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Anyone who says an e-reader spells the death of literature is talking nonsense. Books are words and Amazon's Kindle gives you the same words, only in a different format. I sampled a few works with Kindle for PC before getting the actual Kindle, to see what the volumes looked like on a screen. I was sold!
I opted for the £111 basic model (works in range of a wi-fi connection) rather than the 3G which operates in a similar way to a mobile phone and costs £47 more. I reckoned I'd load any books I wanted before going on away and you don't need to be connected to the web to read. Even on the non-3G version, a simple web bowser can be found under 'Experimental' on the main menu. This is great for dipping into favourite sites (though there's no colour and the keyboard is very small so mitigates against extensive typing) and will be useful away from home for accessing email through a webmail account.
You can add books from the minute you make your purchase and they will be ready loaded when the tablet arrives. I found the books I'd downloaded to my pc were there as well. If the Kindle is a gift, the recipient has to register their own account on Amazon so that purchased books go to the correct tablet. Classics - such as Dickens, the Brontes, Austen, Darwin etc - are free and other volumes start from a few pence. The cost of recent publications is comparable to the paper version. Downloads take only a few seconds. You can download MP3 tracks and, if available, audiobooks. Both of these need to be accessed via a pc. It's also possible to transfer documents in a variety of formats from a pc.
The KIndle comes with a printed quick guide plus a full (and searchable) operating manual in its memory but it is very user friendly and, as soon as the battery is charged, you will be reading in seconds.
A full battery charge lasts about a month if you are reading every day but the juice drains faster if you leave the wi-fi turned on. So turn it off unless downloading, surfing or if the Kindle says you need it on to operate a function such as 'go to last page read'.
Unlike a traditional book where you are stuck with the type size as printed, Kindle allows personal selection of type size (great in bed when you've taken your contact lenses out!), word spacing and a choice of portrait and landscape format. The page turning buttons (forward and back) are on either side of the tablet and, if you fall asleep or go to feed the cat, the machine switches into 'sleep' mode to reduce battery usage. When you wake it up (or switch on), it goes back to the page you left. The Home button brngs up your library (which you can group into personalised folders) and the Menu button presents different options depending which screen you are on.
There's a dictionary, you can bookmark any part of the text, and make retrievable notes as you go. You could probably use this option to keep, for instance, a travel diary but I've not tried that yet.
I would recommend buying some sort of cover (I got a clip-in leather one, new and red, for about £10 from ebay) for protection and also so that you can spot where you've left it. I also discovered that the protective film surrounding the tablet on arrival could be cut to make an adhesive screen protector. The screen is not backlit but you can buy covers with integral reading lights for dim conditions (or if you don't want to wake your partner by reding in bed in the middle of the night).
So far the Kindle doesn't do on-screen colour and, being used to a touchscreen mobile phone, I regret that commands are all push button. It's easy to accidentally go back or forward a page when holding the tablet (though easy to reverse) and the keyboard buttons are rather small.
Nevertheless, I am impressed with the machine. It is easy to operate, abolishes arm/neck/shoulder strain when reading heavy tomes, gives basic web access and I look forward to going on holiday with substantially lighter luggage!
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