Before I start my brief review of my new proud procurement, I would like to state that off late, I’ve been getting quite lucky while shopping for electronics. To remind you, I had bought a SMART TV way below it’s market price sometime back, as informed earlier. Thought the circumstances got me a good price, I still consider myself lucky. Lately, I had been thinking about doing something about my hobby of reading, which was being neglected by me. It could be due to lack of availability of good books in my region, or just my laziness to venture out towards the stores offering them. Anyway, my friend managed to persuade me that Amazon Kindle was one of the best purchases he had made in his life. And I always take him by his word. Weighing my options, I felt that kindle was my best bet to re-ignite the passion towards books, and so I went ahead and purchased it on ebay. To my surprise, the guys shipping it from the U.S. sent me a Wifi + 3G version instead of plain Wifi which I had ordered. At this point, I feel no remorse in pointing out to people who feel that I should return it, that these sellers have been looting me all through my life, and now it’s payback time. So I keep this model.
Anyway the kindle is here. (Accessory in the picture(Kindle Pouch) is NOT part of supply and needs to be bought separately. Maybe here.)
Ergonomics and Asthetics: The very first time I opened the packet containing my Kindle, I thought that I needed to remove the paper displaying an advertisement on the screen. I lifted up the plastic cover which was protecting the front and was amazed to find that it was not paper. The screen, as claimed, reproduced the exact impression of paper. I was amazed, and bit amused at my innocence. The display captured my heart that very moment. The box also contained a USB/U.S. standard power adapter, and a quick start guide. After handling it a bit more, I found that though the screen was 6” diagonally, it was sufficient to display enough text without being too small, while not requiring to turn page very frequently. The form factor is very small. You can comfortably hold it in one palm while the fingers of the same hand can be used to navigate between pages while reading. In fact, Amazon has been very thoughtful while designing the two arrow keys which turn the page. They are replicated on both the edges of the device so that you can hold it in either of the hands and still be able to navigate easily. Tiring your hand while reading, is not the idea of this device.
The bottom of the device holds a volume key(for your audiobooks and mp3. Yes, kindle plays mp3, even while you are reading a book, if you desire), a 3.5mm audio jack for the earphones, mic(internally built), the data/charging port and the power button. Strangely, no headphones are provided in the box. But then, this is primarily an ebook reader, and people tend to read it instead of listening to it. Also the mp3 function is experimental, with not standard application menu. The back plate is blank, except for the two perforated grills on top edges denoting the location of speakers.
Weight wise, Amazon claim it to be some ounces. I wouldn’t care less. It is light enough to be carried around. And it’s slim. In fact almost half the thickness of my samsung wave mobile. And I used to be proud about how slim my phone is.
Reading experience:Don’t ask it if you read actual books. It’s almost the same. I say almost because kindle doesn’t have the problem of you needing to hold the book open, which can be quite cumbersome with thick books. On kindle, you just hold the book(device). The text is quite crisp. Just check out the photo on left. And at any word you do not understand, just move your cursor using the navigation key on the keyboard to the beginning of the word and the in built dictionary will do the rest.
Keyboard:The keyboard is QWERTY type with well laid out keys, good enough to carryout the job at hand.You have an option to change the size, font, line spacing, number of words in a single line and even the orientation of the screen as per your liking, using the AA button on the keyboard. Though the options are less, they are quite sufficient for the purpose. No one would a fancy calligraphy or monotype corsiva font on an ebook. The same button also contains the option to use the text-to-speech engine to listen to the text, but I wouldn’t prefer a poignant novel to be read by a robot from star-trek. There is a standard 4 way+select navigation button combination which is useful while navigating between menus and book list.
Connectivity: There are two options available. Wifi and 3G + Wifi. For wifi internet you need a hot spot. Ad-hoc connection(peer to peer) is not possible. I got the device containing Wifi + 3G and India has a very good coverage of GPRS. Though I do not get 3G, I am quite satisfied with the EDGE speed for downloading books. Having said that, the speed is bit less for web browsing( yes, web browsing. I will come to that.) Someone who buys a 3G + Wifi device might complain if he/she doesn’t get 3G access in India, but it should be clarified before buying. By the way, wireless access(be it 3G or Wifi) is only required for synchronising with your online account to buy and download books. Rest of the times, the wireless feature can be switched off very easily to conserve battery.
Battery & Memory: Amazon claims a battery life of a month on kindle when used in purely reading model. But how is that possible? Kindle uses the e-ink technology where the display doesn’t require any power. The device uses the power only to change the display from one page to another. After that the display remains in its state without the need to refresh. This, though translates in to longer battery life and sharper contrast, renders the device useless for fast moving graphics, leave alone videos. The device has a 3GB usable memory on board with no expansion slot. But 3GB ought to hold enough books for lifetime(estimated 3500, in kindle native format).
Advertisements: There are two versions of this device. A normal and a sponsored version. I have the sponsored version wherein a small advertising bar appears at the bottom of the screen whenever I access the home screen or navigate through list of books. Also when the device goes to sleep mode, the screen displays an advertisement. But, while reading a book, no advertisements appear, so the sponsored version is actually not at all bad. In fact, it is listed for 99$ as against 139$ for the normal version in the U.S.
Shopping for Ebooks: Once your device is registered to your Amazon account, shopping for ebooks via kindle is as easy as doing it on computer. It has a search engine to search any book on Amazon.com. Once your payment options are registered on one click payment option, buying books online becomes very easy. The books are transferred using Amazons own whispernet technology(basically a data service through a service provider) to your device. You can group together the books in to collections for easy browsing and handling. You can also use some tricks to transfer some files other then those form amazon. Feed update can be synchronised using services like Kindle Feeder.
Amazon has integrated a webkit browser under experimental category in menu along with music player and text to speech. I used the browser, and I fail to understand the word experimental. As a matter of fact, the word experimental undermines the potential and readiness of the browser. It doesn’t play flash. It cannot display colors. Other than that, it can do most of the browsing. I navigated through quite a few websites and I was very happy with the results. The browser cannot open second window hence it is not possible to open a link which tries to open up a new browsing window. The browser requires internet access and is capable of accessing 3G/EDGE data.
The integrated music player can be used to play music using certain shortkeys even while you read.
Text to speech, as I informed earlier, is robotic.
There might be other things this device is capable of doing, but I have yet to use it to its full potential. All in all, I am satisfied with its usability. It serves my purpose.