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About me: My reviews also live on Dooyoo, as do I on occasion.

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Quote-start

Like books, but clickier.

Quote-end
18.04.2011

Advantages:
Holds more books than you'll ever read, very readable screen, very well designed .

Disadvantages:
Extras are afterthoughts, might not be worth it to tablet owners that can grab the free app .

11 Ciao members have rated this review on average: very helpful See ratings
exceptional by (33%):
  1. mum2boys82
  2. kingfisher111
  3. tac20
and a further member
very helpful by (67%):
  1. sandemp
  2. icetsunami
  3. TheHairyGodmother
and 5 other members

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The overall rating of a review is different from a simple average of all individual ratings.

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In a world of iPhones and iPads, the Kindle seems like it would be a tough product to sell. Costing over a hundred pounds, and featuring a utilitarian design; the Kindle seems to offer little in comparison to a device that offers bright colours, multimedia playback and touch screen interfaces. However, spend a little time with Amazon's best selling e-reader and it soon becomes clear why the device is so successful.

- - -

What is a Kindle?

The Kindle represents Amazon.com's push into the e-book market; selling books online has been a steady but small market for many years now, yet it has been restricted by the lack of comfort required to read, for any serious length of time at least, from a computer screen. With the first edition of the Kindle, Amazon gave the e-book industry two things it desperately required. Firstly, a well designed handheld device for reading e-books, and secondly, a digital publishing platform with significant financial backing. The results speak for themselves, and now both the Kindle and Amazon's e-book store represent a significant part of the company's income.

The device itself is in its third iteration; a lightweight grey tablet that features a selection of buttons on the face and a matte screen. The buttons include a small QWERTY keyboard with responsive, clicky buttons, a few system buttons for accessing the system's various menus and navigating and, finally, matching buttons on either side of the screen that allow you to "turn" pages. The Kindle is very comfortable in the hand and light enough to hold for a good reading session, though it's a fair bit sturdier than your average paperback which can take a little adjusting to. The 3rd edition Kindle features 3GB of built in storage; this will hold thousands of e-books. Very probably more than most people will ever read, still it's better to have too much than not enough.

The screen itself is the system's biggest selling point, using a technology known as e-ink. Rather than illuminating pixels with an LCD screen, the Kindle screen features a sheet of tiny liquid capsules. These are transparent until activated, when they turn into what is, for all intents and purposes, ink. This creates a picture on the screen that resembles a decent quality printout. A page of type on the Kindle can be looked at from any angle and even in direct light, and remains clear and readable. The result is a screen that can be read in any situation where you could read a book, all without producing eye strain. The disadvantages are that the screen can only reproduce images in black and white, the Kindle can not be read in the dark, and perhaps most notably, the screen takes longer to refresh. This means that the device is exceptionally well designed for its purpose, but can not be so easily adapted to other uses.

- - -

Setting Up

Upon opening the Kindle box, you'll be greeted to the kind of spartan packaging reminiscent of an Apple product. The contents consist of a very brief quick start guide, the charging cable and the device itself. While the device charges via USB, they have very kindly included a USB to wall socket adapter which will be compatible with any USB devices you might have; very handy. The quick start guide is clear though beyond pointing out where the power button is, you'll probably never need it. (Pro Tip: It's a slider on the bottom.) The device also comes out of the box with the first few steps displaying on the screen so you can't go wrong; I imagine once a screen's worth of ink has been activated, it uses no power to keep displaying the same screen, though I'm only guessing. Mercifully, the device does not suffer from Apple's other habit of forcing the user to connect their device to a computer and install some software first. Plugging the device into any power source starts in charging and it's ready to go.

Once you power up the Kindle for the first time you're greeted to the first page of the Kindle user manual. It guides you through using books on the device and accessing the system's various options, all of which are a doddle. Also pre-loaded onto the device are the Oxford American Dictionary and the Oxford Dictionary of English. Most users are going to be getting the device out of the box and using it like a pro in less than an hour.

- - -

The Operating System and Library

The Kindle has a pretty basic interface; a home button takes you to your library which you can navigate with the "five way controller." Anyone who has used a mobile phone in the last ten years will be totally at home here, everyone else will pick it up quickly. The library allows you to easily sort your books by Author, Title, Most Recent or Collection; you own personal folders. I'd managed to load about thirty books on in my first day and get them all neatly sorted away without too much trouble; though I did have to glance at the manual once of twice.

The Kindle store, Amazon's e-book shop, is integrated perfectly into the system, and loading it up is just like browsing in your library. With the Wi-Fi version you'll have to set it up to a wi-fi connection if you have one; the 3G model can connect to mobile networks, though you will then incur charges for e-book "delivery." There are a huge range of books available including a massive selection of public domain books for free. The only problem is that you can't organise by price and so you'll have to take the time to search for them; the best way seems to be to pull the books up on your PC and then put the titles in on the Kindle; a workaround that seems a little too fiddly for a device that sells itself on its ability to give you books on the go.

- - -

Reading a Book.

Once you've grabbed a book from the Kindle store, or if you enjoy reading the dictionary, you can really let yourself get absorbed in it. Once the book is loaded up from you library, reading it is totally intuitive. The screen is about the same size as a small paperback, and you can adjust the font size to your taste. On each side of the screen are two buttons, page forward and page back. Putting matching controls on both sides is a wonderful idea; it means that you can sit or lay however you like, hold the Kindle in either hand and always be able to turn the page with a tap of the thumb.

I treated myself to a copy of From Russia With Love from the Kindle store and devoured it in a few days; I didn't notice any eye strain or discomfort from the screen, and I can easily say that it was just like reading a book, for the most part. What I did notice was that the neutral colour of the screen was a light grey, noticeably darker than the very light beige of a book. The effect was such that the words on the screen seemed to contrast less than print on a page. In good light this didn't make a difference, but when it got to mid-evening and I wasn't in the light, things began to dim a little. That was a pretty minor shortcoming though and didn't detract. In fact, the most positive thing I can say about the Kindle is that one I had become absorbed into the book, it was invisible. There were no intrusive design elements that took me out of the book, it was merely an effective carrier for the words.

One nice feature worth mentioning is that you can easily load files onto the device by connecting it to a computer via USB. It was great to see that the system supports .PDF files natively. I have a large collection of .PDF files hanging around and had them loaded up on the Kindle in a few minutes. However, some of the features of native Kindle books such as adjustable font size are not available. There were also one or two issues with formatting; certain .PDFs developed quirks in translation that made them awkward to read.

- - -

Battery Life

A review of the Kindle wouldn't be complete without a little gushing about the system's excellent battery life. Amazon boast that with the Wi-Fi/3G off, the system needs charging once a month. While I tend to operate with the wi-fi on a lot, I have noticed that the charge far exceeds that of my iPod Touch and even my DSLite. It is the only portable device I own that has never caught me off guard with low battery which gives the system a very comforting feeling of dependability.

- - -

Extras

While the Kindle does not attempt to be a jack of all trades, Amazon have included a few extra features. Firstly, the device features a decent pair of speakers on the back. These allow the Kindle to read out books from the Kindle store in a better than usual robot voice. However, Amazon have also made the Kindle compatible with any audio books from Audible.com, and thrown in a basic MP3 playing function. The MP3 player has little controls, just allowing you to shuffle, skip and pause; it won't be winning an design awards any time soon, but the function is there and sounds good both with and without headphones.
Secondly, they have included a basic web browser. It isn't perfect; far from it. But, it's there and it will do for a quick check of the email. I'm not going to be writing my DooYoo reviews on it any time soon.

- - -

Should you buy a Kindle?

The Kindle feels like something of an oddity at first; offering only to read books and nothing more. However, in an age of do everything mobile phones, it feels surprisingly refreshing to use a device that is designed entirely around doing one thing, but doing it perfectly. The Kindle provides a comfortable platform for both reading and buying digital books; a must for passionate readers. The battery life makes it the ideal device for holidays and the flexibility it allows in storing documents, mainly .PDFs and .TXTs, means it's a good way to keep important files and access them on a whim.

While it does include a few extra features such as a web browser or MP3 player, Amazon do right not to advertise them. They are, in fact, hidden away in the operating system under "experimental." It fits in with the approach Amazon have taken; placing reading on a pedestal and making the design fit that concept. Anything else has been added into once they have met that goal. They are not selling points, they are too fiddly to ever cast the deciding vote in buying a Kindle; they have been included because they could be.

The question of buying a Kindle is tricky though. People who do not read often shouldn't even consider it; reading is the game here. Everything else is an afterthought. Do you already own an iPhone or iPad? Amazon provide a free Kindle app for these devices, and though it's not as comfortable and experience; the Kindle's benefits might not weigh against the cost of purchase to you.

However, if you read a lot, buy books a lot and often find yourself wishing you could take all your books around with you, if you don't like reading books on a traditional screen; well, the Kindle is probably right up your street.

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Comments about this review »

mum2boys82 20.08.2011 18:00

Great review, very detailed! Rebecca Xx

kingfisher111 18.04.2011 21:23

excellent review

tac20 18.04.2011 14:00

E from me - really great review.

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This review of Amazon Kindle Keyboard Wi-Fi Only has been rated:

"exceptional" by (33%):

  1. mum2boys82
  2. kingfisher111
  3. tac20

and a further member

"very helpful" by (67%):

  1. sandemp
  2. icetsunami
  3. TheHairyGodmother

and 5 other members

The overall rating of a review is different from a simple average of all individual ratings.

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