t LCD, you won’t be able to read the Kindle in the dark. In my opinion, this is a good thing because it can ruin your eyes. You can additionally purchase a clip-on light that attaches to the Kindle device to help you read in the dark. Thanks but I’ve learned my lesson. Never read at night without proper lighting! The screen also allows you to easily continue reading even when in direct sunlight! The fact that the Kindle uses such a different type of screen makes it totally different than the iPad, which many have compared it with. Yes, both can read ebooks and both have wireless capabilities, etc, etc. However, the main function of the Kindle is ebook reading and ebook reading alone. The iPad caters to a much larger and wider audience. Therefore you really can’t take articles serious when they pit the two against each other. The price difference is also another huge factor now that the Wi-Fi only edition Kindle has arrived.

– Books in 60 Seconds –
This is a big purchase factor for many. To be able to instantly start reading a new book is very convenient. No waiting for package delivery from the mailman and definitely no side trips to the bookstore or library. This isn’t all that surprising to me as books aren’t really that big in file size, naturally. They’re most likely a few megabytes in size or even less. With a strong Wi-Fi connection, I’m sure it’ll take even less time. While I’m not one to actually do it, you can also sample many books by reading the first chapter, free of charge, before deciding whether to purchase it or not.

– Battery Life of Up to One Month –
This is one of the first specification I look at whenever I buy portable electronics. What hindrance it would be if you need to constantly charge your device because it runs out of juice too soon. I thought I read wrong when I saw that the Kindle 3 could hold a charge of 1 whole month with the wireless turned off! This isn’t a problem, well for me at least, because the only time I would most likely need to use a wireless connection is during book purchase time. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t need to look up stuff on Wikipedia or whatever so, the wireless connectivity will be turned off the majority of the time. If the Kindle 3 can actually deliver on that promise of 1 month battery life, I will be so stoked!

Energizer Bunny

– Built-In Wi-Fi Only –
The $139 version of the Kindle 3 only provides you with wireless capabilities, not 3G. With 3G, you’ll have a Internet connection wherever the 3G service is available with no extra monthly fees or charges to you. Personally, I’m sure I will be satisfied with just the Wi-Fi only model. Why? Because I know I’m not that special of a person or that of a ultra road-warrior worker that I’ll be wanting to purchase books out in the middle of nowhere land! Besides, as stated on the Kindles homepage, AT&T; provides free Wi-Fi access hotspots around the U.S. You can check this map to find free hotspot locations near you. I’m so glad that Amazon finally offered this Wi-Fi only version of the Kindle. Having a 3G connection for a mobile smart phone makes a lot of sense but for the Kindle, many users simply do not need that luxury.

– Free, Out-of-Copyright Books –
This really isn’t a feature specifically to the Kindle because you can download these free ebooks onto your computer or other e-book reading device as well. If you run out of books to read (trust me, that’s pretty hard to do), you can always try out these free, and perfectly legal I might add, ebooks. Sites like Project Gutenberg and ManyBooks have a huge library of these free books for download. Transfer these books to your Kindle and you’ll never have to worry about running out of books to read, ever.

– Read-to-Me –
The Kindle has text-to-speech technology built-in. Basically, once you’re tired of actually reading text, plug in a headphone and let Kindle read the book for you. That sounds great and all but with most, if not all, text-to-speech technology, the voice will sound a bit robotic. Unlike audiobooks where the narrator actually reads the text from the actual book itself, text-to-speech can be described as a much more “manual” process. When someone reads to you, the reading structure of words and sentences is very important. Otherwise, it would sound really weird and run-on. Some people don’t seem to mind but I was never a fan of text-to-speech technology unless it was used in a GPS device. Even then, it’s only because it’s much safer to listen than having to constantly look at the device!

– Improved PDF Reader –
A very much beloved feature. PDF documents are everywhere and being able to read them on my Kindle device is very beneficial. If you want to be able to read long text documents from webpages offline, you can easily convert them into PDF format using CutePDF and send them to your Kindle before heading out on the road. I read a lot of Technet articles and many of them are very long in nature. Rather than having to power on my laptop and wasting precious battery life to read the saved article, I can now simply read it on my Kindle instead. As expected though, some PDF documents might not be displayed correctly on the Kindle due to formatting errors. I’m guessing the more complex the document, the higher the chance of it being displayed incorrectly.

– Read Everywhere with Whispersync –

With Amazon’s Whispersync technology, once you purchase a book from the Kindle store, you can then easily sync that book across the other various devices you own. For example, you begin by purchasing a book from Amazon and that gets sent to your Kindle device. You start to read and end at page 50. On your iPhone, you have the Amazon Kindle app installed and configured. With Whispersync, it will help you to automatically open that book back to page 50 and you can begin reading right where you left off on your Kindle device. This is another very beneficial feature for the Kindle. However, it’s not one I see myself using often. Why? Because once I have my Kindle, I’ll never read my ebooks anywhere else! Well, at least I’ll try not too. But as you can see, this greatly helps improve your reading experience as it allows you to read on many other devices besides just the Kindle. Your reading flow never ceases to stop. If you’ve forgotten your Kindle at home one day and desperately wanted to finish off the last chapter of a book, you can have a piece of mind that you can do just that on your laptop!

Kindle App

– Low Book Prices –
Ebook versions of a book will generally sell less than their hardcover or paperback counterparts. This isn’t always the case however. For example, the paperback version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo costs $7.14. The Kindle version surprisingly, costs the same as well when I wrote this article. In other cases though, you’ll usually save anywhere from $1-3 when compared to paperback versions and a whole lot more when compared to the hardcover editions. Obviously, this will add up as you continue to buy more and more books from the Kindle store. Buy around 3-4 books and you’ll have saved enough money for a “free” book.

The Bad

– Page Turns –
One thing that many users often dislike about the Kindle is what happens during page turns. Whenever you click the Next Page button (something you’ll be doing quite often), the screen will momentarily display a flicker of what can be described as some sort of negative black image on the screen. This is due to how E-ink technology works. While it can be a little distracting at first, I really can’t see this as something negative in the long run. You’ll just get used to it. Besides, would I trade in this minor flicker for shorter battery life, heck no.

– No Resale Value on Books –
Once again, not sure if this can be blamed on the Kindle itself. Basically, you can’t just “re-sale” your electronic version of a book once you are finished with it. There is no resale value because it’s an electronic version! There are no wear and tear or markups like in real paperback books. If Amazon allowed users to re-sale ebooks purchased through Kindle, they would lose a lot money. Why? Because if I was the seller, I no doubt would sell my ebook for a lower price than whatever is currently being offered via Amazon. If you were the buyer and saw the same ebook version but one with a lower price than the other, which one would you buy? Well, of course, you’ll pick whichever one is lower in price! The price is not only lower but the quality of the product is the same as if purchased through Amazon’s Kindle store! It’s a win-win situation for the consumers but a huge loss to the company! Therefore, you can now see how Amazon will lose out on a lot of money should this happen. To prevent this from happening, ebooks purchased through the Kindle store are encrypted.

– Magazine and Blog Subscriptions –
The Kindle allows you to subscribe to various magazines and blogs and get direct updates right on your device. It came as no surprise when I found out you have to pay a monthly subscription fee for magazines but I was really shocked to find that I had to do the same for blogs! I settled down and finally realized that the Kindle does not charge you for the 3G connection. Therefore, if a person subscribed to 100+ free blogs, that one person alone would suck up a lot of bandwidth. Granted though, the subscription price for these blogs isn’t deep ($1.99 seems to be the norm) but the problem is how many reviews state that even though you are required to pay a subscription fee, you are not getting the full package. For example, in the Time magazine review section, users state that you don’t get any pictures, charts and illustrations when reading magazine articles on the Kindle. In the Slashdot blog review section, users are only getting links to stories, not the actual story themselves. With that being said, I’m sure there are other magazine and blog subscriptions in the Kindle store that does a lot better than this but it’s disappointing to know that you might not be getting what you expect to be getting with every subscription. Makes sense?

I understand that many people still view the Kindle and other ebook reading devices as gimmicks and fad products. What ever happened to going to the library or book store and purchasing books the traditional way? Good news is that it didn’t go anywhere. It’s just that many people are bracing a new way to get their daily reading fix. Mass book production will not be going anywhere any time soon as ebook has a long way to go before traditional paperback books can be put away. In fact I honestly don’t think it’s ever going to go away permanently. Point is, it’s not about how you read your book but whether or not people are actually doing it or not. If kids think that reading on the Kindle device is somehow cooler than reading them the traditional way, so be it. You won’t hear me complaining any time soon!

Final Words…

The more I write about the new Kindle, the more I want it in my hands right now! Amazon claims to have sold millions of these devices (and I don’t doubt them) and yet, I’ve never actually seen a person with one! I admit, I’m more of a lab rat but for the various times I have ventured to my local bookstores and cafe shops, I’ve never spotted anyone with a Kindle. Weird indeed.
While the Kindle isn’t meant for everyone, if you love to read, the Kindle is something you must have noticed by now. This is also probably the perfect time to get one. Sure, you can wait until the next price drop to happen or when it hits that magical $99 mark before getting one for yourself but I have a good feeling that this $139 Wi-Fi version is going to be the ebook reader to beat for a long, long time to come. As a computer enthusiast, I must be constantly reading about new technology. White-papers, PDF documents, manuals, Technet articles, you name it. Rather than stare at my computer screen for hours and hours at a time, I can now easily transfer them to my soon-to-be Kindle and enjoy them there. This will make it a lot easier on my eyes and not only that, the Kindle can be a big energy saver! Now, I don’t have to turn on my laptop/desktop just to read my documents. If you can get over the fact that you can’t sell your electronic ebooks once you are finished with it, I’m sure you will enjoy the Kindle. See, I don’t even have the new Kindle and yet I’m already promoting it!

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