May 11, 2011

[Gadgets] My Kindle 3

In case you haven't already figured out, I'm a bit of a bibliophile - a book geek, if you will. I got started on books at a pretty young age and my mother had always encouraged us to read. Sure, you might get a toy as a reward for good grades at the end of a term. However any time that you find yourselves in a bookstore with her, you just know that you'll be able to get a book as well. I suppose that's how you raise a family of readers - you overwhelm them with reading options.

In these modern times, there's an overwhelming amount of content ready for consumption. We have al of the internet to celebrate in terms of web video, blogs and other fun things. Great movies continue to be released (and a lot of not so great ones). TV continues to try and break new ground (or rehash old ideas when the budget's tight). The list goes on and on - there's always something to get into. And yet I continue to read up a storm like any other book geek is expected to do. It's my life for now and I'm darn proud of it.

My Kindle 3

And today's post is part review and part celebration of my continuing geekery with the (inevitable?) purchase of my very own Amazon Kindle 3. And funnily enough, it also took the promptings and encouragement of my mother for me to finally get one of my own. Yes, she has one as well - it's a family thing.

For disclosure purposes, yes, I am an active Amazon Affiliate - hence the occasional banner ads and the many product links in my reviews. For the most part, this remains an honest review of the device based on my own reading needs, but of course I can't stop you from thinking that this is all just an effort to get you to buy one using the links on this post. It's really up to you.

The 3rd generation of the Amazon Kindle is the latest release of what is generally the most popular (or at least most well-known) ebook reader on the market today. The device itself was developed by Lab126, a subsidiary of Amazon.

Given I live outside of the US, I figured that the WiFi only model was the best Kindle option for me since I didn't foresee the need to utilize the added 3G functionality of the other version of the device. Amazon's 3G network is supported in many countries around the world (the Philippines included) but this normally means additional data charges to consider, which is not so great since it means getting charged in US Dollars for functions such as downloading books and synchronizing your account with Thus for me it became a budget consideration - and paying only $139 versus $189 for the 3G option was a bit much.

Kindle 3

The Kindle 3 is a very simple device - and by simple I mean it's really designed around a single purpose. If you like reading a lot off books and you're looking to expand your options, then this is definitely one of (if not THE) best device for the job. The new E Ink Pearl display is amazingly crisp and clear and it displays test remarkably well. Yes, I've actually found myself saying that "it looks just like paper" during my first week with the device. It features a 6" screen that is about the size of a pocketbook page that displays very well even in direct sunlight. Of course part of the secret of its readability is the lack of a backlit / LCD display so this won't work in low light situations. You'll need some sort of an external light source or Kindle case with such a feature to be able to read your Kindle books at night.

Kindle 3 With Lighted Case

One of the most striking things about the device is just how light it is - and really, it's crazy light. It's only about 8.5 ounces, which is less than the weight of most books when you think about it. At times it feels almost flimsy or delicate in my hands given how slim and light it is, but it's actually a pretty sturdy device and I have friends who have fallen asleep with it in their hands without mishap.

The Kindle experience is really defined by the ability to control almost all aspects of the reading experience. You can change the size of the letters, the line spacing on each page and even the approximative words per line if you wish. Being able to do all this really affects your ease of reading and once you find that sweet spot best suited for you, expect your reading rates to increase given a more optimized experience. Plus you eliminate the hassle of trying to find your page since the Kindle automatically saves your furthest read location and you can also create custom bookmarks when needed.

The Kindle really works best with content purchased from the Kindle Store directly. Any books that you buy are forever linked to your Amazon account, thus when you delete them from your device, they'll appear as part of your "Archived Items" as recorded in Amazon's servers and you can re-download to your Kindle when needed. Thus don't think about the approximately 3GB of space available - when it comes to digital books, this is a crazy amount of space.

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...Cover via AmazonYou can also import your own content to your device. Kindle supports a number of popular formats for conversion to Kindle format via email such as MS Word (DOC preferably), Mobipocket and PDFs, although it still does not support the EPUB format for reasons unknown. Be warned through that conversion is not perfect and the resulting text may not be quite as comfortable to read. Plus if you utilize 3G to transfer converted files to your Kindle, you will incur data charges even for sending personal files. Always still to the WiFi method for sending files and it will continue to be free.

The Kindle 3 also provides a number of "experimental" features such as a web browser, text-to-speech options, playing MP3 an more recently applications, although these are all very preliminary at best. The MP3 function seems to play songs only at random with limited back and forth options but you can't seem to pull up a song list of transferred content. The display remains to be black and white so this will affect your online surfing experience. In general, these are definitely beta features that still need more thought and study before going prime time.

Kindle Case

I also purchased the official Kindle Case from Amazon, which is a leather case that includes a built in light. It has a nicely sleek design that really looks good and the cover does feel nicely thick enough in order to provide adequate protection. But at $59.99, it is one of the most expensive cases on the market.

The real claim to fame of the case is the built-in light that easily hides away in the corner over the cover (image posted earlier in this post), but of course the angle of the light makes it brighter at the upper right corner and darkest at the opposite end. In my opinion, you're still able to read the entire page quite comfortably and I don't see the issue that some people claim to have that the corner nearest the light becomes unreadable. I think it's more about the angle of the light when you pull it out and your Kindle display settings. Strike the right balance and I don't think you should have any issues.

If you consider the prices of the cheaper cases then adding in the cost of a reading light, you'll up with about the same cost as the official case, so I feel you might as well go with this one. However this is only a book-style cover that leaves the sides exposed. If you want to protect your Kindle from more extreme situations involving water and what have you, then you better shop around for one that fits your lifestyle better.

The Kindle 3 is most important for us non-US geeks since it means access to titles aren't necessarily easy to find here. Case in point, my first Kindle purchase was Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl. I bought it as a Kindle book since (1) I had never seen it in any local bookstore and (2) ordering it through the bookstore meant an additional $25 for shipping. If you want to get newer books real time without needing to deal with the preference for more popular titles by local retailers, then this is your best avenue. It means direct access to books around the world (as found on the Kindle Store), including a lot of new content being published solely in the Kindle / ebook format. Thus it's certainly an exciting time to be either a reader or a writer in this period.

The Kindle 3 is an amazing device for hardcore readers. True, it does not handle magazines and books with colored images well, but for just raw stories of all sorts, this is the device to get. The case is really optional depending on your needs but it's also a very strong item to consider. The Kindle 3 as a device gets a 4.5 out of 5 for me, mainly because the organization options are a bit cumbersome. Otherwise, it's a great device that I totally love - a great example of a highly specialized device that knows what it wants to do and makes sure that it does it well.

And for the record, the case get s 4 out of 5, mainly because of minor issues with the weight and the nuances of adjusting the light well to avoid the issues posted online. It's already intuitive for me, but I can see why some people have difficulty with it.

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