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.

Kindle DX Review 2010

This Kindle DX Review is based on approximately 2 months of use of the International Kindle DX. This includes reading 3 to 6 books and a few short stories on it (Dragon Keeper, City at World’s End, Iron Council, perhaps Scar, perhaps 33 AD, perhaps Brood of the Witch Queen, Overtime) and also playing around a lot with it.

Using the Kindle DX alongside the Kindle 2, the iPad, the Nook, the iPhone, and (rarely) Sony Reader helped paint a very good picture of the Kindle DX’s strengths and weaknesses as an eReader. This Kindle DX review will use all this experience, use the What makes a good eReader? post as a skeleton, and try out some new things.

Well, let’s jump in.

Kindle DX Review – the indispensable eReader functions

Given that the Kindle DX comes with the screen technology, design philosophy (simple and easy), platform, and store of the Kindle 2 it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it does exceptionally well when it comes to the indispensable eReader functions.

Being able to get books on the Kindle DX

There’s a rich range of content courtesy the Kindle Store (over 500,000 books) and free book sources like Gutenberg and the Internet Archive. Combine that with -

  1. Free, quick wireless downloads anywhere in the world. Supposedly now available even if your home country isn’t USA (only confirmed for UK and some other countries – please check details for your country at the Kindle DX product page). 
  2. 3G access which means not having to search for a WiFi network – although you must get decent cell reception in your home/office for it to work. 
  3. The Kindle Store being open 24/7 with easy returns (in the Kindle DX there’s a return option on the purchase confirmation page).

And you have a winning formula.

The Kindle Store still has the largest number of new books and the Kindle DX’s larger 9.7″ screen makes browsing the Kindle Store easier.

A solid 9 stars out of 10.

The book reading experience on the Kindle DX

The Kindle DX shines when it comes to reading books -

  1. The eInk screen works marvellously for reading – the eInk is sharp, it works in sunlight, and there’s no eye-strain. 
  2. The larger screen makes it easier to read – you can choose between getting more text per page or reading in a larger font. 
  3. The battery life is very long. 1 week with wireless on and 2 weeks with wireless off. 
  4. Good solid features – changeable font sizes, accelerometer based screen rotation, and good reference features. 
  5. It’s completely focused on reading.

It was a lot of fun reading on the Kindle DX after a few weeks spent mostly with the iPad. Kindle DX vs iPad is one of those comparisons where you know what’s better for you and what’s more fun to read on – However, if you’re not careful you’re going to invent a non-reading related reason to pick the iPad. Which is perfectly OK if reading isn’t your top priority.

Another solid 9 stars out of 10.

It’s more fun to read on the Kindle DX

Perhaps it’s an individual thing – a combination of which books were read, having just switched from the iPad, and liking the larger screen more. However, the Kindle DX is a lot of fun to read on.

One of my favorite things is driving and in some ways reading on a Kindle DX (or for that matter on a good, dedicated reading device like Kindle or Nook) is like driving a very good car. There’s no substitute for a car that’s built with the sheer pleasure of driving in mind and that’s exactly what the Kindle DX is – it’s built for reading. There are things it could and should do to improve – However, it gets most of the features right.

Perhaps fun is the third indispensable eReader function – Is it fun to read on a particular eReader?

Well, it most definitely is fun to read on the DX – more fun than reading on the iPad. Also, while the Kindle 2 is more convenient and better value for money, the Kindle DX is a tiny bit more fun to read on. Makes you wonder whether the ideal screen size for eReaders is perhaps 8″ or 9″.

Yet another solid 9 stars out of 10.

Kindle DX Review – the hugely important eReader functions

Let’s start with a new criteria that is missing from previous eReader reviews.

Value for Money – Is the Kindle DX worth $489?

There’s an easy answer to this – If you compare it with the $259 Kindle 2 or the $499 iPad it doesn’t match up.

The Kindle 2′s only drawback (if you can call it that) is the smaller screen size. It compensates by being smaller, more portable, lighter, well suited to one-handed reading, and $230 cheaper.

The iPad is not meant for reading and its primary selling points are the excellent screen (though not optimal for reading) and variety of functionalities. It’s hard to compare something that can do 100 or more things well with a device that does one or two things exceptionally well.

Yet the Kindle DX provides a far better reading experience than the iPad and people who want that will pay the $489. Amazon would make things much easier if it dropped the price by $150 to $189.

The answer to the question is Yes and No. Yes, the Kindle DX is worth $489. No, it’s not because by now Amazon ought to have figured out a way to reduce its price drastically.   

A poor 5 stars out of 10.

Screen Quality and Size

The Kindle DX has an excellent eInk screen – it’s very readable and has good, solid contrast. It’s 9.7″ with 1200 by 824 pixels at 150 pixels per inch and has 16 shades of grey.

We’ll handle the negative impact of the Kindle DX’s screen size on portability in the Portability section. As far as reading goes the 9.7″ screen is great – it lets you get a lot on every page, go with very large fonts without making the number of words per page a joke, and has about as much space for words per page as a hardcover.

Kindle DX reviews very well on screen quality and size – 8 stars out of 10.

Kindle DX – Review of Ease of Use

The Kindle DX is very, very easy to use. It would get a very high score if it weren’t for the tiny keyboard with the qwerty keys doubling up to serve as number keys. The other pain point is the lack of page turns buttons on the left side.

7 stars out of 10.

Kindle DX Portability

This is almost a trick question – Compare it with the iPad and it’s lighter and around the same size. Compare it with the Kindle 2 and it’s hardly portable at all.

Here are the upsides – It’s quite thin at 0.38″, the weight is a low 18.9 ounces (given the size), you can hold it in one hand for short stretches, you can fit it into larger bags and it doesn’t add much weight, and it’s easy to hold and carry in your hand. There’s also the great battery life and the large memory (3.3 GB of available memory).

Here are the downsides – At 10.4″ by 7.2″ it’s quite big, you can’t hold it for long using one hand, left-handed reading is ruled out due to the lack of buttons on the left side, and it won’t fit in smaller purses.

6 stars out of 10. Harsh but you’re comparing against some really portable options like Kindle and Nook.

Reference features on the Kindle DX

Kindle DX shines here as not only does it have the built-in dictionary, a good search function, Wikipedia access, and free Internet browsing, it has a large screen which makes everything easier – see more of the website or Wikipedia page on the screen, see more text corresponding to search results on the screen, and so forth.

9 out of 10 stars. At times the Kindle DX misses out because handing out 9.5 or 10 would indicate things are close to perfect and they’re not. A lot of the 9s are more like 9.2s and 9.3s.

Search

The Kindle DX displays as many search results per page as the Kindle – However, it displays much more text which makes it much easier to figure out which search result you want. It’s quite an important change.

Some readers (like Sony Reader) highlight the results in the book itself which means that you can see much more of the text and figure out if it’s the result you want. However, it means that usually only 1 result is shown per page. The Kindle, on the other hand, shows you 6 results per page with 2 lines of text (not sentences, lines) so you have more results per page but less context. The iPad uses a similar model with 6 search results with 2 or so lines per result.

The Kindle DX combines the best things about each to show you 6 results per page with 5 lines per search result. It makes the Kindle DX’s search function arguably the best.

9 stars out of 10.

Kindle DX Review – Content Rights and Content Portability

A lot has changed with this over the last year – The Kindle is not ‘open’ and yet you can access your Kindle books on other devices thanks to various Kindle Apps.

  1. You have Kindle for PC, Kindle for Mac, Kindle for iPhone, Kindle for iPad, Kindle for Blackberry, and soon Kindle for Android. That means your content is readable on a lot of devices.
  2. You can download a book as many times as you like and now for free all over the world (please check details for your country on the Kindle DX product page).
  3. You can share the same book across 5 to 6 devices (Publishers set the number and it’s almost always 5 or 6).
  4. There is still no support for ePub.
  5. Kindle books still don’t work on other dedicated reading devices – not on the Nook, not on the Sony Reader.

PDF support has always been present on the Kindle DX and its larger screen size and landscape orientation both help make reading PDFs much easier. Kindle 2.5 update promises to add support for zooming and panning PDFs.

Kindle DX gets 7 out of 10 on content rights and portability. 9 if you are OK with using Kindle Apps, 5 if you’re anti-DRM.

Kindle DX Review – Annotations

Kindle DX doesn’t have touch, has a Lilliputian keyboard, and has one row of keys serving two purposes (qwerty and numbers) – It makes for a rather unpleasant note-taking experience.

Adding highlights and bookmarks is easy. It’s easy to look at all your highlights and notes in the My Clippings File, transfer them to your PC, or to look at them on kindle.amazon.com. You will also be able to see Most Popular Highlights once Kindle 2.5 is released.

All the great features are limited by the terrible keyboard.

5 out of 10 stars.

Kindle DX Review – Changeable Font Sizes

There are currently 6 font sizes on the Kindle DX and the Kindle 2.5 update promises two more, super sized fonts. Given the larger screen size of the Kindle DX and the accelerometer (which means automatic switching to landscape mode) the variety in font sizes really shines on the Kindle DX.

9 out of 10 stars. This assumes Kindle 2.5 is factored in.

Audiobooks

There are a good set of controls, Amazon owns Audible and supports Audible audiobooks, there are sources for free audiobooks (Librivox), and the stereo speakers work well. You’ll probably have to find someone who listens to audiobooks more (which shouldn’t be difficult) for a better opinion.

Perhaps 7 out of 10 stars.

Kindle DX Review – Does it have an Easy to Use Store? 

Yes, very much so.

You get all the benefits of the Kindle Store – wide range, easy navigation, good recommendation engine, lots of reviews from Amazon customers and Kindle owners, nice categorization of books, a good search function. You get all of this on a larger, 9.7″ screen.

It’s a very solid 9 stars out of 10.

One Handed Use

The Kindle DX stumbles here since it is heavier and holding it in one hand for longer than 5-10 minutes is very tiring. It’s also not possible to read using your left hand as there are no page turn buttons on the left side and the reverse the screen suggestion is asinine – Who wants to read with a keyboard above the screen?  

Very un-Amazon like to make things complicated for readers and hopefully they change the design back to buttons on both sides for Kindle DX 2.

5 stars for One Handed Reading.

Time and Date on the Kindle DX

Press the Menu button on any screen to see the time. The Kindle’s ‘type in @t on the home screen’ secret doesn’t work here to figure out the date.

6 out of 10 stars since having the time handy is useful.

Language Support

There has been some progress with the Kindle Store now allowing books in French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese in addition to English. There still isn’t support for languages not based on the English alphabet. There are font hacks – However, they aren’t official and they prevent you from updating the Kindle until you uninstall them.

2 stars out of 10.

Kindle DX Review – Folders and Book Organization

This is a big, big feature arriving in the Kindle 2.5 update. All signs (and the help text) indicate it is done intelligently and in a way that isn’t confusing or overwhelming.

The addition of Folders/Collections will make at least 50% of Kindle owners happier with their Kindles. It’ll also give the Kindle DX and Kindle 2 an advantage over the Nook and negate the Sony Reader’s advantage (it’s had collections for a while). iPhone and iPad get Folders of their own in iOS4 although they are a bit limited and apply to apps and not books.

9 out of 10 stars. This factors in the Kindle 2.5 update.

Kindle DX Review – the nice to have eReader features

The Kindle DX has had some very good scores and only a few poor ones so far. Now we start running into some of the Kindle DX’s obvious disadvantages.

Kindle DX Review – Looks

The Kindle DX shares some of the Kindle 2′s design (white border around an eInk screen, brushed aluminium back, 5-way and similar buttons on the right side) and yet is decidedly different looking. The screen takes up much more space, the keyboard and lower panel take up much less space, and it makes the side and upper panel seem smaller (though they’re not) and gives the screen a lot more prominence.

It’s surprising how much of an effect having a larger screen has on looks.

6 stars out of 10.

Free Internet Access

This is a big feature despite the slow speed of the Internet connection. Combine it with the recently added worldwide free wireless downloads and Amazon are really getting mileage out of WhisperNet and AT&T.

The best way to think of the Free Internet Access is -

  1. There’s no wireless plan. You pay absolutely nothing.
  2. Browsing the store is reasonably OK.
  3. Kindle Store Books download in just 60 seconds.
  4. You can check some basic sites and nearly all mobile versions of sites. Not bad for what you pay.
  5. Speeds are slow – However, lots of mobile sites are optimized so they work fine. Expect to wait 10 or more seconds for mobile versions of sites and 30 or more seconds for non-mobile versions. A lot of the latter will not work – even in the Advanced Mode of the browser.

The browser works pretty well for reading sites that are mostly text and for sites that have good mobile versions. The larger screen of the Kindle DX also helps make using the Internet more enjoyable.

8 stars out of 10.

Color

eInk doesn’t support color and according to Mr. Bezos we shouldn’t be expecting this anytime soon.

Incomplete.

Kindle DX Review – Text to Speech Feature

While some Publishers disable this feature a lot don’t. For the books that have this enabled it’s an extremely valuable feature – despie the fact that the voice doesn’t sound very human and it mispronounces some words. Valuable enough that Apple are pretending their accessibility feature is a Text to Speech feature.

You also have it available on all public domain books and all your personal documents. It’s not available on PDFs.

8 out of 10 stars.

Journal

Kindle DX does not have a journal feature. You do have to think that when the Kindle App Store arrives someone will add one. Having a device with a keyboard and a crisp paper like screen just begs for the addition of a Diary or Journal App.

Incomplete.

Extensions and Utilities

This is another area that the Kindle App Store ought to serve – daily planners, weekly planners, vocabulary games, word games, and other apps that would go well with an eReader.

0 out of 10 stars.

Kindle DX Review – Games & Diversions

There’s minesweeper – Press Alt+Shift+M on the home page. There’s also GoMoKu which is sort of like Tic Tac Toe crossed with a chessboard.

This is yet another category that would be well served by apps. You do have to wonder how much of a distraction it will be – just figured out that GoMoKu isn’t half bad and there may very well be games and apps that are quite a diversion from reading.

3 out of 10 stars. Not sure whether a high rating here would be good for eReaders (and reading) or bad.

Background Music

Kindle DX has pretty much the same background music support as a Kindle 2. It allows playing music, pausing the current song, and jumping to the next track.

5 stars out of 10.

Device Lock, Lost and Found options

The addition of a password lock feature in the Kindle 2.5 update (detect a theme ;) ) will be a valuable addition. There is still no option to lock purchases (as opposed to the whole Kindle).

4 out of 10 stars. Yet again we’re factoring in the Kindle 2.5 update.

Personalization

Kindle DX, like the Kindle 2, does not provide any customization options – not even custom screensavers. Your only option is to get 3rd party skins, covers, and cases, or to add-on your own stickers or whatever else you might like – glitter, unicorn horns, shrunken heads.

5 out of 10 stars.

Kindle DX Review – Overall 7.75 Stars Rating, Recommended with reservations

The Kindle DX gets straight 9s on ease of getting books, the book reading experience, and being fun to own and read on. There’s little doubt it’s an excellent eReader and it aces the indispensable eReader functions.

The first downsides begin to appear when we look at hugely important eReader functions. It only scores 7 out of 10 despite a bunch of 9s (screen quality and size, search, reference, folders, easy to use store) because it does badly on Value for Money and really badly in areas like annotations, one-handed use, and language support.

It scores only 5 stars out of 10 in the ‘Nice to Have eReader features’ category though an eventual Kindle App Store would improve that to a 7 or perhaps even higher.

We end up with an overall rating of approximately 7.75 since the first two categories of features hold a lot more weight than the nice to have category. It’s hard not to think of the crucial importance of three factors -

  1. The Kindle 2.5 Update. This is arriving soon and is already factored in – without it the Kindle DX wouldn’t remain competitive. 
  2. The price Amazon decides to sell Kindle DX and Kindle DX 2 at. Value for Money is perhaps the biggest weakness of the Kindle DX at the moment.
  3. When the Kindle App Store will open and what apps it will provide. This could be a game changer - at best it could add a couple of killer features that other dedicated eReaders don’t have and at worst it would give the Kindle DX a better score in the ‘Nice to Have eReader features’ category.

The Reservations have to do almost entirely with these three things. If Amazon addresses two out of these three well the Kindle DX is a strong buy. If it addresses all three then the decision is a no-brainer.

The final caveat is that this entire Kindle DX review supposes that reading books and reading are your main priorities. If you are looking for something that ‘also can be used to read books’ you would be better served with a netbook or an iPad.

Should a review be about features or about experiences?

A comment about reviews of the iPad from Oliver Kofoed at Hacker News struck a chord -

Maybe it’s just me, but I was hoping for deeper insight into how the device feels in day-to-day usage, not just a list of features that i might as well have read on Apples info pages.

Stuff like: how the device feels to sit with for longer periods of time, is it more natural to type with one finger or both thumbs when sitting, can i read while lying down… All the stuff that isn’t just “it has this amount of ram, you can view videos and the web on it and….”

He does have a point. We have gravitated towards reviews that are more suited to robots and computer parsers.

Experiences are not described in most Reviews 

Take eReader reviews – Whatever reading related devices we talk about there are some common experiences that are completely missed out.

  1. What does reading feel like?  
  2. What’s it like reading it for 3-4 hours?  
  3. Do your hands or fingers get tired after using it for a couple of hours?
  4. How long you can hold it in one hand?
  5. Can it be used with one hand (for the period you can get away holding it)?
  6. What is it like in sunlight?
  7. At what brightness (or time of day) does the visibility start fading away?
  8. What’s the process of taking notes? How does it feel?
  9. How long does it take to search through the book store? Does it feel fun? Easy?

Reviews are always focused on how large the screen is (as opposed to how easy it is to read from), whether there’s a touchscreen (as opposed to what using the touchscreen feels like), and how many books there are (as opposed to the book buying experience).

Is this a Left Brain vs Right Brain thing?

Perhaps most reviewers (and for that matter most tech companies) are left brain dominated to the point that they are totally focused on having the best features and the most memory and the most options – so that they can logically argue that their product is the best.

When you hit main-stream customers they care more about how the device feels and how they feel about it and their experiences. For them something that is easy to use, something that doesn’t make them feel stupid, and something they feel good about owning probably means a lot more than any technical specification.

As an example, you might have one device and have different people choose completely different things as ‘the best feature’ -

  1. A tech reviewer might think the fast processor is the best feature. For him, the 2.25 ghz is the killer feature and he writes that down expecting everyone else to understand the beauty of that number. A lay person can’t understand this – they only understand things like photos open quickly, the browser is fast, and it boots up in 3 seconds.
  2. An end-user might be in love with being able to scroll through his contact list with just a finger. The tech person may or may not appreciate this and a tech reviewer will definitely not write that ‘the feeling of zipping through all my contacts with just my thumb was immaculate’. For the tech person it’s capacitive touch screen with multi-touch scrolling.

It’s a pretty huge shift – going from technical specifications to actual experiences.

Bullet Points Vs A Chain of Experiences

This is how the tech person is thinking of the device -

  1. 6″ screen. 
  2. Electrophoretic display with 16 shades of gray.  
  3. Lithium Polymer Battery with life of 16,000 page views. 

That would be confusing even to most technical people – normal users are simply overwhelmed.

Electrophoretic display with a Lithium Polymer battery - Is that for reading books or for invading Mars?

Here’s what the normal user’s user experience is registering as -

The packaging says Once upon a Time - that’s cool … It’s thinner than I thought … the screen is black and white, clearer than I thought … It feels so light and there are buttons for left-handed reading …

Oh, it saved my place in the book … what does this do? what just happened? … so that’s how they put notes … those keys felt tiny … bookmarks are easy to do, they should have had a dedicated key.

It’s simply all these experiences strung together. It’s the book opening experience and the page turning experience and how dictionary look-ups are done and it’s a journey of a million little experiences (to be precise - a few dozen experiences repeated in endlessly varying patterns).

Update: 37 Signals have a post that is very relevant.

Reviews need to start telling readers what they will experience and what they will feel

Here are the things reviews almost always miss out -

  1. The amazement the first time you get a book wirelessly in 45 seconds.  
  2. The frustration when you hit a wrong key on the keyboard.
  3. The feeling of forgetting everything and disappearing into the book. 
  4. Being at the grocery store and realizing you can shop for books on the Kindle.
  5. Sitting at the dentist’s office and having 3 people asking about the Kindle and being impressed by it.
  6. Annoying things like typos and missing covers.
  7. The worry when you drop it by mistake and the joy when you realize it magically survived (or the pain of $180 to get a replacement).

No one ever looks back at their car and thinks – there were 6 bolts holding each wheel and there were 27 wires taking directions to the computer and the gas tank could hold 11.7 gallons exactly.

They remember the road trips and the friends and lovers who shared the journey and the shared moments and accidents and near misses. Most of all they remember how it felt to drive free and the wind in their hair and the joy of the road and all the little pleasures and annoyances along the way.

It’s the same with ereaders – we’ll remember the books and reading way too late into the night. We’ll remember fighting for who gets to read and finding a new favorite and all the little things we liked and even our pet peeves.

No one cares what the speed of the processor is or how much memory there is – until and unless it affects their experience and reduces their enjoyment of the device. Instead of describing the journey most reviews are focused on describing the car that we’ll be driving. Well, it’s time to start describing what the journey will be like and how it will feel.

How do you review an eBook Store?

At Teleread Ficbot has reviewed a bunch of eBook stores – it’s a pretty good post and it makes you wonder how to compare eBook stores when there are so many possible criteria.

What are the main criteria to review eBook Stores?

Two main criteria instantly jump to mind -

  1. Price – Probably the most important criteria. 
  2. Range – If the book you want isn’t there then what’s the use.  

At that point you can probably pick a winner. There are, however, lots of other criteria that can make a difference.

Additional Criteria when reviewing eBook stores

  1. Ease of getting the books – If it takes a lot of effort and time to download the books and get them on your reading device then the total price becomes too high.  
  2. Ease of navigation and buying – Again, we don’t want to spend ages finding and buying a book or worse – get stuck and not be able to buy the book.
  3. Ease of finding new good books – This encompasses recommendations and reviews and other means of finding a good book. Consider Amazon and its dozens (sometimes hundreds) of customer reviews – that’s a huge advantage over any other ebook store.
  4. Device Integration – How well does the eBook store work with your device? The Kindle Store is optimized for the Kindle and works great. With Kindle for iPhone you have to buy via the Safari web browser.
  5. Formats – What formats does the eBook store sell books in? Can you read the ebook across various devices?
  6. Add-on features and add-on value – Does the book come with text to speech? What about sharing between family members? What other value-add features are included?
  7. Wishlists, Reminders, and Alerts - It’d be great to get price alerts, new release updates, reminders for favorite authors, and be able to create wishlists.
  8. Coupons, Promotions and Deals – It seems to work for some people. They’d rather have a $14 book discounted to $11 than a $9.99 book.
  9. Aesthetics – It makes a difference if the store is well laid out and uses the right colors and is visually appealing. 
  10. Reasonable or no DRM – For some it’s imperative that an eBook store sell them books without DRM. There can also be a problem when an eBook store has unreasonable DRM or too many anti-piracy measures.

We can knit all these criteria into a composite picture of what a store offers. Price and range might be the two most important factors – However, they need a good set of supporting qualities to make them shine.

How do you compare two stores?

It’s hard to compare the Kindle Store with the Nook store – They are tailored to different devices, they are different experiences, and you can’t use books from one store on the other device.

Yet we still review and compare them – taking the shortcut of comparing on price and range.

Option 1: Compare device and store as a whole

This is what we default to -

  • Is the Kindle Store on the Kindle better than the Nook Store on the Nook?

At the moment Kindle gets a massive advantage because of lower prices. If you want an eReader and the best prices you probably want to buy a Kindle and you probably want to buy eBooks from the Kindle Store.

Option 2: Compare only stores that sell for your device

Perhaps you have an iPhone. Then you get a lot of options -

  1. Kindle for iPhone – Best prices and the best range. 
  2. B&N eReader – Pretty good prices and pretty good range. The LendMe feature. 
  3. Stanza – The best eReader software.  
  4. Various other options.

Here again we see that it’s not a simple decision – the eReader software factors in. Stanza has the most options, Kindle for iPhone is the simplest, and B&N and others have their own unique advantages.

The eBook store is hard to compare on its own – There’s always a device or a piece of software or a website attached and there are myriad factors.

People ought to review and compare eBook Stores BEFORE buying a device

The biggest takeaway for me is that anyone considering an eReader should compare eBook stores before buying an eReader. Once you buy one eReader you’re locked into the options each eReader provides.

  1. With the Kindle you get the Kindle Store and DRM-free PDF but you don’t get ePub and DRMed PDF is ruled out. There are some stores that do sell DRM free eBooks so it’s not that you’re forced to buy from the Kindle store.
  2. With the Nook and the Sony Reader you get locked out of the Kindle Store and get all the ePub stores. The Nook even has access to books sold in the Sony Reader Store.
  3. A few of the smaller eReaders are open to most formats – They are, however, locked out of the Kindle Store.

Factoring in what eBook store options you have at the beginning of the process ensures there are no nasty surprises down the line.

eReader vs Multi-purpose device – Lopsided reviews

A recurring pattern in eReader vs Multi-purpose device reviews is the choice of devices and contexts that support the reviewer’s beliefs and what he/she wants to be true.

If a reviewer thinks the Kindle is better than the iPhone – Her/His comparison is lopsided right from the start. Plus this bias is invisible to the reviewer. 

What exactly are we talking about?

  1. People tend to start with an outcome they think will turn out to be true.
  2. They approach the comparison from an angle that makes their assumed outcome likelier.
  3. They then choose devices and situations that make their assumed outcome even likelier.
  4. Even during the comparison they ignore obvious things that don’t match what they feel is right.

A lot of the times it’s not people being unethical – they literally don’t realize their comparison is lopsided.

Quick example of two lopsided comparisons – iPad vs Kindle

How could you set up a comparison to show iPad is better than the Kindle?

Remember that this is mostly done unconsciously –  

  1. Compare the Kindle DX with the iPad so the iPad’s price becomes a non factor. 
  2. Compare reading on newspapers, magazines, and books. 
  3. Compare cover flow with the random music player on the Kindle. 
  4. Compare Safari with the Kindle’s basic browser.
  5. Do the comparison in low light or normal light.
  6. Choose a huge PDF on the Kindle so that page turns are extra slow.
  7. Talk about innovative apps and show some truly innovative apps.
  8. Berate the Kindle App Store and point out the limitations i.e. bandwidth costs and slow refresh speed.

These are just the obvious things -

If you really want to make comparisons unfair you’d pick a cool person or a hot girl to show off your favorite product.

There are a lot more things that could be done and are done.

These last few tricks are obviously manipulation and much worse than an unconscious bias.

How could you set up a comparison to show the Kindle is better than the iPad?

Again we make unconscious choices that make our desired outcome likelier.  

  1. Choose the $259 Kindle 2 to compare with the $499 iPad. 
  2. Focus mostly on reading books. 
  3. Highlight the free Internet and 60 second downloads.
  4. Compare the devices in sunlight.
  5. Focus on book prices – especially for books that are not bestsellers as they are likelier to be more expensive on iPad.
  6. Talk about distractions and highlight time-wasting apps on iPad. 
  7. Focus on Kindle Apps that are suited to the Kindle i.e. simple games and reading related apps.

It’s really hard to realize a lot of these factors – to the point that you might think you’re being completely fair while being very biased.

Where does that leave us with comparisons and reviews?

Well, we could clearly show that most reviews and comparisons have conscious and unconscious bias.

It means that we have to approach reviews and comparisons from a completely different perspective.

Making reviews and comparisons very accurate

Step 1: Establish a clear purpose for the review and the device

The most important things to establish are -

  1. What purpose(s) are we using the device for?
  2. What is the purpose of the review?

The former is essential as it clarifies to the reader that the review meets their needs (or not). It also clears things up in the reviewer’s head.

The latter is important – Are you writing this review to make yourself happy about your choice? Is it to help people? is it to persuade people?

Sometimes establishing the purpose makes the review unnecessary – If you’re just writing something to make yourself happy it might not help anyone.

Step 2:  Identify all possible bias and remove it or list it.

Firstly, this is for yourself so that you figure out whether you are just stuck in your beliefs and your assumptions about the world.

Secondly, this is for customers so that they realize what they’re working with.

There are various assumptions we make -

  1. That readers are all smart.
  2. That our readers have the exact same needs as we do.
  3. That a device is the same thing in our eyes as in someone else’s.
  4. That a company being evil or good affects the device (which is not always true).

It’s worthwhile to figure these out and make sure they don’t mess up your review or comparison.

Step 3: Look at the comparison from multiple perspectives

This is best illustrated with an example.

For a Kindle vs iPhone review you should look at things from at least these perspectives -

  1. A Kindle owner or someone who loves the Kindle. 
  2. Someone who reads a lot. 
  3. Someone who only reads once in a while.
  4. An Apple lover.

It’s going to ensure you don’t miss the really big things. You are still going to miss little things like the fact that some people LOVE the shape and transparency of the dialog boxes on the iPhone.

Step 4: Provide the reader recommendations for different scenarios OR let them choose

There will usually be 3 or 4 main scenarios. You have to address these in your review.

There will also be a few dozen additional scenarios – To be able to address these you have to list the strengths and weaknesses of both devices and also compare them along several important dimensions.

At some level you don’t know what factors are most important to a reader – so there has to be flexibility in how a reader can interpret a review.

There is no perfectly fair review

The biggest takeaway is that you can’t assume your review is perfect. You put out something that helps people and has as little bias as possible and that’s the best you can do.

When Peyton Manning can throw an interception in the Superbowl it’s foolhardy to assume something you write or review is perfect.

Where does that leave us?

A review or comparison changes from ‘telling users what to do’ or ‘making a decision for users’ to -

  • Helping people make a smarter decision (for them). 
  • Minimizing the probability of regret.
  • Letting them gather enough reasons (rationalizations) to do what’s in their heart.

In a way reviews and comparisons aren’t about getting things right – because ‘right’ is different for every single person.

They’re about helping readers make a decision that’ll make them happy.

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