Which Kindle e-reader should you choose?

First – a story…..

I’ve been thinking a lot (which can be really dangerous) about e-Readers since the Amazon press conference announcements happened yesterday. 

I purchased my first Kindle e-reader (my beloved White Kindle 2) about 3 years ago.  It changed my life.  Seriously.  All joking aside. I thought the price was ridiculously expensive at the time but have been hooked on reading as long as I can remember and the thought of carrying only one book on a trip made me somehow justify the expense. 

Just holding that device in my hands, I knew it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Or, since I love to run, the greatest thing since wicking fabric was made for the masses.  It was true love. I could make the fonts larger, smaller, listen to books with the atrocious monotone voices (which has made my life so much easier during two painful eye surgeries and recoveries). 

Those were the good old days.  New books were $9.99 each the day they came out to market.  I could justify buying almost any of my favorite novels because it was so much cheaper than a physical hardback book.  I started getting rid of books because I wanted them only on my Kindle.  Amazon was the main bookstore at that point in time, so my original purchase was easy to do.  I didn’t even look at other e-readers, didn’t consider the Kindle 1 and couldn’t afford Kindle DX.

I was thrilled when the Kindle store came out with its first few apps.  I am not a big game player, but love words and anything to do with word games, so those first apps were word related and I was hooked.  Now I had apps to kill time with when I wasn’t busy reading books (ah – I remember those days when I could read as many books as I wanted to).

Readers are probably thinking….”Get to the point!  How could a Kindle 2 change your life?”

I had been following the blog at ireaderreview.com for a few months.  I happened  to read a blog post by some guy called Switch11 who was looking for beta testers for some Kindle apps his team was creating. I happened to love Kindle apps, had done a lot of testing in my career, and thought I would volunteer to get some free apps.  Too late! He had already filled all the slots.  But, since I had some decent credentials, he thought he would try to get an extra slot and give me a try. Within a day or two, I had several beta apps to test.  Jumped in a little gung-ho and sent off all sorts of issues.  Asked Switch11 if I was doing any good and he replied that I had found a pretty decent amount of issues. Jokingly – I said that maybe I should ask for a raise.  Seriously – he asked me to be head of Quality.

One e-mail – in which I crawled out of my shell to volunteer for a project led to a whole new exciting career that I have been following for going on 2 years.  See – an e-reader can change your life.

<——>

Now that you know the decision of which e-reader to purchase has monumental implications, let me give you some insights into which of the current slate of Kindle e-readers you might want to consider:

Kindle Keyboard 3G - For $139 with special offers (ads) or $159 without special offers (ad free) (please note: this often goes on sale around the holidays) – if you have the money and need to use apps or take notes and such and will be typing a lot – please choose this device.  I have had 4 Kindle e-readers and this is BY FAR the best e-reader Amazon ever made.  The keyboard is awesome (once you forgive them for removing the row of numbers), the 5 way controller is great, and the page forward and page back keys are wonderful.  The device is a good size and comfortable to hold. I think 100% of the Kindle apps also work on this device. 

By the way – if you wonder if it is a pain to have the Special Offers….I pretty well ignore them.  I actually find them a pleasant change from the boring, stock screensavers that Amazon forces on Kindle owners.  Some of the special offers are pretty good.  Save the $20 to buy apps or books.

Kindle – (Known by some as Kindle for Kids, Mindle, Cardboard Kindle) – Price just dropped to $69 (with special offers).  This price is a steal.  I think this is 1/3 of what I paid for my first Kindle.  It still has the 5 way controller.  It has physical page forward and page back buttons.  About 85% of Kindle apps work on this device.  Yes, there is an on-screen keyboard.  This will slow you down some if you need to type a lot.  However, if you are rough on Kindles, needing an inexpensive (but excellent) Kindle, or starting a young book lover on their e-reader journey, this is the device for you. 

Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Paperwhite 3G  – $119 and $179 respectively (with special offers).  The newest additions to the Kindle family are replacing the Kindle Touch of late 2011 (or is that the Late Kindle Touch of Late 2011?). Note: I was not impressed with the Kindle Touch, but found it liveable.  My biggest disappointments – no physical page turn buttons and no requirements to make apps available for the device.  I live alone, so reading all night with a light on is not a big concern, but I am excited at the idea of the backlight in the app.  Sharper fonts and cleaner screens – all sound like positives to me.  More pixels, better contrast….better and better.  If I happen to get one passing through my mailbox, it might not ever reach its intended destination.  Add $20-$40 to the cost of the older Kindles in order to add in an attachable light and this price looks great.  I would particularly recommend this for someone who likes to read in bed at night (and actually has to share their room with someone else), travelers who read a lot on airplanes (why do they always turn down the lights?), reading to children in the dark and on car rides, etc.  If you have a smart phone, you won’t need to use the keyboard as much and that might help make a decision.

When to go for 3G?  If you do not have WiFi in your home and don’t live in the Hundred Acre Woods, then I recommend getting 3G.  This will make it easier to download purchases without travelling to the nearest Starbucks all the time.

My one concern on the Kindle Paperwhite? No word yet from the folks at Amazon if any of the Kindle apps for Kindle Touch will work on this device.  If apps are important to you, I’d hold off until a little more information has been released so that you can make an educated decision.

New Kindle tips, thoughts

The new Kindle (Kindle 4) is lovable and annoying. Here are some New Kindle tips and thoughts – thanks to various commenters, to Maurine, and to Mike for some of these.

new Kindle tips – things worth knowing

  1. There is no spoon. And by spoon we mean power adapter. There’s a delicious irony in Amazon promoting Kindle with the tagline ‘No Computer Required’ but not shipping a product adapter. The only way to charge it (if you don’t buy an adapter for $10) is via the USB cable – which presumably will be attached to a PC or laptop. No Computer Required – Unless you want to recharge it.
  2. You can get a screenshot by pressing the Menu and Keyboard buttons at the same time. Thanks to Mike at KDL Apps and Nate at The Digital Reader for this shortcut.
  3. Don’t know of a way to refresh the screen.
  4. It really is as good for core reading experience as any other Kindle. Finished The Strain in the last two days without eye strain or wrist strain or any other sort of strain. The eInk Pearl screen continues to do a fine job.
  5. Special Offers might actually save you money. Despite all the (justified) anti-Ad sentiment, some of the Special Offers are straightforward things like $10 for a $20 gift card. You will probably find a few (perhaps even quite a few) money-saving deals. I’ve been very negative about ads but if Amazon uses this for Groupon type 50% off deals then – no complaints whatsoever.
  6. The compactness is very good. As is the light weight. Hadn’t thought it would help with reading since Kindle 3 is already very small and light – However, it does help a bit.
  7. $79 is the price for the new Kindle with Ads included – it’s not clear on the product page unless you look carefully. It’s beginning to stack up – Calling Ads as ‘Special Offers’, Listing ‘Kindle’ for $79 and then the small type indicates $79 is for ‘Kindle with Special Offers’, the Power Adapter being separate but no clear indication that it has to be bought separately. Wonder how many people are going to realize only when their new Kindle arrives that there is no power adapter and that there are special offers instead of screensavers.
  8. It looks quite a bit better than earlier Kindles. It’s also helpful that there is a black border around the eInk screen (which helps bring out the contrast too) and a frame/border around the bezel of the Kindle. ‘Kindle’ has replaced ‘Amazon Kindle’ on the front and back. An improvement and a simplification.
  9. The page turn buttons’ size and placement is going to make some people unhappy.
  10. There are two very interesting metallic contacts/squares at the back. When combined with the mini-slot at the bottom it makes you wonder if Amazon is going to make a stand or dock for new Kindle. Perhaps it’s just that the Reading Light for the new Kindle will be powered differently.
  11. What a lot of people aren’t realizing is that no keyboard also means we lose a lot of shortcuts – Alt+B to bookmark, Alt+G to refresh the screen, etc.

Here are a few things existing Kindle owners will know but first time Kindle owners won’t:

  1. You can press the Menu key to see – page numbers, time (at the top), and connection strength (at the top right). Note: The status bar at the top disappears once you move away from the first page you start reading from. Pressing Menu brings it back – You can see Book Title and battery life in it.
  2. In the Settings section you can set your Kindle’s time. You can also find out various information and choose a WiFi network.
  3. Please read this Kindle Tips post. Most of the tips will apply to Kindle 4 too.
  4. Check this list of the best Kindle sites.

The Kindle Help Guide for new Kindle is just 21 pages. Seems a bit rushed.

new Kindle is the Kindle for Kids

Maurine reviews new Kindle at our Kindle App blog and her conclusion made me realize that Kindle 4 is close to being the Kindle for Kids -

 I highly recommend this as an option for children and teenagers that will not be taking notes on it.  The price is low enough that you can consider it a reasonable investment, they will not spend a lot of time using the keyboard or searching the web on it, and it will allow an e-reader to get into the hands of a young reader who will want to move up in value as they get older. If I am looking at the Kindle 4 from that point of view, I would give it a rating of 4 to 4.5.  It would make an awesome birthday or Christmas gift for the young reader.

If Amazon could – add gorilla glass and make the new Kindle screen crash-proof, make the eReader flexible or capable of taking shocks and falls, add more children’s books and more textbooks – it would turn new Kindle into a near-perfect Kindle for Kids.

Please Note: Some of the points in the earlier section are also based on Maurine’s Review of the New Kindle.

new Kindle as the Economy Kindle

$79 really does make new Kindle a Kindle nearly anyone can afford. It also becomes the Kindle that organizations and schools and companies can hand out to everyone in their ranks.

The friction in the path of buying new Kindle is minimal. At $79 its perfect for a world facing a global recession.

new Kindle book review

The Strain by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro. A poor man’s The Passage. A very poor man’s The Old Man and the Wasteland (4.5 stars on 244 reviews, indie author in the Top 100).

There are parts where the authors get all emotional in their writing and then get emotional trying to convey they are getting emotional. It’s also the most difficult-to-emphathize-with group of characters since Real Housewives of New York.

Here’s an example -

Life doesn’t go at all the way you think it will.

Eph nodded. “After what my parents went through, what they put me through, I always told myself, never, never, never, never.”

“I know.”

He folded in the spout on the milk carton. “So forget who did what. What we need to do now is make it up to him.”

“We do.”

Kelly nodded. Eph nodded. He swirled the milk around in the carton, feeling the coldness brush up against his palm.

“Christ, what a day.” he said.

The story itself is amazing. It’s just that the writing doesn’t match and at times is laughably bad. If you’ve seen Tropic Thunder – Imagine someone making that exact movie after having started out with the intention of making Platoon or Apocalypse Now.

Perhaps it’s appropriate that the Vampire/Apocalypse hybrid book read on the $79 Kindle doesn’t live up to the Vampire/Apocalypse hybrid books read on the $189 Kindle 3. Perhaps it’s just what has to be done to reach the lowest common denominator.

Law of Unintended Consequences

Highlighting on Kindle 4 is awkward and note-taking is painful. What that will probably lead to is people highlighting far less and reading straight through. Not bad for Amazon but it might take away from your personal experience if you tend to like highlighting or taking notes.

After the first 3-4 highlights – I just stopped highlighting. Probably because the process is -

  1. Move to the start of the passage (same as on Kindle 3).
  2. Press on 5-way (same as on Kindle 3).
  3. Get Menu where sometimes first option is ‘Detailed Definition’ and sometimes first option is ‘Start Highlight’. Definitely differently from Kindle 3. Click ‘Start Highlight’. Screen Flashes (a flash that isn’t present on Kindle 3).
  4. Move cursor to end of highlight (same as on Kindle 3).
  5. Press down on 5-way (same as on Kindle 3).
  6. Choose ‘End Highlight’ from a Menu – always the first option. Press down and get screen Flash. Kindle 3 also has one screen flash here – at the end of doing a highlight.

You have to admire the infinite skill of the person who designed it such that you have to click the 5-way 4 times, get two screen flashes, and choose Start/End Highlight from a Menu twice – all just to be able to highlight a passage.

Perhaps its a good thing – unless some passage transforms your life you’ll decide it just isn’t worth the effort to highlight it.

Amazon’s continued persecution of the Keyboard

It would be remiss to not point out the backwards evolution of the Kindle keyboard -

  1. Kindle 1 – Reasonably large keyboard. Number Keys. Clunky but usable.
  2. Kindle 2 – Smaller keys making it harder to use. Slightly less usable but still usable. Number keys still present.
  3. Kindle 3 – Tinier keys so that Tom Thumb feels at home. No Number Keys. Tougher to use.
  4. new Kindle – No keyboard.

It almost seems as if Amazon made a conscious decision to slowly kill off the keyboard. Decided that rather than wasting time writing notes people should finish the book.

new Kindle really is a new sort of Kindle

It hasn’t all fallen into place yet. However, there’s something more to this than no keyboard and $79 and Special Offers. There’s a very definite attempt by Amazon to do something significant. If there were a way to put all the improvements and all the negatives in the proper context – my suspicion is they would all end up being part of a very well-defined blueprint that morphs the Kindle into a new sort of Kindle.

new Kindle is a very significant shift. Kindles to this point have been primarily for dedicated readers and new Kindle is for casual readers. Kindles were meant to replace published books and new Kindle is an attempt to replace more than just books.

The shift isn’t complete yet. We aren’t yet at the stage where the pain of memories of home tears at our hearts. It’s just an inflection point. Kindle has gone from a device meant for people who love books to a device meant for everyone.

Kindle Touch Review

This Kindle Touch Review is based on information available about the new Kindle Touch eReader from Amazon. It won’t be released until November 15th – However, it’s worth going into features and comparing it against Kindle Keyboard (Kindle 3) and the $79 Kindle.

Kindle Touch Review – Main Features

Here’s what you get for $99 -

  1. eInk Pearl Screen. This is optimized for reading and is the latest eInk technology available. It’s readable in sunlight but doesn’t come with a backlight.
  2. 6″ screen with 600 by 800 resolution at 167 ppi.
  3. Touch Screen. Lets you do things easier and quicker. Also page turns are noiseless.
  4. Very simple to use. Touch adds even more simplicity to an already intuitive Kindle experience.
  5. WiFi. Also free WiFi access at AT&T hotspots.
  6. Solid Battery Life. If you read half an hour a day with wireless off you get 2 months battery life.
  7. Wireless Downloads of books in 60 seconds over WiFi.
  8. Kindle Store which has the best range of new books. It also has lots of free book offers and deals and the best book prices.
  9. Library Book Support.
  10. A compact and light eReader. It’s 6.8″ by 4.7″ by 0.40″. It’s also 7.5 ounces. It is supposed to be around 18% smaller than Kindle 3.
  11. Experimental Browser.
  12. 4 GB of memory of which 3 GB is available for you. Free Cloud Storage with unlimited capacity for Amazon content.
  13. Text to Speech. Only available when Publishers haven’t disabled it. Available on all your personal documents.
  14. Lending. One-time lending to one person. Only available when Publishers haven’t disabled it.
  15. Kindle Reading Apps, WhisperSync, and other Amazon Infrastructure based features. You can continue reading across devices. You can sync notes.
  16. PDF Support. Please Note: The 6″ screen is rather small for PDFs and there are still bugs with highlighting in PDFs etc. So this isn’t really a very good PDF reader.
  17. There’s a new feature called X-Ray which lets you explore the bones of a book. Somewhere, House is laughing at the ridiculous analogy.
  18. Faster page turns than Kindle 3.

Overall, you get a very impressive amount of value for money.

It is worth pointing out some disadvantages -

  1. To get the $99 price you have to get the Kindle Touch with Special Offers. That means ads instead of screensavers and an ad on your Kindle home page.
  2. There is no ePub support. That means you can’t really get ebooks from any of the other big ebook stores. It also means that if you decide to switch to another eReader you can’t take your Kindle books with you.
  3. Touch is convenient – However, the typing will not be as convenient as with a physical keyboard. The lack of physical page turn buttons is also an inconvenience.
  4. No 3G. The 3G version is $50 more expensive. It lets you download books via 3G and lets you do free Internet browsing in over 100 countries (only if your Home Country is the US).
  5. Perhaps some things I’ve missed.

To be quite honest, there aren’t that many disadvantages. The Ads are annoying but at $99 you can’t really complain.

Amazon has taken back its ‘Best eReader’ Crown. It’ll be interesting to see what B&N and Kobo do to counter.

Kindle Touch Review – Top 5 Kindle Touch Features

A quick summary of the 5 main benefits -

  1. An eInk Pearl eReader for just $99.
  2. Access to the Kindle Store.
  3. Text to Speech.
  4. Touch screen and generally very easy to use interface.
  5. Compact, Light and Portable.

Everyone expected Amazon to try for a $99 Kindle – No one expected it to deliver a $99 Kindle Touch.

Kindle Touch Review – How important is the Touch Kindle price of $99?

The Kindle Touch at $99 is really good value for money. The key figure here is $99. It’s a really important price since it means that we go below the mythical $100 price barrier and lots of people who were unwilling to pay $114 for a Kindle 3 with Special Offers will now supposedly be psychologically compelled to buy the Kindle Touch with Special Offers for $99.

My gut feeling is that it’s going to work and the $99 Kindle Touch will sell like crazy. The $79 Kindle and $99 Kindle make price and value for money their main selling points and with their sub-$100 prices they remove what was perhaps the last big barrier to wide eReader adoption.

Kindle Touch for $99 or Kindle Keyboard for $99?

Not even going to discuss the $79 Kindle because its lack of speakers and lack of keyboard/touch make it a horror in my opinion. Just pay $20 more and get Text to Speech and background music and easy typing of notes.

Kindle Touch advantages – touch-screen, more compact, lighter, 4th generation kindle, easier interface thanks to touch.

Kindle Keyboard advantages – keyboard, page turn buttons, known to be very good, available now.

If you prefer a keyboard and/or must have physical page turn buttons and/or can’t wait for a month and a half, then Kindle Keyboard is a better option. In most other cases the Kindle Touch is the better choice. They both are very similar in most other ways. I’ll update this Kindle Touch review when the Kindle Touch ships.

Kindle 4 Review – New Kindle Review

This Kindle 4 Review covers the $79 new Kindle. It reviews the main features and drawbacks of the Kindle 4.

You can find Kindle 4 photos and a more detailed review at the Kindle 4 Review, Photos page.

Kindle 4 Review – $79

The biggest selling point of the Kindle 4 is the $79 price. The general assumption has been that once Amazon hits $99 with a Kindle it will open up the floodgates. Well, Amazon has hit $79 and it is definitely going to lead to a huge number of sales.

First, we’ll look at the main features of the Kindle 4. Then we’ll look at whether you should get the $79 Kindle 4 or the $99 Kindle Keyboard or the $99 Kindle Touch.

Kindle 4 Review – Main Features of the $79 Kindle

Here’s what you get for $79 -

  1. The latest eInk screen technology. It’s eInk Pearl and it’s optimized for reading. You can read it in sunlight but there is no backlight.
  2. The screen is 6″ with 600 by 800 pixel resolution and 16 levels of grey-scale. Note: This is a black and white screen, not color.
  3. A very light and compact eReader. It’s just 5.98 ounces (170 grams) and it’s small enough to fit in your pocket. Exact dimensions: 6.5″ x 4.5″ x 0.34″ (166 mm x 114 mm x 8.7 mm).
  4. WiFi. Also included is free access at AT&T hotspots.
  5. It has 2 GB of internal memory with 1.25 GB available for you. That can hold 1,400 books.
  6. Free Cloud Storage for all Amazon content you buy.
  7. Battery life of 1 month with wireless off (and half an hour a day of reading). Battery life of 3 weeks with wireless on (again with half an hour a day of reading).
  8. USB 2.0 connector.
  9. Formats supported: Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC.
  10. Formats Supported after conversion: HTML, DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP.
  11. Experimental Browser.
  12. Faster page turns than Kindle 3 had.
  13. Adjustable Font Sizes and Fonts optimized for the eInk Pearl screen – for speed and readability.
  14. Support for Latin, Greek, and Non-Latin characters including English, Cyrillic, Japanese, Chinese (Traditional and Simplified), and Korean.
  15. Option to switch between Portrait and Landscape Mode.

That’s a bit overwhelming so let’s look at Top 5 Benefits.

Kindle 4 Review – Top 5 Kindle Benefits

Here is why you might want to get a $79 Kindle -

  1. It’s just $79.
  2. It’s the same excellent-for-reading eInk Pearl screen the $189 Kindle 3 had (now just $99 if you don’t mind ads in screensavers and at the bottom of your home page).
  3. It’s very light and compact and portable and WiFi lets you carry it around and get books and browse anywhere there is a WiFi network you can access. It has great battery life which adds to the portability.
  4. You get access to the Kindle Store and Amazon’s infrastructure. Including free Cloud storage for your Amazon purchases and features like WhisperSync.
  5. You get support for library books.

There are also some concerns -

  1. With neither a keyboard nor a touchscreen the usability will be bad – and downright terrible for taking notes or writing down anything.
  2. No Speakers – That means no text to speech and no music in the background.
  3. For just $20 more you can get a Kindle Touch or a Kindle Keyboard which are much better. Both in value for money and in overall features.
  4. The memory is on the low side – With 1.25 GB available and with no memory card slot you are stuck if you like carrying a lot of books around with you.
  5. Battery life is less – just 1 month compared to 2 months for the Kindle Touch and the Kindle Keyboard.
  6. Update: Without ePub support it means you can only buy books from Kindle Store.

We keep coming back to the comparison with the Kindle Touch and Kindle Keyboard so let’s look at it in more depth.

Kindle 4 Review – What about $20 more for the Kindle Touch or the Kindle Keyboard?

If you don’t need touch and don’t need a keyboard – then the $79 Kindle is great. Please do note that the lack of a keyboard (physical or touch based) will make some things difficult. Also, it doesn’t have speakers so no Text to Speech which is one of the biggest Amazon/Kindle advantages.

If you like to take notes or like having a physical keyboard – then the Kindle Keyboard is the best choice. It’s not as compact and page turns are not as fast. However, it’s a pretty good deal at $99. It also has speakers. Note: It is the third generation Kindle so it’s not as new as the $79 Kindle or the $99 Kindle Touch.

If you want a touchscreen and are OK with an on-screen touch keyboard – then the Kindle Touch is the best choice. It also has speakers. It’s also a Kindle 4 i.e. a fourth generation Kindle.

In my opinion, it’s a far better decision to get the Kindle Touch or the Kindle Keyboard. In either case, for just $20 more, you are getting a far more usable interface. I’ll update this Kindle 4 Review by Friday or Saturday. However, it’s pretty clear in my mind that you lose a lot by choosing the $79 Kindle over the $99 Kindle Touch or the $99 Kindle Keyboard.

$79 Kindle – Kindle 4 available now

The $79 Kindle (Kindle 4) is now available to order at Amazon. It’s the only one available now – the Kindle Touch and Kindle Tablet are preorders and only ship in mid to end November.

The international version is $109 and is also available now.

Key selling points -

  1. 5.98 ounces. Making it 30% lighter than Kindle 3.
  2. 18% smaller body. Fits in your pocket. Just don’t use your back pocket.
  3. No keyboard.
  4. 6″ screen size.
  5. Most advanced eInk display – Guess that means eInk Pearl.
  6. WiFi.
  7. Library Book Support.

The $79 Kindle is super compelling. It blows away expectations. People expected it to be $99. If you don’t need touch then $79 Kindle is the ideal choice.

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