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Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Amazon's Kindle Reviewed



I'm writing this post in Amsterdam, towards the end of my weekend away. This has been my first 'holiday test' of my new toy, and seemed like an opportune time to write about it.

I can hardly stress too strongly the benefits, to a girl of my limited eyesight, of being able to adjust the font sizes of a book. I've known for a while that an e-book reader would allow me to read much more easily, and I love it for that.

Having a whole library that fits in my pocket is another huge plus: I downloaded a number of free classics before setting out and have yet to make a significant dent in them.


These, though, are surely advantages shared by any modern ereader.

The Kindle itself (version 3, now called the Kindle Keyboard) is surprisingly small and light. It fits in my pocket and takes up rather less space than the average paperback. Navigation isn't entirely intuitive, but it comes with its own user guide pre-loaded, which explains everything.


I was wary about choosing a Kindle because I didn't want to be locked in to Amazon's formats; however it sounded like the best option considering my eyesight. The fonts go up to a very large size indeed and there's also a text-to-speech option (the same voice as Adobe Reader, so far as I can tell) which also works on the menus. (It doesn't work on 100% of books, though; some publishers have switched off the text-to-speech feature.)

The screen is much closer to the experience of reading on paper, compared to a laptop screen. And although the screen flashes when you change page (this seems to be a feature of all ebook readers), I stopped noticing the flashes after a couple of hours.

British and American English dictionaries are built in, and navigating to any word will bring up a definition on screen. You can add highlights and bookmarks for future reference, which I think will be invaluable if I use this for academic work, and you can also choose to see commonly-highlighted passages.

You can also make margin notes - a feature I know I'll love when I come to editing my next novel.

It's terrifyingly easy to spend money via the Kindle store, a section of Amazon which allows you to buy books with a single click, and then delivers them wirelessly. You can go from browsing to reading in seconds flat. And there are regular sales with some significant discounts.

My Kindle also has the internet via 3G. I'm typing these words on the minute keyboard, which is hardly ideal, but that must be weighed against the convenience of free internet access overseas (in some subset of countries, the limits of which I've yet to investigate; England and Holland I can vouch for). Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that one slip of the keys caused this post to publish, incomplete, as I was writing it - a sign of how awkward the browser is to use. Navigating within websites without a mouse is hard work - but it's handy for consulting wikipedia or updating Twitter. Considering it only cost me a few extra pounds to have the 3G version, it's definitely worth it for me and the amount of travelling I do.

Amazon claim that the battery can last for "up to" a month with the wifi connectivity switched off. Based on my experience so far, I can say that it's survived five days of heavy reading-and-internet use on trains and ferries, and still shows around 20% charge. That puts it head and shoulders above my phone, which is flat after a couple of hours of browsing.

I'm sure I'll have more to say as I use it more, but for now, I'm a very happy geek with a new toy.

This review was not compensated, and I bought my own Kindle. However, if you buy your own Kindle via this link, I'll get a small percentage via the Amazon Affiliate scheme.

24 comments:

ladyfi said...

OH, I am drooling with wonder and awe and a tiny bit of jealousy. Must. get. one.

Debra said...

I am still so jealous that you are out traveling. I wasn't sure about the Kindle but now I want one! Loved your review!

The Blonde Duck said...

My MIL is obsessed with hers. I've been considering getting one!

"Cottage By The Sea" said...

That was such a great review of The Kindle. I had been wondering about the pros and cons, and only getting them from the people who sell them, is a bit one sided. Hearing an unbiased review has convinced that I'd love it. It's going on my wish list; maybe for Christmas. Thanks for the info!

JDaniel4's Mom said...

I love that you can put margin notes. I love to leave them in my books as I read.

Kristen @ Motherese said...

What a detailed and thoughtful review. Thanks, Rachel.

So far I have been e-reader resistant, given my Luddite tendencies and my worship of paper-page books. (Add another: fear that I'd go hog wild in the Kindle store and buy too many books on a whim.) But your review makes the Kindle sound very tempting indeed.

Red-haired hiker said...

I think I know what's going on my Christmas list! I've just bought myself an iPod so can't really justify another electronic gadget just yet, but it was a close run thing between the two.

Louiz said...

I use my phone as an e-reader (blackberry with free e-reader software) but am finding the benefits of e-books so useful I'm likely to upgrade to a dedicated e-reader. Very interesting review, thank you.

CeCe Savage said...

I love my Kindle so much. I did a review of the Kindle on my blog too. I'm totally in love with it!

I have the Kindle 2, it's a bit larger, but not at all difficult to carry around because I have a purse or gym bag with me whereever I go. I literally take it everywhere. On dates, to the bowling alley, the bech. Everywhere.

Ruth said...

Hi Rachel, thank you for stopping by my blog and leaving such sweet, encouraging comment.
love,
Ruth

Rachel said...

I've wanted a kindle for a while now. It seems to be especially useful for academic work when the cost for books are very high (and heavy to carry around). I wasn't aware you could annotate in the margin, what an excellent feature!

Chad Zahara said...

I have both the Kindle and iBooks apps for my iPod and have already downloaded 130+ free books. The iPod works quite well as an eReader but does not have the battery life and 3G that the Kindle has.

Now that I have started reading paperless books, I am considering buying the Kindle and this review has certainly been helpful. Thanks!

Fly Girl said...

Hmmm, I'm a girl of limited eyesight too but I have avoided getting a Kindle because I fear it will be another screen that I'm glued to that will bother my eyes after awhile. Did this happen to you or was it better than a computer screen?

Bells said...

i think they're shiny and lovely and if I didn't want an ipad so much I'd be going for a kindle!

A Cuban In London said...

And I'm happy that you're happy.

It's funny that in my criticism of Kindle I never considered the benefits it would bring to people with limited eyesight. I feel ashamed now. :-)

I look forward to your Netherland posts. Have a fantastic trip.

Greetings from London.

Jenny Woolf said...

thanks for this, it's the best review of a Kindle I've seen because it addresses the kind of practical issues I'm specially interested in. May buy one myself now!
I've done some of your questions. what a lot of work you've put in.

MJ said...

I WANT ONE SO SO BAD. Being at one of those colleges where you have to pack everything up at the end of every term, it doesn't really make sense to take all my books, and I always miss them...

Rachel said...

Good review - thanks. I'm probably not yet in the market for an ebook reader, but I'm intrigued by them and keeping half any eye on progress!

Kazzy said...

I agree that it is incredibly to read from, especially compared to a laptop.

Mama Hen said...

I was wondering how it was. That is great that you can make the font larger. I hope you are doing great my friend!

Mama Hen

lakeviewer said...

You sold Me!

Lilian Nattel said...

I hadn't considered the Kindle before bec it is limited to Amazon, but I'll think about it now. I didn't realize the other readers weren't able to change font size.

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

Very interesting. (I came over from Rosaria's blog for a visit.) I'm wondering how it compares to the iPad since I'm a Mac girl (just got an iPhone 3GS & love it) and have been for quite a number of years. If I decide to go digital in my reading an iPad may be the way I'd go, but I wonder if I can order books from Amazon or have to stick with Apple?

lackofgravitas said...

That pile of books is *very* you. ;)

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