Should Kindle owners get a Kindle 3?

The new $189 Kindle 3 isn’t just tempting for people who don’t own eReaders – It’s also very tempting for Kindle 1 and Kindle 2 owners.

This Kindle 2 vs Kindle 3 comparison pointed out that Kindle 3 has massively improved on the Kindle 2 – However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to upgrade to Kindle 3. This post will help you figure out exactly what you’d get by moving to Kindle 3 and will help you decide whether you should.

Breaking down Kindle 3 improvements into software and hardware

For details please check this post on Kindle 3 features which points out that nearly half the big improvements in Kindle 3 are software improvements.

We can break up Kindle 3 improvements into 5 categories -

  1. Important Hardware improvements – WiFi, eInk Pearl Screen, graphite casing, Lighter and more compact Kindle 3, Quieter Page turns buttons.  
  2. Helpful Hardware improvements – Microphone (this could be very significant down the line),  the back is texturized rubber (easily fixed by using a Kindle Case).
  3. Improvements that could be hardware or software or a mix – Improved fonts, faster page turns, improved battery life.
  4. Important Software improvements – Better PDF support, 3 Fonts, WebKit Browser and Article Mode, Support for CJK fonts and Cyrillic fonts, Voice Guide.
  5. Helpful Software improvements – set time manually, view downloads progress, improved progress bar, etc.

It’s clear that at least 50% of the big improvements are software and might make it to Kindle 2 eventually. It’s a ‘might’ and not a definite Yes. Also note that Kindle 1 is unlikely to get these software improvements.

You also get a few disadvantages with the new Kindle 3 – the number keys are gone, there are now only 3 options for line-spacing, etc. There are other questions – How will you feel about the smaller Kindle? Do you really need the 50% improved screen contrast the eInk Pearl screen offers?

Before we look at whether it makes sense to upgrade from Kindle 2, Kindle 1 to Kindle 3 let’s consider what might end up being the second most important Kindle related release this year.

Kindle App Store will be available on Kindle 2

The Kindle App Store could be anything – It could be a massive failure or it could be a massive success. The first app store in a particular niche tends to do well so chances are Kindle App Store will do pretty well.

The key for Kindle 2 owners is - It’ll be available to Kindle 2 owners. The two recent free apps are proof Kindle 2 will support apps.

You don’t have to buy Kindle 3 to get Kindle Apps and that’s a huge factor – We might very well see apps tailored to Kindle 2 owners since there are more of those than there are Kindle 3 owners.

Should you upgrade from Kindle 2 to Kindle 3?

You don’t have to.

In my opinion it’s a discretionary purchase – If you feel $139 isn’t a big deal get a new Kindle WiFi.

However, you really shouldn’t be feeling left out because half the Kindle 3 improvements are software based and ought to get to Kindle 2 eventually. Plus you may very well get a lot of Kindle Apps that lessen the pain. Even 2 or 3 killer apps would soften the pain of not having a Kindle 3.

Kindle 3 would get them too – However, the gap would become narrower (10 killer features vs 7 is easier to handle than 6 vs 3).

The two absolute must-get Kindle 3 features are the new eInk Pearl screen and WiFi. The lighted kindle case threatens to become one too – However, at the moment, we don’t know that.

If neither of those is a must-have for you then you ought to be fine with the Kindle 2 and when the Kindle App Store opens (hopefully sometime in the next 3-6 months) it’ll add features and apps that’ll make the Kindle 2 stronger.

Should you upgrade from Kindle 1 to Kindle WiFi?

This is an easy answer – Yes, you should. The $139 Kindle WiFi is really, really good value for money.

Plus the jump from Kindle 1 to Kindle WiFi is huge. You get all the Kindle 3 features listed above – eInk Pearl screen, WiFi, faster page turns, lighter weight, etc. You get all the improvements introduced in Kindle 2 such as the new 5-way controller. You also get all the Kindle 2.5 upgrade features – Folders, better PDF support, and a lot more.

Those are very good reasons to upgrade just by themselves. However, you also have the Kindle App Store. You let crazy developers run free and you get really interesting apps – some of which are really, really going to make you wish you had a Kindle 2 or a Kindle 3.

At that point getting the $109 refurbished Kindle 2 US (if it becomes available again) or the $139 Kindle WiFi might become vital to your continued Kindle happiness. If 2 word games are bothering you it’s going to be a lot worse when there are dozens of Kindle Apps – some of which might appeal to you a lot more than word games.

You can probably get nearly as much for your old Kindle 1 as the new Kindle WiFi costs

Used Kindle 1s are selling for $130 and higher at Amazon. Even with the sales fee cut out you still get $100 to $110. Add on $39 and you have a Kindle WiFi. Add on $89 and you have a Kindle 3. 

Here are the downsides (the reason Kindle 1s are still holding their value) -

  1. You get free 3G with the Kindle 1. Please check this Kindle 3G or WiFi post to make sure you can get by with Kindle WiFi.  
  2. It’s on Sprint’s network. If you get Kindle 3 it’s on AT&T’s network.
  3. You have an SD card slot on the Kindle 1.
  4. Kindle 1 has a replaceable battery.
  5. There’s more bulk to it and the keyboard is better.

However, if you can live without those, the Kindle 3 and the Kindle WiFi are much, much better. You get accessibility, super size fonts, a marvellous eInk Pearl screen (compared to the Kindle 1 the new screen will blow you away), and all the improvements and benefits of a device that is 2.5 years more current.

Conclusion – Kindle 1 owners should get a Kindle WiFi, Kindle 2 owners ought to be fine

It’s pretty clear-cut -

  1. Kindle 2 owners should let the Kindle 3 arrive and see the reactions and videos. They should let the Kindle App Store arrive and see what apps it brings. At that point it’s quite likely that either the eInk Pearl screen or WiFi or WiFi based apps will convince them to upgrade or the Kindle App Store and (hopefully) new software improvements to Kindle 2 will make them feel Kindle 2 is enough.
  2. Kindle 1 owners should really consider moving to Kindle WiFi (if they can get by on WiFi) or to Kindle 3. The pain of not having access to the Kindle App Store might make Folders seem trivial in comparison (or perhaps not).

Kindle 2 owners are also pretty safe in the knowledge that they have great strength in numbers. There are probably 2 to 3 million Kindle 2 owners – as compared to (probably) .5 to .75 million Kindle 1 owners and (probably) .75 million to 1 million Kindle DX owners. Amazon has to take good care of us.

Kindle App Store developers will probably focus on Kindle 2 owners until Kindle 3 owners outnumber them (which might not be till end of the year) and probably even after that.

Kindle 3 killer features for Kindle 2

Take a look at the Kindle 3 and it’s hard not to notice that a lot of the improvements are software based. In fact, we can make a rather bold claim about Kindle 3.

50% of the killer Kindle 3 features are software based

It’s not at all contentious if you dig in. Here are the 12 killer Kindle 3 features in my opinion (the ones that are mostly likely software based are in italics) -

  1. Kindle WiFi - This is obviously out of the question for Kindle 2.  Please note that we’re keeping Kindle WiFi and its $139 price point out of this particular discussion.
  2. eInk Pearl Screen and Graphite Casing – Out of the Question.
  3. 3 Font Choices - All software and will probably translate. 
  4. Improved Fonts and 20% faster page turns (Perhaps) – These Kindle 3 improvements are due to waveform tuning, custom fonts, and font-hinting. Amazon says it tuned the Kindle 3′s waveform and controller mechanism and wrote code for better fonts - That definitely sounds like some/all of it could work with Kindle 2.
  5. Lighter and More Compact Kindle 3 – This isn’t possible as it’s a hardware change.
  6. 1 Month Battery Life with wireless off (Perhaps) - May or may not be possible for Kindle 2.
  7. WebKit Browser and Article Mode (beginnings of a killer feature) - Should translate perfectly from Kindle 3 to Kindle 2.
  8. PDF Improvements - All the PDF improvements should be movable to Kindle 2.
  9. Support for Cyrillic Fonts and CJK fonts (killer feature for people in China, Japan, Russia, etc.) - Should transfer fine.
  10. Voice Guide (Killer feature for blind and low vision readers) - Should transfer from Kindle 3 to Kindle 2. 
  11. All the usability enhancements - A few of these are software based (disappearing auto-scroll bar, set time manually) and could make their way to Kindle 2.
  12. Better placed and better/quieter buttons. This is Kindle 3 only.

That’s quite a realization - 5 out of 12 killer Kindle 3 features are software based and there’s no reason Kindle 2 couldn’t have them. 

Another 2 are perhaps software based with 1 in particular (1 month battery life) quite likely to be software based.

Thanks to ShirleyKat for the ‘Kindle 3 killer features to Kindle 2′ idea

ShirleyKat at the official Kindle forum wrote this list of Kindle 3 improvements that are software based and that, at least in theory, should be transferrable to Kindle 2 - 

Additional fonts (change typeface and change line spacing in the Aa menu)
PDF improvements (dictionary lookup, add notes and highlights, open password-protected PDFs, adjust the contrast)

Read to me menus (already promised as an update)
Two dictionaries
Monitor download progress

Browser enhancements (zoom in and out, switch to article mode)
Set time manually

Additional Kindle file type supported (azw2). Maybe it’s for another enhancement that allows you to set bookmarks in personal documents
Start location in the progress indicator shows how far you’ve read in the current session
Even the longer battery life seemed to indicate that at least some of it was done via software.

We’ve already seen that at least 5, and perhaps 7, of the top 12 killer Kindle 3 features are software based. Let’s go through all the Kindle 3 software improvements we know of and see which would add value to Kindle 2.

Kindle 3 Improvements for Kindle 2 – Top 7

We actually end up with a huge list of Kindle 3 software improvements -

  1. The choice of 3 font types - We don’t need new hardware to support font types. The sans serif font in particular would be a good addition.  
  2. PDF improvements - All the PDF improvements ought to make their way to Kindle 2 eventually. We have the dictionary, ability to add highlights and notes, ability to open password protected PDFs, the option to change the contrast of the PDF, and the ability to incrementally pan when zoomed (Amazon calls it ‘nudge’).  
  3. Voice Guide (Accessible Menus) - Amazon promised this by mid of 2010 so we ought to see this in Kindle 2 soon. 
  4. WebKit Browser – If the Kindle 3 help is accurate and the browser can display complicated websites perfectly then this is a must have.
  5. Article Mode in Browser – This is such a cool feature it gets its own bullet point. In Article Mode everything except the main text on a page is stripped away and you can focus on reading. 
  6. Support for CJK fonts and Cyrillic Fonts in Kindle 3. It’s hard to imagine you need hardware for this.
  7. Usability Improvements in Kindle 3 – Auto-Disappearing Top Bar to allow more reading space, press left or right on the 5-way to jump to previous or next chapter, etc. 

Each one of these would fit right in with the Kindle 2′s feature-set.

Important Kindle 3 Improvements that might be Software Tweaks

There are 3 Kindle 3 improvements that might be software tweaks -

  1. Improved Fonts - There are font related improvements in Kindle 3 that are software based. Amazon says it used waveform tuning combined with new hand-built custom fonts and font hinting to make alphabets crisper, clearer, and more accurate. That ought to be transferrable from Kindle 3 to Kindle 2. 
  2. 20% Faster Page Turns – The speed improvement is due to waveform tuning and the tuning might be via software or hardware.
  3. 1 Month Battery Life – Given that the Kindle 3 is smaller and thinner than Kindle 2 it’s unlikely a bigger battery was added. That strongly indicates part or even most of the improvement in battery life is due to more efficient use. Surely, that can be transferred over from Kindle 3. 

Note that these are the things we know about. There might be other improvements in Kindle 3 that are software tweaks.

Kindle 3 Improvements for Kindle 2 – The Rest 

There are a few things that don’t hold as much appeal but could nevertheless be transferred from Kindle 3 to Kindle 2 –  

  1. View Downloads Progress – This is a cool sounding Kindle 3 feature but you have to question how often people will be checking status when it’s mostly 60 second book downloads.
  2. Set Time Manually – Perhaps this is necessitated by Kindle WiFi but it’s a good feature to have.  
  3. Improved Progress Bar – Progress Bar in the book now shows the starting point of your current reading session and notes and highlights you’ve made.
  4. Additional Dictionary – The addition of a dictionary for British English isn’t necessarily a most requested feature.  
  5. Line Spacing in the Menu – Kindle 2 actually has more flexiblity as by using Alt+Shift+ (number between 0 and 9) you can choose 1 out of 10 line spacing increments. Kindle 3 offers only three choices. 

All this discussion of Kindle 3 software improvements leads to an interesting question – Why not release the software based killer Kindle 3 features for Kindle 2 at the same time?

Well, that would make the jump from Kindle 2 to Kindle 3 not quite as marvellous. 

Amazon is probably going to wait 1 or 2 months and then add a few (hopefully more than a few) of these killer Kindle 3 software features to the Kindle 2. Kindle 2 owners can take solace in the fact that Kindle 3 owners don’t get to play with all these features until end of August when the new Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi are released.

Kindle 3 vs Kindle 2

The Kindle 3 is here!

Thanks to Stephanie from the Kindle Team was able to do a quick Kindle 3 vs Kindle 2 comparison. The Kindle 3 is MUCH better than the Kindle 2 and improves on it in a dozen different ways. Check my Kindle 3 Review for a detailed review of the Kindle 3.

At $189 it’s really, really good value for money. The Kindle WiFi at $139 is stealing. Together these ought to sell millions.

Please do note that the entire Kindle 3 vs Kindle 2 comparison lasted just 15 minutes - It was, however, enough time to contrast the screens (definitely 50%+ better contrast), the weight (felt much lighter), the feel (about the same), the look (about the same), and the page turns (noticeably faster) and get a pretty good idea of the improvements in Kindle 3.

Kindle 3 vs Kindle 2 - Kindle 3 hits it out of the ball park

Perhaps the biggest improvement in Kindle 3 is the screen contrast – The 50% better screen contrast combines with the graphite casing to make for a markedly better reading experience. The Amazon Team said that in addition to the new eInk Pearl screen there are software tweaks done to improve the screen contrast (which aren’t present in DX 2). Didn’t have my DX 2 so couldn’t contrast it with the Kindle 3.

The Kindle 3 is noticeably smaller and thinner. It feels much lighter. The page turns are clearly faster. There are a bunch of usability improvements – page turn buttons don’t make a loud clicking noise, on-off slider and volume controls are at the bottom, buttons other than page turn buttons are moved next to the keyboard.

The claimed 1 month battery life (with wireless off) really stood out – it’s hard to believe and it’ll be fun to see if it really lasts that long.

The improvement in PDF support, the WiFi, the double memory, the font options (there are now condensed and sans-serif fonts), and the new browser with ‘article mode’ all combine to make an exceptional package. It’s easily the best eReader available and at $189 it’s a steal. The Kindle WiFi at $139, if you can get by without free 3G, is even more of a steal.

Kindle 3 vs Kindle 2 – 10 ways in which Kindle 3 is better

Here are the top 10 features/improvements that make the Kindle 3 markedly better than the Kindle 2 -

  1. 50%+ better Screen Contrast – The screen itself is 50% better, Amazon has added proprietary technology to make fonts sharper, and the graphite casing adds to the effect. Side by side the Kindle 3 outshines the Kindle 2 – it’s a much more readable screen. The Kindle DX 2 video page shows the difference between eInk Pearl and the old eInk and Kindle 3 vs Kindle 2 is slightly more of a difference.  
  2. Faster Page Turns – With Kindle 2.5 we already have fast page turns. The page turns with the Kindle 3 are 20% faster. 
  3. Thin, Compact, and Light Design - Kindle 3 is really thin and compact. It’ll fit into a jacket pocket or a small purse. It feels really light at 8.7 ounces. It makes the Kindle 2 seem heavy and that’s an achievement.
  4. Built-in WiFi – There’s WiFi support so you can use your home network. There is free access for browsing and buying books at all AT&T WiFi hotspots.
  5. Improved PDF support – Now you can add notes and highlights and use the Dictionary in PDFs. Also, password protected PDFs are supported.
  6. Accessible Menus – Blind and Low Vision readers will be really happy to know that menus and the home page are now text to speech enabled. Combine this with the supersized fonts in the Kindle 2.5 upgrade and we have very respectable accessibility.
  7. 1 month of battery life. Quite frankly, don’t believe this and will wait to test it – 1 month battery life is something else.  
  8. Double the Storage – No SD card is tough and getting double the storage makes up for it a bit.  
  9. Usability improvements – Page Turns aren’t loud, buttons are placed better, page turns are easier to do now (though the button edges wrap around a bit and it’ll take a little getting used to).  
  10. 3 Font Options – You now get to choose between Serif, Sans Serif, and Condensed Fonts. Didn’t like the condensed font much though the Sans Serif looked very nice.
  11. Bonus: The Cover – You have to buy this separately but the cover is a delight. There’s a pull out LED light that’s powered by your Kindle. You have to use it to see how cool it is – It uses the hinges of the case (that latch on to the Kindle) to power the LED light.

Quick Note on Negatives

There is no touchscreen and there is no color and if those matter a lot to you (for illustrated textbooks or taking notes) then Kindle 3 isn’t the device for you. We still don’t have ePub support or an open eco-system and it seems unlikely that they will arrive anytime soon.

It’s also worth noting that we just have the Press Release and Amazon’s product page so far. There might be some downsides we realize only after using the Kindle 3. One downside is that the Kindle 3 almost seems too small – it’s smaller than a paperback and super-thin and you have to wonder how it’ll react to a fall. 

Kindle 3 vs Kindle 2 Conclusion – Kindle 3 is Strongly Recommended

Kindle 3 manages to improve massively on the Kindle 2. It’s a huge relief that it does this without straying from a focus on reading. Perhaps the biggest accomplishment for Amazon is to release the Kindle 3 for $189 and the Kindle WiFi for $139.

The Kindle 3 is easily the best eReader on the market and it’s strongly recommended. 

  1. If you are looking to buy an eReader then definitely get the Kindle 3 - unless ePub or library books or an SD card are a must-have.
  2. If you have a Kindle 1 it’s well worth the upgrade.
  3. If you already have a Kindle 2 then perhaps it’s worth waiting till Christmas. You might want to spring for the Kindle WiFi if the improved lightness or screen contrast or WiFi appeal strongly to you.

After getting a Kindle 1.5 masquerading as Kindle 2 and a Kindle DX 1.7 masquerading as Kindle DX 2 we finally get a Kindle 3 that’s worthy of the 3 in its name.

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