Kindle 4 Review (Kindle 4 Review, Photos)

Having played with the Kindle 4 it’s time to write a proper review. This Kindle 4 Review will cover – Review Assumptions, A Detailed Kindle 4 Review, Kindle 4 Photos, Upgrade Recommendations (if you have Kindle 3 or Kindle 2).

For the Kindle 4 Photos (including Kindle 4 vs Kindle 3 Comparison Photos) please jump to the second half of the post.

Kindle 4 Review – Assumptions

This is a review of the Kindle 4. Review = Helping someone decide whether or not to buy it.

It’s not for you if you’ve already bought a Kindle 4 or have already decided to buy a Kindle 4. You will probably not like the fact that we point out a somewhat long list of mostly minor negatives.

We’ll start off with three assumptions –

  1. We are looking at whether Kindle 4 is a great eReader. The most important criteria being – ability to find and buy books easily, the reading experience, the value for money. Some other important criteria – battery life, ease of use, portability, the actual price, reading related features, resale value.
  2. We value ‘value for money’ over raw price. This Kindle 4 Review will focus on answering two questions – Is Kindle 4 good value for money? Is it the best value for money (especially since Kindle Touch and Kindle 3 are just $20 more)?
  3. We are in a very competitive environment and Kindle 4 co-exists with other options. Thanks to the Kindle vs Nook vs Kobo battle and the various Kindles on offer – we get to choose the very best option.

On with the Kindle 4 Review.

Detailed Kindle 4 Review – The 5 Best Things

  1. The very low $79 price. If your primary criteria is to buy the cheapest eReader possible – then Kindle 4 is the clear winner.
  2. Very good Value for Money. This also shows up on Top 5 Negatives list because it offers lower value for money than Kindle 3 and Kindle Touch. However, at $79 Kindle 4 is incredible value for money.
  3. Kindle Store and Kindle Infrastructure. You get a connection to the best eBook Store and get Amazon’s amazing infrastructure to support you.
  4. Great Reading Experience if you ignore the things that are at the periphery. The eInk Pearl screen makes for a great reading experience.
  5. Very light and compact. It’s just 6 ounces and it’s 18% smaller in size than Kindle 3.

Basically, if you look at the most important qualities an eReader should have i.e. easy to find and get books, good reading experience, value for money – Kindle 4 does very well on all three. The problems start when we look at the other qualities an eReader should have (the ones that aren’t deal breakers but will still have an impact on the overall experience).

In a nutshell – Kindle 4 is a good eReader but misses out on being a great eReader.

Kindle 4 Review – The 5 Worst Things

  1. The decision to have neither a touchscreen nor a keyboard is a big mistake. It makes everything awkward and/or adds additional steps everywhere – bookmarking pages, changing font settings, highlighting, entering a website address, doing a search, note-taking (more on that later), etc. There are lots and lots of things that are slower and/or painful on Kindle 4.
  2. Kindle 4 is far less value for money than a Kindle Touch or Kindle 3. My estimate would be – Kindle 4 is worth around $100 in value, Kindle Touch is worth around $160 to $180, Kindle 3 is worth around $160 to $170. It might be $20 cheaper than the other two options – However, it provides less bang for the buck.
  3. If you like taking notes then Kindle 4 is pretty much out of the question.
  4. Kindle 4 doesn’t have speakers so text to speech is impossible and you can’t play music on it.
  5. 50% less battery life than other Kindles and 50% less memory (actually 60% less than Kindle 3).

If this is your first Kindle then some of these things are things you’ll never realize – so it’s not as bad as it sounds.

In a nutshell – If the extra $20 is not an issue, then Kindle 4 just isn’t very compelling when compared with Kindle Touch and Kindle 3.

Kindle 4 Review – Core Reading Experience

Kindle 4 shines here. The eInk Pearl screen is the same as the Kindle 3’s and it’s great for reading. The background is now whiter and there is a black border around the screen that helps bring out the contrast better.

The screen is flashed only on every 6th page turn which makes page turns faster and less annoying (if the flash bothers you).

It’s easy to get books and you still have 60 second downloads.

One slight negative here is that the page turn buttons are now even smaller and harder to get to. Of course, this is a very personal thing and people’s opinions will vary wildly.

Overall, the Core Reading Experience is superb.

Kindle 4 Review – Things that prop up the Reading Experience

This is where the Kindle 4 runs into trouble.

Making a bookmark, adding a highlight, adding a note, changing the font, doing a search – everything is now slower or takes more steps. If you like making highlights and taking notes then Kindle 4 is ruled out.

Adding a highlight now involves – Pressing down on the 5-way, getting a menu and choosing ‘Start Highlight’ (usually the first option), moving the cursor, pressing 5-way again, getting a menu and choosing ‘End Highlight’ (always the first option).

It also involves two screen flashes.

If you’ve owned a Kindle 3 it might be rather annoying – especially when everything else also involves extra steps. If you’ve never owned a Kindle – then there’s no frame of reference and you might not mind it.

In Summary – Things that support the reading experience are now neither smooth nor intuitive. It takes away from the great core reading experience and turns the Kindle 4 from a great eReader to a merely good one. It’s still an absolute steal at $79.

Kindle 4 Review – Looking at the Product Page

Here are a few things worth discussing –

  1. The lightness and compactness are indeed very impressive. If possible, visit a Staples and check it out in person.
  2. The memory capacity is quite enough if you plan on reading just books from Amazon. If you plan on adding PDFs etc. then 1.2 GB of available memory might not be enough. Also, there is no SD Card so you can’t expand.
  3. eInk Pearl Screen – It was beautiful on the Kindle 3 and it’s slightly improved here (Not enough to warrant an upgrade).
  4. Kindle Library Book Support – Amazing Feature. Finally coming for all Kindles and Kindle 4 benefits from this.
  5. Read in Sunlight. One of the big selling points of eInk (along with the fact that it’s much easier on the eyes for approximately 50% of people).
  6. Battery Life – 1 month is quite enough for most people. If you want more, get the Kindle 3 or Kindle Touch.
  7. Simple to Use – Yes. However, Amazon has made a mess of things like highlighting and note-taking.
  8. WiFi. This is a great feature to have. Browse the Internet, Shop in the Kindle Store, etc.
  9. Faster Page Turns. Yes, and the screen flashes only on every 6th page turn.
  10. PDF Support. The screen is too small for PDFs. You can put the PDF in landscape mode – However, the 6″ screen is just too small.
  11. Kindle Store – An undeniable advantage. The widest range of new ebooks and the best prices.
  12. Access to Public Domain books – Available on all eReaders.
  13. Whispersync and Kindle Reading Apps – a Definite plus. You can start reading on Kindle 4 and finish on your Android Phone or iPad.

Kindle 4 is a very solid eReader. It’s not a very big leap from Kindle 3. More like a Kindle 3.25 rather than a Kindle 4. However, at $79, it’s certainly worth considering.

Kindle 4 – Should you Upgrade?

Short Version

  1. Kindle 2 – Please look at Kindle Touch and Kindle 3 first.
  2. Kindle 3 – No. All you gain is a marginally better screen (and perhaps one or two other things). You give up a lot.
  3. Kindle 1 – Look at Kindle Touch and Kindle 3 first. The move from Kindle 1’s sturdy size and largish keyboard to Kindle 4 might be too much of jump.

Longer Version

With every new device there are some changes people love and there are some changes people don’t really care for. However, Kindle 4 is different in that Kindle 4 doesn’t seem like it’s meant for the people who bought Kindles and Kindle 2s and Kindle 3s.

It’s perhaps meant for people who want a really cheap reading device. Amazon has done a great job for them – $79 is a stunning price.

It is unlikely that Kindle 4 will satisfy existing Kindle owners. While Kindle 4 doesn’t compromise on the core reading experience (it’s superb), it compromises on so many of the supporting elements (note-taking, searching, highlighting, etc.) that it just isn’t worth an upgrade. Kindle 4 is a good, solid eReader and it’s not as good as Kindle 3.

That brings us to our Kindle 4 Photos.

Kindle 4 Review – Kindle 4 Photos

All the photos are after the jump i.e. Click on the read more link.

Continue reading Kindle 4 Review (Kindle 4 Review, Photos)

Kindle version Reviews for Wind-Up Girl & Year of the Flood

Not sure why 3 am through 8 am has turned into ‘Read Books on Kindle for PC’ time, but it has.

Fortunately, read two real gems in the last few days.

Wind-Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. It’s $7.39 and could be categorized as one or more of – Steampunk, Science Fiction, A Story of Redemption, High Tech Fantasy, A Story about What Makes us Human.

This won both the 2010 Hugo and the 2009 Nebula. It shared the former with The City & The City by China Meiville.

It’s beyond breathtaking. It’s full of people who are human in the best sense and in the worst sense – sometimes both at the same time.

There are various threads that you might like –

  1. Fighting for your country’s integrity.
  2. Trying to build/rebuild a fortune.
  3. The dangers of corporations.
  4. The dangers of genetic engineering.
  5. The race against diseases and virus mutations.
  6. The vulnerability of the wind-up girl.
  7. The sense of being an outsider and xenophobia.
  8. The hatred of technology and the worship of it.
  9. The politics underlying everything.

You will probably not like it if you believe that we’re bound to find a replacement for fossil fuels in the near future. You will probably dislike it intensely if you like everything to be very technically perfect, i.e. you expect the book to have the scientific rigor of a peer-reviewed paper (not that that means anything these days).

Reading The Wind-up Girl is as intense as watching an entire season of Jersey Shore in one sitting – except at the end you feel there is hope for the human race.

The downside – Mr. Bacigalupi has 2 novels and 1 set of short stories in the Kindle Store and that’s it. Yet another brilliant author who hasn’t written enough books.

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood. This is a follow-on to Oryx and Crake and runs pretty much parallel to it.

With all due apologies to Margaret Atwood the environmental mumblings and poems ensure this book isn’t in the same league as either The Wind-Up Girl or Oryx and Crake.

It’s a beautiful story, yet each chapter begins with a painfully bland single-page write-up of some environmental nonsense festival and a poem that is equally appalling. Even if your heart bleeds for the Earth your eyes will be bleeding after reading all of these. Better to just skip them as they have nothing to do with the story itself.

The story is absolutely beautiful. The writing is stellar. Basically, if you rip out the 1-page environmental thingies and the poems this is a superstar book – just as good as Oryx and Crake, and in some ways, better.

There are quite a few things that are pretty amazing.

  1. Margaret Atwood captures that ‘love of my life’ feeling some/all girls seem to have. The tendency to start feeling that one man is the most amazing man in the world and the inability to ever get over him.
  2. The book captures the fact that there are often things we don’t want to acknowledge that do exist. In places it is rather brutal.
  3. It’s a very good accompaniment to Oryx and Crake. In some ways the characters are easier to grow fond of than the characters in Oryx and Crake – actually, in a lot of ways.
  4. It’s a very comfortable story with very unsettling things. You will be reading along smoothly and then realize that a rather unsettling notion has just been thrown in.
  5. It captures the Corporations/Progress vs Humanity/Earth aspect perfectly.
  6. It’s a plausible scenario. It’s not too hard to imagine the sort of world Margaret Atwood creates. You could argue that we are already well on our way to exactly such a world.
  7. It’s a very satisfying read – especially if you’ve read Oryx and Crake.

Not sure how it manages to be brilliant despite all the environmental cult nonsense but it does.

It’s strange how books have the ability to let you see things from someone else’s perspective but through your own eyes.

Kindle 3 review insights from user reviews

The Kindle 3 product page now shows 614 customer reviews.

These kindle 3 reviews are surprisingly insightful and bring up a lot of things the big press reviews don’t. Let’s take a look.

Kindle 3 Review Insights – Kindle 3 Positives

The various positives (and the negatives in the next section) are arranged roughly in order of frequency of occurrence. So the Kindle 3 pros and cons that were mentioned most often are usually at the top of the lists.

The positives mentioned in 4 star and 5 star Kindle 3 reviews –

  1. Lots of praise for the Screen and Contrast – Much better contrast. eInk is amazing.
  2. Lots of praise for the light weight and compact size. Small enough to fit in most purses. 
  3. Great value for money.
  4. Very long battery life.
  5. The ease of getting new books.
  6. Readable in sunlight. No Glare.
  7. Far superior to Nook, Sony Reader, and Kindle 2. Best eReader on the market.
  8. Browser is better than expected and free Internet is very good value. Lots and lots of mentions of how this is very usable and very readable. Please note that this isn’t really a full-fledged browser – just a useful one.  
  9. Faster page turns. Speedier device in general.
  10. Page turn buttons on both sides. It’s interesting how having the Previous Page button on the right side make such a huge difference in ease of use and in one-handed reading.
  11. Option of graphite or white. 
  12. New 5-way controller is good. Yes, it’s definitely better than the older 5-way.
  13. Page turn buttons are quiet.
  14. Rubber back grip.
  15. Recharges quickly.  
  16. Better PDF Support. Note that it still isn’t usable as a PDF reader – It has a 6″ screen and highlighting doesn’t always work.
  17. Lighted cover is awesome. It really is. Just read an entire book last night and the lighted cover works perfectly.
  18. Kindle Browser is faster – especially over WiFi.

Note: Didn’t go through all 5 star and 4 star Kindle 3 reviews as there are 476 of them.

Perhaps the best Kindle 3 story is this one (courtesy bstar) –

We all agree (from our 10 year old on up) that the new model is much easier to read. I was going to be busy the night it arrived so I loaded up one of my daughters books and she read almost the entire book at one sitting (160 pages!).

This is someone who likes to read but rarely reads more than a chapter at a time.

She asked if she could ‘upgrade’ her original kindle to the new model for Christmas. A 10 year old, asking for an e-reader as her primary Christmas present.. wow.

Positives mentioned in 3 star Kindle 3 reviews –

  1. Lots of praise for the screen – Contrast much improved. Very readable. Zero eye strain when lighting is good. Overall, it doesn’t make my eyes bleed like a LCD does.
  2. Easy to hold in one hand. Much better than hardcovers and paperbacks for one-handed reading and for holding.  
  3. Experimental browser is pretty usable.
  4. Fabulous device for readers.  
  5. Low Price.  
  6. Battery Life is great.
  7. Hands down the best eReader.

The positives mentioned in 2 star and 1 star Kindle 3 Reviews –

  1. Lots of positive feedback on the screen – Display is quite readable. Contrast is gorgeous. Love the new screen.
  2. Small and Light.  
  3. Great technology – 4 stars out of 5.  
  4. Faster Page Turns.

It’s pretty interesting that a lot of people didn’t want to give Kindle 3 1 star reviews. Here are examples of what people wrote –

If it worked, it would be my favorite

I would really love this one, if the software could be a little bit better.

Overall, the Kindle 3 gets a ton of praise – even from people who give it only 3 stars.

Kindle 3’s Most Valuable Features

These were the star features –

  1. The eInk Pearl screen and readability – It gets mentioned so much there’s little doubt this is the #1 feature.
  2. Lightness and Compactness – This also gets a ton of praise.  
  3. Value for Money.
  4. Battery Life.
  5. Ease of getting books. 
  6. Experimental Browser. 
  7. Ease of one-handed reading and great readability in general.

For me the eInk Pearl screen, the browser, and the one-handed reading are the three real gems.

Kindle 3 Review Insights – the Negatives

Note: Please keep in mind that there are 476 4 star and 5 star reviews and 138 3 star, 2 star, and 1 star reviews. Most people (77%) are liking the Kindle 3 a lot.

Negatives mentioned in 4 star and 5 star Kindle 3 reviews –

  1. No ability to add custom screensavers. Lots of complaints about this. It’s amazing that for people who don’t have the freezing issue this is perhaps the #1 feature request.
  2. Buttons are too small. Valid complaint. It’s interesting to see so many complaints about the buttons and layout.  
  3. Buttons are too close together. True.
  4. No number buttons. This is a pain. It’s pretty interesting to see that the 2nd biggest issue for customers who don’t get the freezing issue is the size and layout of buttons.
  5. A few mentions of freezing. It really does seem that most Kindle 3’s don’t have the freezing issue. Only around 10% of the 4 star reviews reviewed mentioned it.  
  6. No option to create sub-categories.  
  7. Price of ebooks – although nearly everyone who mentioned this noted that it’s outside Amazon’s control.  
  8. No Page Numbers and no idea of how far into a chapter you are.
  9. Text to Speech doesn’t work on every book. True. Unfortunately, Publishers can choose to disable text to speech though the National Federation of the Blind is taking them to court over it (to the best of my knowledge).
  10. No SD Card slot.
  11. No ePub support.
  12. Really good point about Kindle 3 having hinges on the wrong side if you want to have a pad next to it for taking notes. Really, really good point.
  13. No password protection for books or for purchases.
  14. No lending books.
  15. Page turn buttons could be quieter. Yes, if your partner is super sensitive then they’ll notice/hear even the quieter page turn buttons. Press them on the inner middle portion and they’re super quiet but still not 100% quiet.
  16. A little more ghosting. This is probably because of the better screen contrast and, in particular, because of the darker blacks.
  17. No visual ‘folder icons’ to show collections.
  18. No playlists in mp3 player.

The relative lack of mention of Kindle 3 freezing in 4 star and 5 star Kindle 3 reviews (around 10% mention it) suggests that either most Kindle 3’s don’t have this problem or their owners just aren’t noticing it enough.

Negatives mentioned in 3 star Kindle 3 reviews –

  1. Lots of freezing and restarts. This is a pretty frequent complaint amongst the 3 star reviews.
  2. WiFi problems. An interesting new problem mentioned was having to enter a password multiple times before it got accepted.
  3. Complaints about shipping delays.
  4. More page turns than in physical books. One of the people mentioning this does note that Kindle 3 has quicker page turns than a physical book.   
  5. Pointer navigation in browsers is terrible. Have to agree with that. A touch screen would come in handy here.  
  6. Lighted case is too expensive. Agreed.  
  7. No Page Numbers. There’s mention of a simple fix Sony uses i.e. place a Page Number at the right end of each line of text at which a page ends.
  8. Quality of text to speech is not very good. Agreed – the voices aren’t human sounding.
  9. Poorly designed controls. A few complaints about the page turn buttons being placed where you’d hold the Kindle 3.
  10. Complaints that battery life isn’t 10 days with wireless on. Haven’t measured it so couldn’t say for sure.
  11. Migrating books from Kindle 2 to Kindle 3 is a tedious process. Agree with this – Amazon dropped the ball here as expecting users to re-download every book is a bit ludicrous.
  12. Lack of ePub.
  13. Highlighting in PDFs doesn’t work well. Agree – for some PDFs it doesn’t work or the wrong text gets highlighted.
  14. It can’t display Chinese characters properly. Only one complaint about this so not sure how valid it is.
  15. A complaint about the black screen flash when turning pages. Surprised that very few people mention this – guess the quick page turn makes this a non-issue for the vast majority of people.

Kindle 3 negatives mentioned in 2 star and 1 star Kindle 3 Reviews –

  1. Crashes and Freezing – Easily the #1 issue. Note that there is a fix available now as an ‘early preview’ that fixes this crashing/freezing issue for most Kindle 3s. On my Kindle 3 there has been zero freezing after installing the update (usage – 2.5 hours on Apps, 4.5 hours on a book).
  2. Quite a few complaints about having to wait for the Kindle 3. Probably the 2nd biggest complaint. A lot of people seem to have missed the ‘Ships September 20th’ message and probably assumed they’d get the Kindle 3 in 2 or 3 days. Some people have genuine complaints.
  3. Connection problems. Mostly WiFi related. Probably the 3rd biggest complaint after freezing and availability/shipping. It’s hard to say whether this is related to WiFi network issues or Kindle issues – perhaps a mix of both. 
  4. A few people are able to access the Kindle Store but not the browser while a few people are experiencing the exact opposite problem.
  5. Battery Life. Reports that the reading light and indexing of books might be eating up battery life faster than expected.  
  6. Something rolling around inside the casing. Enough mentions of this to make you wonder.  
  7. Very Delicate. That’s a fair point – the thinness and light size and compactness does make Kindle 3 feel very delicate and it probably is.
  8. Korean fonts issue – Apparently, Amazon chose the most aesthetically unappealing Korean font possible.  
  9. Some people really don’t like the new buttons.
  10. A few complaints about the color of the text on the keyboard keys (golden/light gray text on graphite colored keys). It’s a good point.
  11. Someone from Greece saying they got charged 130 Euros by their Customs department. Perhaps it’s the Customs department that’s to blame.
  12. A few people who haven’t bought it but stopped by to give it a 1 star review and complain.
  13. A complaint about the AT&T powered 3G coverage.
  14. 1 or 2 complaints about seeing a negative flash when you turn pages. Page turns are pretty fast so this isn’t very noticeable but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re sensitive about such things.

It’s interesting to see the variety of complaints and also the fact that the vast majority of complaints center around just three issues.

3 Issues Amazon should consider fixing quickly

Amazon could solve 80% of its problems with 3 fixes –

  1. Amazon could probably resolve 60% to 70% of complaints by fixing the freezing issue.
  2. It could fix another 10% of issues by getting Kindle 3 back in stock and shipping it the day orders are made.
  3. The addition of WiFi has created a ton of problems as most people don’t know how to use WiFi and some people seem to have genuine problems using Kindle 3 with their home WiFi network. Better customer education regarding WiFi, making the feature easier to use, and fixing the intermittent ‘Browser doesn’t work, Store does’ issue would solve another 10% of issues.

It’s interesting that 80% to 90% of customer complaints could be fixed by fixing these 3 problems. Since the freezing issue fix has worked for most Kindle 3’s it’s been tried on and getting Kindle 3 back in stock shouldn’t be a problem Amazon seems very well placed.

Going through customers’ reactions almost suggests a product release strategy of releasing a product with 1 or 2 easy to fix, noticeable bugs and then sending out an early fix. It sounds crazy but if people were to research it they’d probably find those customers were much more loyal than people who never found an issue.

It’s unfortunate that am running out of time and can’t go through all the Kindle 3 reviews. People have written some really, really good Kindle 3 reviews which are far more comprehensive and insightful than the reviews on main stream sites. You have to love the fact that even 5 star Kindle 3 reviews tend to include comprehensive lists of pros and cons.