Kindle 3 3G first Impressions

This will be the first of several posts looking in detail at the Kindle 3. Amazon has got at least one thing VERY right. Simplicity. The packaging is simple, you open the box and the kindle has directions for plugging it in to charge on the display. Then you are directed to slide the switch. When it comes up it’s already registered to the account you purchased with and it hooks up to whispernet. At this time you can configure wireless if you like (with the 3g you have whispernet even if the wifi is not available or not configured.)

In many ways, even though I’ve now had the Kindle for about 4 days I’m still marveling at the simplicity of use. These days so many devices take initial configuration to get going. There’s a guick start guide, they walk through the setup of an email address or whatever… the kindle has it all figured out for you. In some ways this is what a device should be. Preconfigured. Can you change the setup? I’ve read that you can change the email address assigned to the kindle. You certainly can deregister it from your account and assign to another account, but just out of the box it is already set to work.

I had already “bought” several free books at the kindle store before it arrived and had a large collection of books in calibre to sync up when it arrived. The books that were already “purchased” showed up within a few minutes of switching the device on. The initial charge took less than an hour. I plugged it in before dinner, came back after dinner and saw that it was ready to go.

Calibre is an article to itself, but syncing my collection to the kindle from calibre was relatively easy. (Calibre is not made by amazon – it’s third party software and does take some configuration. As I noted, it’s another article for the future.)

Legibility of the kindle is fantastic. If the light is at just the wrong angle you may get some reflection from the screen, but you have to find the wrong angle. For the majority of my usage of it, it’s been a pleasure to read on. Text has been crisp and clear and it’s easy to sort through the controls to adjust text size. I’ve loaded texts that include the full latin alphabet (with extensions such as accents and umlauts in English, French, Italian and German. All have been handled very well. Even a mandarin chinese wikibook displayed most of the traditional chinese characters well. (At some point I may give a whirl to one of the chinese texts that is sold for the kindle and suspect it would render with flying colors… or flying monochrome.)

The web browser is fairly easy to use and setup some frequent bookmarks. Since I got the 3g version I did have in mind this being a plan b for web access in a pinch. I’ve put bookmarks for the mobile version fo the wikipedia in english and spanish (I had to rename the bookmark to wikipedia english to be able to save multiple wiki front pages.) I also setup our local noaa weather forecast page and a few other news and local news pages. I tested gmail (which seemed just fine.)

It’s certainly not designed to replace your computer for web browsing and that’s fine. It’s designed to be a reader. It excels at that. My first thoughts were that it could use a touch screen and really, I think that’s a fifty-fifty call. I can live without the touch screen and could certainly see them offering a touch screen version for those that just HAVE to have it. I think many can live without it just fine though.

Color. As of yet, I haven’t seen a dire need for color (other than web browsing). I would think for magazine content as we look towards ereaders such as this replacing news/magazine print color would be coming. Frankly I see that happening in a couple of years anyway as the new e-ink color displays are starting to become available. I don’t expect them to rush to adopt it.

The subscription prices for news and magazines strike me as a bit high. $14 a month for an electronic newspaper is more than I think appropriate when the content is already easily available online. Add to that the thought that calibre can fetch news and format for your kindle for free. It makes the $14 a month a hard selling point. Would I pay $5 a month ? That’s probably more reasonable. Ultimately I would like to see more creativity in the options for newspaper/magazine delivery. Such as…. only the Sunday edition perhaps. Of course, you can just buy an issue on demand as well though.

I think the biggest chasm though is the lack of epub support. I still think it’s just a matter of time before kindle has some sort of epub support, but especially with the launch of the google book store….. it is missed. The center of the battle all revolves around drm though and we’ve seen that play out already in music files and will continue to see it play out in ebook formats.

One thing I keep noticing about the Kindle is how easy it is to read with it. Yes at night you need a light, just like with any paper book. Holding it is so much more comfortable than a paper book. It’s relatively light, but I appreciate not having to adjust from left page to right page constantly.

All in all it is a good reading experience and that seems to be what Amazon is aiming for. They are selling a reading experience as opposed to an ereader. I have yet to experiment with alternate dictionaries on my kindle. (I may be substituting a foreign language dictionary in for ease of learning words while reading in a second language.)

More to come in further posts.

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