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I'm what you would call a real bookworm, always have been and guess I always will be. Ever since I was knee high to a grasshopper, I've devoured books at the rate of two, three or more a week. Not only do I love to read, but I also like to own my own copies rather than borrow them from the library, so that I can return to them like the well-loved friends they are. My partner had almost resigned himself to the hundreds of books taking over the bedroom, but only almost. To satisfy my love of the written word without forcing us to sleep between towers of books, my partner decided that the All-New Kindle would be perfect as a pre-Christmas gift.
The All-New Kindle is the latest in the line of Kindles, being a cheaper, stripped down, slim line version of the Kindle 3. With the reduction in features comes a reduction in price with the new Kindle (designated the Kindle 4) costing a very reasonable £89 including super saver delivery from Amazon. Before I go into any detail, I'm going to make it perfectly clear that I adore my Kindle and would recommend that anyone who loves to read and has a wi-fi connection should buy one now. So before you go any further you know that this is going to be a glowing review and I'm giving the All-New Kindle 4 five stars our of five.
Although previous Kindles have only been available directly from Amazon, the new Kindle is also available from Tesco (both online and in store) and is quite possible available elsewhere. I think this was a very clever marketing strategy on Amazon's part as it means you can go into a shop and have a hands-on test before deciding to part with your cash. I must say that I didn't even bother doing this, having reads reviews on the previous incarnations, I knew that I wanted one without having to see it in the "flesh", so to speak.
My Kindle arrived about three days after it was ordered, being sent by second class post and arriving in a box that fitted through my letter box. I must say I was a little surprised that there it wasn't sent using any trackable service and even more shocked that it was simply posted through the letter box to land on my hall floor. Even more surprising was that the box was clearly labelled Kindle which must have put temptation in a few people's way. If I were to order another I would be sure to pay a little extra for delivery to ensure that it was as safely delivered as possible.
On opening the box I was faced with the Kindle itself, a USB lead and some basic instruction manuals. It's interesting to note that previous models have included an adapter plug but this one doesn't, meaning you will either need to buy one or put up with connecting it to your computer to charge. It's also interesting to note that the USB connection on the Kindle is identical to that on many of the latest Samsung phones. This means that I haven't even bothered using the supplied cable as I already own three Samsung USB leads and three Samsung power leads. (From the Monte, Lucida and Galaxy Europa). The supplied lead is, however, a good length which means you do not have to sit right next to the computer.
Looks-wise the Kindle is quite a sexy beast with it's gunmetal grey casing, minimum of buttons and clear 6" (diagonal) screen. Smaller in size than most paperbacks and only slightly heavier at 170g it fits neatly in my hand and is easy to slip into my handbag for travelling. While the previous had a keyboard, this version does not, instead there is a directional button surrounding the select at the bottom centre with two more buttons on either side (back, keyboard, menu and home). There are page turn buttons on either side of the Kindle along with page back.
The basic instructions that came with the Kindle informed me that I would need to give it an initial 2 hour charge, but that I could set it up while it was charging. So I connected it to my laptop (Windows 7), which instantly recognised and
installed the Kindle before informing me that there was a new drive available. Initial set-up was very easy, little more than a case of allowing the Kindle to connect to my home network via the wi-fi. As my Kindle had been purchased directly from Amazon it was already registered to my account, but had it been purchased elsewhere or as a gift there would have been another step. Once a wi-fi connection was established it was easy to transfer all my eBooks to the Kindle, having already been using the Kindle App on my mobile I already had a collection of books.
Switch on time depends on whether the Kindle is in standby mode (displaying a screensaver) or completely switched off (blank white screen). From standby I would say it takes well under thirty seconds to be ready to go, while from completely switched off it takes just under a minute. Pressing the power button briefly will put the Kindle into standby, while holding onto the button will turn the Kindle off. Should the Kindle ever freeze, holding onto the button will also perform a re-boot.
Books, books and more books
Finding books to download onto the Kindle is extremely easy, although there isn't a physical keyboard, I have no problem navigating to the Kindle store using a mixture of the menu button and directional buttons. Once in the store there are literally thousands of books to choose from and you can either browse the store or search for a particular author or title. The on-screen keyboard is easy enough to use, although I maybe should point out the there are in fact five keyboards available (symbols, lower and upper case English and lower and upper case continental).
Apparently there are over 750,000 books available for the Kindle. Now I wouldn't know about that, but there are certainly more than even I could read in all manner of genres from children's through to horror and even non-fiction. There are, however, a few notable exceptions including a certain student wizard that are missing. Prices are generally on a par with paperbacks, although as VAT is payable (why?) they can cost a few pence more. Amazon also regularly promotes certain books and has a very large range at ridiculously low price of under £1 or even free. Even better for me (as someone who loves reading them) there are literally thousands of free classics, including children's classics such as Heidi, horrors such as Dracula and even Dickens. This is by far my favourite area to browse and I have already downloaded several hundred to satisfy my reading urges.
Once you have chosen your book you can either choose to immediately purchase it or download a sample first to make sure you really want it. When you do purchase the book it is almost immediately transferred to your Kindle, Amazon state under in a minute, I would say that if using the Kindle to make the purchase then thirty seconds is nearer the mark. As well as using the Kindle itself to browse Amazon, you can use other devices and choose to have it delivered to the Kindle, where it will appear on the home screen when it is next powered up. According to Amazon this particular version of the Kindle will hold up to 1400 books, which is fewer than the older version, but still more than enough for me. Should I ever find the Kindle memory full, then I can delete books, so they are stored in Amazon's cloud technology, which holds all the books I have purchased.
As well as books from the Kindle store you can use the Kindle to read countless other E-Books from other sources along with magazines and newspapers (I've not bothered with these, yet). Each Kindle also has it's own email address that you can use to send Word, PDF, text and picture documents to it for viewing on the move. Although to be totally truthful this isn't a function I've yet managed to make work. The Kindle can also be used as a PDF viewer and has lots of functions to make reading these easier, but as I rarely view PDF files I really can't say that I've used this.
Once downloaded onto the Kindle, books and files can be sorted in various ways. They can be sorted by how recently they were loaded, title, or author or you can sort them into collections. Personally I've created various sub-folders (collections) and have sorted the books into these. What I particularly like is that if a book falls into more than one category (I.e. classic and horror) you can classify it by both of these without duplicating the file.
The Reading Experience
The Kindle utilises something called E-Ink technology, now personally I have no idea what this technology is or how it works so I'm simply going give my opinion on the screen, navigation etc. The 6" (diagonal) screen is actually slighter smaller than most of the paperbacks I own, but obviously much larger than the mobile phone I had been using to read EBooks. Rather than being made of a reflective glass-like surface the screen is very matte, meaning that it I can read the screen in full sunlight or under a lamp without a sign of glare.
Whatever the E-Ink is, it does an incredible job, even before getting as far as opening a book or even switching on the Kindle displays a random screen saver that looks exactly like a pencil or pen and ink drawing. Once a book is opened the reading experience in in a word fantastic. Even before fiddling with any setting the text is perfectly clear and looks just like it has been finely printed on the most expensive paper. I'm being serious, it looks just like it has been printed only there is no sign of fading or bleeding. I would say it is the quality that printed books can only aspire to.
While I find the default font size perfectly adequate, it is easy to change it via the menu, along with line spacing, typeface and words per line, with the largest font being very large indeed, which I'm sure is a boon to those with poorer eyesight. You can also change the page layout from portrait to landscape, which I really can't get my head around. Turning the page is as simple as pushing a button on the side, although I must admit that it took me a while to work this out. I knew where the buttons were, but no matter how I tried I couldn't get them to work. This was because I was trying to press them in, when in actual fact they need to be pushed down. The fact there are buttons on both sides means that they work equally well, whether you are a leftie (like me) or right handed. Although page turns aren't instantaneous, they are much quicker than if you were turning pages in a actual book. I find the way that the screen flashes black on each page turn a little disconcerting though.
Once you've finished your reading session, the Kindle not only remembers where you have got to, but can also be synched with any other devices you read E-books on using the Kindle app such as a computer or mobile. This meant that rather than having to work out exactly where I had got to in the book I was reading on my phone, the Kindle new exactly which page I was on. You can also add notes and bookmarks, or reads notes that other people have left of particular passages. If you come across a word that you're unsure of you can move the cursor to that point and a definition will display at the bottom of the screen (there are several other language dictionaries also available.
To be perfectly honest the only problems that I have with reading on the Kindle is that I'm unable to read it in the dark, meaning that should I want to read in bed I would need to have the light on, which would disturb my partner and for obvious reasons I cannot take it into the bath.
Amazon makes the rather exciting claim that the battery will last up to one month with the wi-fi switched off and three weeks when switched on. But this is based on only half hour reading time per day. I don't know about you, but my reading pattern is considerably different to this. I can
Pictures of Amazon Kindle Wi-Fi 6" E Ink Display
With a book open
easily spend two to three hours a day reading and even longer if I've really got into a book and my partner is on lates, I also keep the wi-fi on continuously. With this pattern of use the battery lasts me for near enough exactly a week, which I still feel is particularly impressive.
It's probably quite important to point out that unlike the previous version, this Kindle does not have speakers and therefore does not support any audio features. While for me this isn't an important feature (I've never understood the attraction to having someone else read for me), this does make this particular Kindle less accessible to those with visual impairment.
Hidden in the menu options there is a very basic, very buggy web browser. I have attempted to use this and did get as far as loading my Facebook profile page, but then the whole Kindle froze on me. While I'm not saying that I won't possibly try this function again while out and about, I can't say I was too impressed with the freezing. (Although the picture quality was pretty good even though it was black and white). You can also link the Kindle to your Facebook and Twitter accounts and update your status when you've finished a book. Although I have linked the Kindle to Facebook, I can't say I've ever bothered updating my status as I really don't see the point.
I really couldn't finish this section without a word about accessories and their prices. Although my Kindle does feel solid and well-made, I'm still concerned that it will get damaged by being carried around. (I certainly won't be putting it in my back pocket anytime soon). There are a variety of covers available, but to go for the official version you have to be prepared to fork out a ridiculous amount of money (up to £40). I have seen an unofficial version with a light for a very reasonable £8.99 though and am now waiting for it to arrive.
I absolutely love my new Kindle, it's a fantastic piece of technology that has revolutionised the way I read. Now I can continue to increase the number of books I own and widen the range of genres I read without needing to find extra space on my bookshelves. I love how clear the print is and the way I can easily change the font size if necessary (I increased it so my partner's 92 year old Grandmother could have a quick read). I love the way that owning the Kindle means that I have read books that I would otherwise not even considered. But more than anything I love the way I can now access hundreds of classic novels that I have previously loved for free. The battery life is also excellent, as an avid reader I knew that it wasn't going to last the full month before charges, but a full week of reading several hours a day is still fantastic and it only takes a couple of hours to charge.
My only disappointment, well it's not really a disappointment as such, but I'd love if Amazon could find a way of replicating that new book smell, that has always been an important aspect of reading. Oh and I suppose the fact that I can't really take the Kindle into the bath could be considered a down point. But there again I now only need to transport the Kindle with me rather than several books when going on holiday. I would also imagine that some would find the lack of 3G a disadvantage, but to be totally honest I don't. I have a wi-fi connection at home and with how many books the Kindle holds I can just load up any books before I go out and I really don't need to worry about connecting make to the web. And if I did there are plenty of places nowadays that offer free wi-fi.
Personally speaking, I think that the Kindle 4 is a wonderful piece of technology, I've said it before and I'll say it again, if you love reading and have a wi-fi internet connection you should definitely buy one. It may not have the keyboard that the Kindle 3 has, but it doesn't take long to get used to the on screen keyboard. The fact it doesn't have speakers does mean that it's not as suitable for the visually impaired, but the font can be greatly enlarged and the print is extremely clear. Seeing as I absolutely love mine, I can't help but give the Kindle 4 five stars out of five as for my needs it is simply perfect.