Well, the Amazon deities have answered my call and I finally received my Kindle 3 through the mail. It’s been a long wait but it was worth it. This is my first e-book reading device and I’m really excited to try it out. I wrote a mini preview but now that I finally have the device, I get to finally use the Kindle and see how it works. There are many positive reviews on this device and so the hype was almost unbearable! I admit that I have only used the Kindle for about about 2-3 days before writing this review but I have used it almost non-stop during that brief period. Therefore, I strongly believe that I have all the information and evidence needed to write my review.
The Kindle arrived in an ordinary Amazon box and opening it was very easy. In fact, Amazon touts this as “Certified Frustration Free Packaging”. All you need to do is pull a tab across the side of the box, lift the cover and your brand new Kindle will be staring right at you.
There are only two additional items in the box besides your Kindle and that includes your USB charging cable/adapter and a mini instruction booklet which seems to have been made using recycled material. Not much going on in the accessory department but that’s because there really isn’t anything the Kindle needs besides the charging cable!
One of the most important thing to do when you first get your hands on the Kindle is to properly charge the unit to its full capacity. You can either charge your Kindle via a USB port on your computer or through an electrical outlet. The Kindle most likely have arrived with some battery life in it so it shouldn’t take too long for it to fully charge. I believe it took me about 2.5 hours to get it fully charged. You’ll know when it is done charging by looking at the light next to the power switch. Once it turns from orange to green, you’ll know it has finished. As stated in the manual, you are able to begin using the Kindle while it is charging. However, if you want to use the Kindle while you have it charging via your computer’s USB port, you’ll have to first disconnect the device. Head into Computer, right click on the Kindle icon and select Eject from the menu. By doing so, you’re able to use the Kindle while still having it charged. However, once you need to transfer content to the Kindle, you’ll need to reconnect the Kindle to your computer.
As always, it’s best if you actually visit the main site for the Kindle Reading Device in order to view all of the features. It is really important that you completely understand what the Kindle is and isn’t before making your purchase. There are many ignorant Kindle reviews on the Amazon page where users bash the device simply because they either didn’t read the description page or misunderstood the Kindle for what it is and are now complaining. If you have questions, it’s best to get a direct answer from Amazon’s Customer Service or search online and in most cases, there will be an answer to your question. I would also be happy to answer any question you may have on the Kindle as long as I’m able to.
Weight and Feel
It’s no surprise that the Kindle 3 is a very light device. You can easily and comfortably hold it with either hands and be able to turn pages with ease. If you’re new to the e-book reader world like I am, it might take a little while (3 minutes?) to get use to holding the device but once you do, you’ll never have to think about it again. The Kindle also feels very good once in your hands and that’s very important because with long reading sessions, you don’t want to have to put the device down simply because it feels awkward after long use. The Kindle has sort of a matte and rubbery feel to it. This provides for a good grip and you’ll rarely have to adjust hand position once you start reading unless you need to adjust some options or at rare times when you need to turn to a previous page.
The physical navigation system for the Kindle 3, although works well, could have been a little better in my opinion. A lot of users complain that they would accidentally press the Enter button when navigating via the directional buttons and although I have skinny fingers, it happened to me once or twice as well. My advice if this is repeatedly happening to you is rather than pressing the directional buttons with the flat of your thumb, use your thumb’s fingernail instead. Doing so allows me to have a better feel for the directional buttons and therefore, less prone to hitting the Enter button as well. The letters themselves are actually decently sized and spaced out. I really don’t find it that irritating to have to press the Sym button to access the numbered keys but some may find this to be of discomfort. I think it just takes a bit of getting use to. Besides, if you’re like me and don’t really enter in a lot of notes or use the built-in browser, this really isn’t a problem.
All of the ports and switches are located on the bottom of the Kindle. This includes (from left to right) the volume rocker, the 3.5mm audio port, a microphone (currently this serves no function so maybe Amazon is cooking up some voice control navigation scheme for the future) the USB port and the power switch. Some users preferred for the power switch to be on top instead but to me, I would much rather have the USB port moved to the top. This provides for a better reading experience during times you want to read while charging your Kindle at the same time because as it is, the charging cable gets in the way. There is also a electrical port on the left side if you have purchased the official leather light cover for the Kindle. The light will draw power from the Kindle itself.
There are your standard Next Page and Previous Page buttons on either side of the device so it doesn’t matter if you are a left-handed or right-handed user. The previous page button is located right above the next page button. Only once have I forgotten this and continuously pressed the left side of the next page button thinking I was going in the other direction.
The reading display for the Kindle 3 is just phenomenal. You can read all about it in dozens of other reviews and whatnot but you really have to actually see the device in action to appreciate it. The screen is very crisp and most importantly, the text are really black. This makes the text really pop out at you and it gives you the impression that you really are reading from a traditional paperback book! Again, it’s really hard to describe the sensation unless you have seen it with your own eyes. No pictures you see online will do the device justice. However, you have to understand that in order to get the best of the reading display panel, you should be reading with the Kindle under a well lit environment. Why? Because the display is not backlit like the iPhone or the iPad and therefore, the darker or dimmer the reading environment, the duller the display will look. For example, the lights in my room are pretty dim and so reading at night isn’t the most ideal situation for me. Once the sunlight shines through in the morning (or when I’m outside the living room at night under fluorescent lighting), the display screen bursts back to life. If you really need to read in the dark, you’ll need to spend an additional $60 for the official Kindle Lighted Leather Cover. Or, if that’s too much, you’ll want to consider other similar knockoff product alternatives to provide the lighting.
Some may dislike the simple menu navigational system but I like it. It’s simple because Amazon understands that not all users of the Kindle are tech geeks. Therefore, they needed to keep the interface as simple as possible and for the most part, it works. Let’s face it. We’ll be spending the majority of our time reading on the Kindle and not messing around with different menu settings and whatnot. One of the most important feature though, is browsing through the Kindle bookstore. There are different categories for you to choose from like books, newspapers, magazines and blogs. If you’re not sure what to read next, Amazon got you covered. Simply head over to the New York Times and the Kindle’s Top Sellers list to see what’s popular. If you already know what book to purchase, simply type it in the search field and away you go. Like I said, it’s very easy to use and I doubt you’ll get lost.
To access the majority of your devices settings, you simply press the Menu key while in the Home screen and head over to the Settings option. Here, you are allowed to configure settings like registering/de-registering your Kindle, giving your Kindle a unique name, configure Wi-Fi settings, enable password protection and the Popular Highlights feature, as well as setting the time and more. It’s very self-explanatory and like I said above, you shouldn’t have to worry about getting lost.
What else can I say? The reading experience on the Kindle is superb. Because of the lack of a backlit display, I can enjoy hours of reading on the Kindle without rubbing my eyes or getting eye fatigue as some would call it. Anytime I am reading a book, I can easily access the read settings by pressing the “Aa” key. Here, I get to choose from 8 different text sizes. No matter how good or bad your eyes are, I’m sure the Kindle got something for everyone. You are allowed to choose from three different typefaces: Regular, Condensed or Sans-Serif. From my experiences, selecting Sans-Serif provided the best results for me because it made the text the darkest in color compared to the other options. Next up is line spacing. You’ll get three options ranging from small, medium to large. The Words per Line option is a fancy term for margin. You’ll get to choose from fewest, fewer, and default. By select a option other than default, the margin will be increased. Next is Text-to-Speech. You can easily turn it on or off. Last but not least is screen rotation. There are 4 different options for you to choose from and from my experiences, it’s best to use landscape mode when reading PDF’s.
Turning a page is tremendously fast. I believe the Kindle 3 has one of the fastest screen refresh rates when compared to the other e-book reading devices on the market right now. Many users complain about the brief flash they see when turning a page but they have to understand that that’s what actually makes a e-ink reading device tick. It’s also one of the reasons why there isn’t a backlit display on the Kindle. In fact, I’m even daring to say that turning a page on the Kindle is just as fast (sometimes even faster) as if you would turn a page on a real paperback book. It’s just that fast. You’ll eventually get use to that very brief refresh screen. Also, the reason why you can enjoy such a long battery life with the Kindle is due to how the screen works.
I’m just a regular reader. I don’t take notes, highlight passages or get involved with social networking when it comes to my reading. One awesome feature that I enjoy so much, believe it or not, is the built-in dictionary! I initially thought that you had to be connected to a Internet connection for it to look up a word definition but this isn’t true and I was so glad. If I don’t know the definition for a word, I simply use the navigational buttons to move the cursor right beside the word and a small text box will appear with the definition. Very neat! It doesn’t disrupt the reading flow one bit.
The only real disappointment I have here is how the Kindle interprets pages. Rather than your default numbered system, the Kindle uses what they call “Locations” instead. I’m telling you right now, it’s confusing as I’m still not sure what the formula is. This issue alone makes the Kindle pretty much invalid when used as a textbook replacement for university students. If a teacher says turn to page 1036, a student with the same textbook edition but read on the Kindle will have no idea where exactly page 1036 is when using the Locations system. Also, this makes it a lot harder when creating citations because now you have to convert the location to a page number. If you’re reading a story book from one page to the next, this problem wouldn’t matter because you really don’t need to know exactly what page you’re really on (for the most part). The Kindle does display the percent you have read so far in the book and that helps somewhat.
Your next option is to use a converter of some kind to convert that PDF document into some other type of file. One method I’m currently using is to convert the PDF with the free Mobipocket eBook Creator software into a document known as PRC. PRC files are very similar to the Mobipocket eBook format of .mobi. The best part about performing the conversion is that the resulting PRC file will now allow you to resize the text within that original PDF file. This is similar to when you would read a regular e-book. You’re able to resize the text, change the line-spacing, etc. The PRC file will also try to retain the pictures within the PDF file. The disadvantage to performing these PDF conversions (or pretty much any other file format conversion) is due to accuracy. There will be times, if you’re unlucky, when a conversion will simply mis-translate words and therefore, will result in a badly structured file. The more complicated a PDF file originally is, the higher the chances of that conversion process messing something up. You might want to take a look at the Kindle DX edition because it has a larger screen and therefore it should make reading PDF files more comfortable. However, at that price, you might even want to opt for an iPad or heck, just stick with your trustworthy netbook.
Web Browser – The experimental web browser in the Kindle 3 works pretty well. However, it’s not perfect and that’s something many users need to realize. Browsing the web on such a small screen is just not something you would want to do on a daily basis unless it’s for simple mundane tasks. One of the biggest problem with using the experimental browser is due to navigation issues. Because the Kindle does not have a touch screen, you’ll need to constantly press the directional buttons to zoom in on parts of a web page and to generally move around. One reason why browsing the web on our smart phones even with such a tiny screen is more tolerable than browsing on the Kindle with a bigger screen is due to the touch screen of the phone. Navigating a website is just so much more easier with a touch screen. However, if you have the Kindle 3G edition, you’ll always be able to browse the web for free as long as you are within the coverage area. This makes the Kindle useful for quick tasks such as checking your stocks, email, sport’s score look up and much more for free wherever you may be (and as long as the website actually loads correctly in the browser). This may be pointless if you already have a 3G enabled smart phone.
MP3 Player – I’m really not sure why this is an experimental feature! Amazon states that it can only play MP3 files and nothing else but this really shouldn’t be an issue for the majority of users out there. For the most part, I am satisfied with the sound quality of the new Kindle. What users also have to realize is that the Kindle obviously should not be considered as a dedicated music player. Therefore, don’t expect 5.1 surround sounds with the device! I love to listen to either classical or video game soundtracks when reading books because there’s no lyrics in those types of songs and so I can’t be distracted. I find it much more pleasant to use a headphone to listen to my music instead of using the built in speakers located at the back of the Kindle. I’m not usually a person to request a lot of features but one thing that I do wish Amazon would have included with the MP3 player package is an option to randomize our playlist! The Kindle will play our music in the order it was added. We are able to forward to the next track but that’s about it. We really need a shuffle feature!
Text-to-Speech (TTS) – TTS is great when you’ve actually become tired of reading and would like someone else to take over the load. With TTS, a robotic male or female voice can do the reading for you and you can simply just sit back, relax and still be able to enjoy the book. However, just know that the voice reading the text back to you sounds very robotic in nature. You can adjust the speed rate at which the voice reads the text but it still doesn’t help as it’s still the same robotic voice. It really takes a while to get use to and some users such as myself will never, ever be able to. That is why I’m sure I will never use the TTS feature of the Kindle. If you find yourself enjoying TTS but want a more human voice, you’ll need to look into audio books. However, that defeats the purpose of using a Kindle as you can listen to audio books on just about every device that can handle MP3 files and not just on a Kindle. If you are still interested, one of the best places to download these audio books is through Audible.com. Rather than one free book download, Amazon is offering you two free audio book downloads if you sign up for your free 30-day Audible.com trial! If you want other ways to sample audio books, then check out LibriVox. There are many volunteers who narrate audio books for your listening pleasure. However, these books only consist within the public domain so don’t expect any new titles here.
– Your Kindle doesn’t only work with books purchased through the Kindle Store. There are other places that allows you to download free out-of-copyright books to read. Two popular sites I go to are ManyBooks.net and Project Gutenberg. Simply download the correct book format, connect your Kindle to your computer, drag it to the Documents folder and that’s it! If you’re looking for something a bit more new, you’ll be glad to know that the Kindle’s own bookstore includes many free book downloads as well! See a list of the top 100 free books in the Kindle store right now!
– If you have a book in a format that’s not supported by the Kindle, you’ll need to perform some type of conversion. If possible, head back to your original source and see if there is a Kindle version for the book you may have purchased or downloaded. If there is, then that’s great because a lot of things can go wrong with manual e-book conversions. If not, then I would recommend using one of the most popular e-book management software out there called Calibre. This awesome software allows you to convert popular e-book formats (such as epub, which the Kindle doesn’t support) to a format that is compatible such as .txt or .mobi. For the most part, conversion is fairly simple but Calibre also allows you to do much more with your e-books if you take the time to learn the software. Another alternative to convert your documents is to simply allow Amazon to perform the conversion for you!
You have to remember that no matter what type of conversion process you use, it is mostly an automated process. There isn’t a live person on Amazon’s back-end manually converting the document for you! This means that errors can occur on your converted document. The only method to remove these errors is if an actual person personally converted the document for you but that’s usually not possible.
– Initially, I’ve read on many comments from the Kindle review site that users were experiencing from two main problems. First is the issue of random reboots and crashes. This scared the heck out of me because I was afraid I would end up with a defective product as well. Being the awesome people Amazon are, I’ve read that their customer support is great and if you report the problem, they will quickly resend another Kindle to the user. As of now, there is a new Kindle firmware update of 3.0.1. Most Kindles were shipped with firmware 3.0 and so if you are also experiencing from random reboots and crashes, please update your Kindle to 3.0.1 (or whatever is newest at the time you are reading this).
– The second issue I’ve mainly read about is due to users not being able to connect to their Wi-Fi connection. I’m not sure what’s going on but I had no problem connecting to my connection at home. Amazon states on the front page that the Kindle is able to support basically all standard Wi-Fi encryption technologies such as WEP, WPA and WPA2 with password authentication. I’m currently using WPA2 along with a 20+ random character password and my Kindle connected just fine. Well, initially after entering the password for the first time, it stated that it couldn’t connect so I thought I entered a wrong character. After typing in the fourth character or so on my second attempt, the Kindle announced that I was finally connected. Not sure what happened there but I haven’t had any problems since. If you are having Wi-Fi problems as well, please make sure that you are typing in the correct password as they are case sensitive! Some users say that switching from the more secured WPA2 to WEP encryption will help solve the problem but I really wouldn’t suggest taking this route unless you have exhausted all other options.
– As far as battery life goes, Amazon claims it can last up to a month with Wi-Fi turned off and about 3 weeks with it on. At first I was giddy with excitement but then I realized that this claim on battery life is really not accurate (as with most electronic device battery tests) because it really depends on how much a person is reading on a daily basis. I read a lot and so my Kindle is definitely not going to lasts a month even with Wi-Fi turned off. A more interesting figure would be the approximate page turns possible before the battery runs out!
Many users might also wonder why they always see a random picture when they slide the power switch to turn off the Kindle. This is to indicate that the Kindle has now gone into sleep mode to help save energy. When you leave your Kindle inactive for 10 minutes or so, it will also automatically go into sleep mode. This might disappoint some users because there really isn’t a way to disable the screen saver timer. If you really want to turn off your Kindle, hold the power switch for about 4-5 seconds and it should shut itself off without leaving on the wallpaper.
– The Kindle does not support any external memory storage. Once you run out of the 3GB of storage space, you’ll need to start deleting things to make room. This is a big disappointment to me. How hard can it be to have the Kindle accept a SD card or something to help users increase storage space?
In the End..
Purchasing the Kindle has got to be one of the best purchases I have made in recent memory. Reading has always been a big part of my life and the Kindle just made it so much more better. I can finally say goodbye to eye fatigue due to long reading sessions on my computer screen and iPhone. I can now collect hundreds if not thousands of books without every having to build a book rack for them. Because the device is so darn light and comfortable to hold, long reading sessions are now more enjoyable. Sure, there are some things that I wish future generation Kindles will include by default such as native ePub support, better contrast under dim light and external storage cards, but this however in no way breaks the deal for the current Kindle 3rd generation.