Kindle 3 for people new to eReaders

Let’s describe the Kindle 3 for the benefit of someone who’s never owned a Kindle or an eReader and isn’t even sure what the Kindle 3 is.

If you are familiar with Kindle or with eReaders please check out my Kindle 3 Review. If you’re new to eReaders this post is perfect for you.

Kindle 3 for people who are new to eReaders

Kindle 3 is an electronic book reader. It’s a device that is built from the ground-up for reading – every decision made was made to make the Kindle 3 great for reading.

That means there are two instant qualifiers -

  1. If you don’t like to read then Kindle 3 is totally the wrong device for you.  
  2. If you don’t mind reading but wouldn’t pay for a device focused on reading then the Kindle 3 is still totally wrong for you.

Now let’s quickly look at how eReaders and eBooks work.

Kindle 3 gets books over WhisperNet from Amazon – electronic books

Kindle 3 connects to Amazon’s servers (they call it their Cloud/WhisperNet) wirelessly through either AT&T’s wireless network or through a WiFi network. Either works.

Once you’re connected you can browse the Kindle Store for electronic books and buy them. Prices vary from free (for public domain books and for free book offers) to over $9.99. Electronic books are different from physical books in some key ways -

  1. You can’t resell them or loan them out.  
  2. There’s nothing physical – They’re just a bunch of electronic bits.
  3. You can share them across 5 to 6 different devices – That means you and your family members can share books. If your wife or kid or husband or grandson has a Kindle or a Kindle App they can read the same book at the same time.
  4. You can read a book across devices and continue where you left off. There are Kindle Apps for PC, Mac, iPhone, Blackberry, Android, and iPad. You buy an eBook, Amazon sends it to your Kindle 3 wirelessly, and then you can read it across your Kindle 3 and across various Kindle Apps.
  5. Only 630,000 or so ebooks are available at Amazon’s Kindle Store. This includes more new books than any other ebook store. However, it’s much less than the number of physical books available. There are likely to be several books you’re interested in that will be unavailable in ebook format. The more specific your tastes the larger the number of missing ebooks.

If you come in expecting 100% or even 70% of the books you want to read to be available in Kindle format (or in any ebook format) you are bound to be disappointed.

Kindle 3 provides benefits when compared with physical books and also has disadvantages

Here are some of the things you’ll miss – being able to decorate your house with books, the physical touch and feel and smell of physical books, being able to resell them, being able to lend them to a friend, making handwritten notes, being careless with them, carrying them anywhere, treating them roughly, browsing bookstores.

Here are some of the things you’ll love about Kindle 3 – up to 3,500 books in a light 8.7 oz device, up to 1 month battery life (with wireless off), reads just like a book, changeable font sizes and changeable font settings, text to speech feature, in-built dictionary, free access to Wikipedia and Internet, book downloads in 60 seconds, a bookstore that is open 24/7, convenient one-handed reading, cheaper book prices, all public domain books for free.

The first challenge is figuring out where you stand on Kindle 3 vs physical books. The second is choosing a particular eReader.

Kindle 3 Vs other eReaders (aka Nook, Sony Reader)

There are three main choices if you’re in the market for an eReader. Would strongly recommend sticking with one of these 3 -

  1. Kindle 3. From Amazon.
  2. Nook – soon to be succeeded by the Nook 2. From Barnes & Noble.
  3. Sony 600 – soon to be succeeded by the Sony 650. From Sony.

In fact, would strongly recommend sticking with either Kindle or Nook.

Nook’s main advantages – Supports Library Books, Good quality screen, ePub support, a second LCD touchscreen for browsing book covers and navigation, looks pretty, B&N has a good bookstore, a stunted lending feature.

Sony’s main advantages – Supports Library Books, Touch screen, ePub support, compact and convenient and quick, available in multiple colors.

Kindle 3’s main advantages – eInk Pearl screen (the best eReader screen), Kindle Store is the best ebook store, easiest to use, very light and compact, best PDF support, free of bugs, very intuitive user interface.  

At the moment, Kindle 3 is the best eReader available.

We won’t know until Nook 2 and Sony 650 are released whether Kindle 3 will remain the best eReader – However, it’s hard to imagine either managing to add as many improvements as Kindle 3 did.

So my recommendation would be to wait a month or two or to get a Kindle 3 now.

Reading on Kindle 3 isn’t Perfect

Reading on the Kindle 3 is very easy on the eyes and offers a lot of benefits but there are also some disadvantages -

  1. Turning pages takes 0.5 to 0.7 seconds. Since turning pages in paper books takes -0.5 seconds some people complain about this endlessly. Try it out to see whether it’s an issue – Usually it’s people who’ve never read on an eReader that are most affected by this page turn ‘delay’.
  2. There’s no color – in case you want color illustrations or have some other color related requirement.
  3. There isn’t a touchscreen.
  4. Taking notes isn’t very easy. It’s straightforward but nothing like scribbling down notes.
  5. There are no page numbers. Kindle 3 uses locations which are completely different from page numbers.

It might be the best eReader but it doesn’t magically take all the best things about books and add-on all the best advances technology enables. Kindle 3 has lots of cool and valuable features but it isn’t perfect and it’s missing some of the benefits of physical books.

There’s a 30 day return period if you buy from Amazon. Also, Kindle 3 will be available to try out at Target Stores starting in September. Please take your time and make sure you actually like reading on Kindle 3.

Kindle 3 is only great for reading – It’s terrible at everything unrelated to reading.

Perhaps the biggest thing to keep in mind is that the Kindle 3 is very, very good for reading and pretty bad at everything else. Here are a few examples that’ll help illustrate this -

  1. The new Browser in the Kindle 3 has article mode that makes reading articles a lot of fun – However, the browser isn’t very suited to navigating through tons of websites and doesn’t support Flash or Java.
  2. eInk makes the Kindle 3 readable in sunlight and easy on the eyes and gives the screen great contrast. However, it doesn’t support color and video and rules out movies and action games.
  3. The music player in the Kindle 3 has just two buttons – on/off and next track. There isn’t even a separate page – these are just shortcuts you use while reading a book. Basically, the music player is only built for one purpose – playing background music while reading.

So we have a device that is very good for reading and does some reading related things well.

At this point let’s clear up a few things -

  1. Kindle 3 isn’t very good as a ‘free email device’. Yes, you can access mobile versions of sites and check your email. No, it’s not a Peek or a device suited for sending emails.
  2. Kindle 3 is definitely not a ‘free browser’ device. The free Internet over 3G is slow. WiFi is faster but nowhere as fast as your desktop browser. Kindle’s browser doesn’t support some websites and it doesn’t support Flash or Java. It is, however, great for reading blog posts and might do pretty well as a RSS reader – if your RSS reader site works on it.
  3. Kindle 3 so far isn’t a gaming device. Games, when they appear, will mostly be board games and card games and puzzles and simple games. There is unlikely to be support for 3D games since the eInk screen can’t refresh quickly.
  4. Kindle 3 isn’t very suited for textbooks. The 6″ screen isn’t big enough, taking notes isn’t easy, and your textbooks are probably not going to be available. The big advantages it has are the low price and a lack of distractions – However, it’s far from being an ideal textbook reader.
  5. Kindle 3 doesn’t yet have an App Store. If you’re looking for the device to get new functionality it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon – No Skype voice calling, no movies, no TV shows, no full working browser with free Internet connection.

What you’re left with is a device that is – great for reading books, quite good for reading articles and blog posts, quite good with newspapers and magazines, and good with PDFs (though it can’t do magic and PDFs meant for A4 size sheets or large computer screens will look rather inelegant on the Kindle 3’s 6″ screen).

Things to know about the Kindle 3 before you jump in

You don’t need a computer to use the Kindle. You don’t need a computer to set it up. You don’t ever need a computer if you have access to WiFi or live in a place with AT&T network coverage.

The $189 price is a pretty good bargain. The $139 price for the Kindle WiFi is a steal.

If you don’t know what WiFi is and can afford $189 get the Kindle 3. If you have WiFi at home and are OK with not being able to buy books when you don’t have WiFi access then a Kindle WiFi will do.

Library books don’t work. Books from stores that have DRM don’t work except for Kindle Store books.

There are lots of free public domain books – Internet Archive has 1.8 million of them in Kindle format. Google’s Free Books can be converted into Kindle format. Gutenberg and Many Books have lots of free books.

There are 20 to 40 new free book offers every month in the Kindle Store – Perhaps 1 to 5 of them will be in your favorite genre.

A few additional Kindle 3 things worth knowing

Kindle 3 is delicate. If you drop it from 5-6 feet it’s likely to break. If you don’t have a warranty you’re out of luck.

The Lighted Cover is $60 and if you like to read in bed it’s invaluable. So add on that $60 when making a decision.

The battery life is amazing – Amazon isn’t joking when it says weeks.

Kindle 3 is much, much better than Kindle 2 and Nook and Sony Reader Touch Edition. It’s hit the point where your money will be money well spent. The big qualifier is – If you love to read.

Get the graphite Kindle 3 – the graphite casing makes a significant difference in readability.

Regret Minimization Framework

Here are a few quick guidelines -

  1. Kindle vs Nook vs Sony. Choose Kindle or Nook – you’ll probably not regret either choice. If it’s Nook wait for Nook 2.
  2. Read less than 1 book a month – Skip buying an eReader and get a Kindle App for your phone.  
  3. Love reading on the iPad – There’s a very high chance you’ll regret buying the Kindle. Skip it.  
  4. Kindle Graphite vs White – Graphite. You’re never going to regret better readability.
  5. Kindle 3G vs WiFi – There’ll always be regret here. If you have WiFi at home and $50 is a big deal then get Kindle WiFi. In all other cases you should be getting a Kindle 3.
  6. Kindle 3 vs Kindle DX 2 – Get the Kindle 3 or wait.
  7. iPad vs Kindle 3 – If you’re even asking this question get the iPad.
  8. Wondering about how cool Kindle 3 is – Skip It.
  9. Worrying about it becoming outdated soon – The last major update was in Feb 2009. The next one is at least a year away – get a Kindle 3 unless you’ll be miserable if a new Kindle DX 3 arrives in 4-5 months. If you will then skip Kindle 3 and wait till Christmas of next year when there will be color eReaders.

There’s a 30 day return period so mark off 25 days from your purchase date (or perhaps it’s shipping date) as the day to return your Kindle 3 if you don’t like it. That’s really the biggest safe-guard – If you’re feeling any regret at all just return the Kindle 3.

Is $189 too expensive for you? Is even $139 too expensive for you?

No worries – Get a Kindle App. You get all the same books at the same prices. You get most of the features.

You can read across your Blackberry and PC.

Choosing a Kindle app over a Kindle 3 is especially recommended if your eyes don’t tire from reading on LCD screens.

What’s the Kindle 3’s killer feature? The biggest selling point?

That it’s great for reading.

It’s the hot new gadget and there’s lots of buzz. However, if you’re buying it for yourself or as a gift please keep in mind that if you don’t like to read or the person you’re getting it for doesn’t like to read then it’s useless.

The Press keeps talking about how there’s nothing revolutionary about Kindle 3. Well, you’re getting a book in 60 seconds – If you love to read that’s revolutionary. All the big features are reading related – up to 1 month battery life, very clear screen, space for lots of books, super light weight, super compact size, great reference via free 3G Internet, in-built dictionary, text to speech, changeable font sizes.

The Kindle 3 is a really good buy if you’re looking for a better reading device than physical books.

11 Responses

  1. I have one question. Can the pdf reader render documents with equations and diagrams in math books ? for example: can it render say pages : 39-45 of the following book (as good as Adobe Acrobat ) ?

    http://www.stanford.edu/~boyd/cvxbook/bv_cvxbook.pdf

    Or Is it possible to use some convert to another format get better fidelity ?

    • Sriram, it can.

      I’ve just spent the better part of 1 hr shooting videos of PDFs and equations and diagrams show up fine.
      Even the Kindle 2 and Kindle DX 2 support this and you can see that at the Kindle DX 2 PDF page which has photos and videos. Since Kindle 3 has same firmware + improvements it’ll work. Will try to add some photos of the PDF you have shared if possible in the next few days.

  2. Right on. The Kindle and e-readers are for people who love reading and not for people who love books.

    At first glance, there’s something almost sterile and antiseptic about an e-reader, but once you start using one, there’s a very real connection to the stories and words on the screen and you begin to feel that old familiar warmth that only reading a good story can give you.

    And I’m glad you mentioned the internet browser. This is not something you’ll want to check your email on very often or browse the web on. 3G isn’t all that… it’s pretty slow to browse the web on my iPhone over 3G, and I can’t imagine how slow it must feel being broadcast over that e-Ink screen with it’s sluggish refresh rate. Sounds terrible, but that’s why it’s only an ‘experimental’ feature. : D

  3. In a significant defection for the book industry, best-selling marketing author Seth Godin is ditching his traditional publisher, Portfolio, after a string of books and plans to sell his future works directly to his fans.

    Mr. Godin plans to release subsequent titles himself in electronic books, via print-on-demand or in such formats as audiobooks, apps, small digital files called PDFs and podcasts.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704340504575447841893919812.html

  4. can kindle 3 view .jpg files natively and zoom into image

    • Yes, you need to create a separate folder called Pictures and put the image in a sub-folder of that.
      Then on Kindle Home Page press Alt+Z and that sub-folder shows up on the list.

  5. How does reading a PDF document on the kindle 3 compare with reading it on a netbook that has a ten inch screen?

  6. I really like your website!! It has been very helpful is my ereader research. I bought a Nook on Craigslist because I couldn’t wait for the K3, but may get it when it makes its store appearance. Do you think that will be mid-Sept? I noticed Amazon is now indicating new orders on the K3 will be sent to arrive mid-Sept. So, you could cash & carry at Target it seems if you’ve waited this long to buy?

    Do you know why there are so many more magazines and newspapers available for Kindle than Nook? I have not read any newspapers on my Nook, but was told by the person who sold it to me that it was not the best experience. I think it was because you had to scroll back and forth. Does K3 have this same clunky interface with mag/news? I saw something about “article” mode. Maybe this helps?

    B&N employees are saying no Nook 2 is in the works. What do you think they would improve with N2 (screen contrast?).

    Amazon customer service told me that a “lending” was an upcoming feature. Not sure if CS agent knew what they were talking about, but thoughts?

    Sorry for the deluge of questions, but have been enjoying reading for awhile and just got the time to post. Thanks!!

    • There was a Target that had a notice saying it’ll get Kindles in early September. Have heard this from numerous places – early September for Kindle 3 at Target.

      Article Mode is for the browser. Newspapers and Magazines are OK – It’s just that 6″ is so much smaller than newspaper size it’s not ideal plus it takes a little getting used to – Having articles like sections in a book.

      Nook 2 is already approved by FCC – they are just trying to clear stock. Nook 2 ought to have the eInk Pearl Screen – B&N is planning a big September push so it might release soon.

      That’s interesting – lending is in the works? Haven’t heard anything about it.

  7. problem with the nook is like other lcd screens. You can’t use it under bright sunlight.

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