Review: Kindle 3

I got a Kindle for Christmas.  It actually arrived slightly after Christmas due to shipping delays and such, but it was definitely worth the wait.  I wanted to wait until I had gone through a complete battery cycle so that I could comment on longevity and such too, so here’s my review.

Kindle 3 textMy first reaction when I opened it was “oh, they’ve got one of those stickers on the screen like they have on display units in stores.”  Only, they didn’t.  The screen is surreal in how crisp it is.  It honestly looks like printed text.  Maybe I’m just so used to seeing antialiased text on a computer screen, but the first time I looked at the screen, it was like the difference between using a CRT and the first time I looked at an LCD screen.  e-ink is pretty darn cool.

The screen is not back-lit, so reading in the dark (just like reading a regular book) isn’t possible.  No biggie, I have a lamp beside my bed for a reason.

I made a New Year’s resolution to try to stop buying paper books.  We have shelves full, I’ve got a bunch packed in boxes in storage, and just the thought of the amount of paper used in their production makes me feel like I’m responsible for single-handedly killing the rain forests.  I started my resolution back in September when I picked up a couple of books on iBooks, and then in the Kindle App on my iPhone.  Reading on my iPhone was okay (3GS), but I knew right away that I’d have to go for either an iPad or Kindle if I wanted to keep my resolution.

Battery Life

On arrival, I charged up the battery to full, and I haven’t plugged in the Kindle since.  I’ve read 3 complete books, and referenced a bunch of other materials in some of my technical books.  On average, I’d say that I probably use it for 3 hours per day with Wifi on, and I’m just now having to charge the battery again.  My understanding is that this is because the Kindle only uses the battery to “turn pages”.  Once content is displayed, it is drawing minimally from the battery assuming that Wifi is off.  That’s pretty darn good.  I could probably take this thing on vacation somewhere and completely forget the charging cable.

Books

The Kindle store has an excellent selection, and the prices are quite reasonable.  The average novel will run you about $9 (US, but hey, our dollar is stronger than the US dollar right now!).  Compare that to the iBooks store where most books I was looking at were $12 and the selection was pretty dismal (in Canada – your mileage may vary elsewhere).  Additionally, I was able to transfer most of my collection of tech books from A Book Apart and Site Point over.  The Kindle supports the .MOBI format, which isn’t a problem because most e-books, I’m finding, come with a PDF, EPUB and MOBI format all bundled together.

The only exception I ran into were a couple of books I purchased from Rosenfeld Media a while back, when they were only offering PDF versions of their books.  I got in contact, and they offered to allow me to upgrade my purchase for a small fee.  I decided not to bother for various reasons.

The Kindle will also support PDFs, but reading a PDF on your Kindle is a bit of a pain in the arse.  It displays a full page, and then you need to zoom in on portions of the text in order to read them.  You then need to scroll around a page, which is less than ideal. MOBI books are definitely the way to go when available.

Controls/UI

The keyboard is fine for all that I use it.  It reminds me a lot of a blackberry keyboard, with a little more space and slightly larger keys.  The UI was intuitive enough that I was able to pick up the device and start using it without reading the user manual.

There are next page and previous page buttons on either side of the screen.  I actually found myself hitting these by accident when I picked up the Kindle, turning the page.  I picked up a cover (shown below) on eBay, and that’s fixed the problem though.  If you power off the Kindle, hitting the page turn buttons is no big deal as they don’t do anything, but it’s taken me by surprise a couple of times while moving the device from one location to another without powering it off.

What don’t I like?

Screensaver -- modifiedThe only negative thing I have to say about the Kindle is with the screensaver.  The Kindle comes with a screen saver that displays on the screen whenever you power it off.  The images are various literary-themed images (different authors and such).  I didn’t care for them much, but unfortunately Amazon doesn’t provide you with a way to change the images.  Why not?  What does it matter?

Google to the rescue, and after what amounted to jail-breaking my Kindle, I was able to drop my own images onto the device.  It’s not a big deal, but why not give people the option right out of the box?