Kindle Delivers!

Apr 19, 2011
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Excellent readability even in bright sunlight, thousands of books, amazing customer service.

Cons:Fragile if you have small children, keyboard too basic

The Bottom Line: Outstandin e-book reader!  Amazing customer service.  Amazon stands behind their product!

My wife bought me the Kindle 3G for my 44th birthday.  I was excited after reading all the new features.  When it arrived a few days later, it was ready to rock, right out of the box.

The screen is slightly smaller than your average paperback novel.  The device weighs very little, much less than a paper book.  The screen is amazing, with a non-glare plastic and E-ink technology that make the Kindle look very much like a real printed page.  You can read this thing even in direct sunlight on a cloudless day.

On the other hand, there is no backlight, so you can't read it in the dark.  But that's a minor compromise.  I read in bed every night with a beautiful antique reading lamp on our headboard. It didn't disturb my wife when I read regular books.  It doesn't disturb her now.  The upshot is that without a backlight the battery lasts a lot longer.
The screen resolution is as crisp as a printed page, without the faintly vague quality LCDs used to give.  This is not LCD technology.  E-ink is a totally different concept.  In fact, Kindle says that once the screen is drawn with this E-ink technology, no power is required to keep the page until you change the page.  It uses power to draw the new page, then once that's finished, it uses no power until it's time to draw another one.  In this way, battery life can be up to a month on a single charge (although if you leave the wireless or 3G running, the battery falls off in about half the time).

The capacity is excellent, holding up to 3500 books on the device at once, and the inventory can be changed however you like, with some titles moved down to your PC while others can be added to the Kindle, all with great ease.  Amazon boasts over 900,000 books available for Kindle, with more being added every day.  There are also tens of thousands of FREE books, everything from the great literary classics to scholarly works to government documents like the Constitution.

The WiFi feature is fast, but can only be used on your home wireless network or a public hotspot like a coffee shop or library.  Many restaurants like McDonald's are offering WiFi now as well.  The WiFi takes a little setting up, although Kindle handles most of that automatically.  Assuming you have security on your network, you'll need to enter the password, and that's about it.

On the other hand, the 3G requires no setup at all, is still pretty fast in its own right and you can use that feature while going the street in the passenger seat, driving through almost any population center.  For instance, we live in a town of approximately 12,000 people.  3G here is offered and reception is excellent even on the outskirts of town where we are.  Basically if you've got cell service, you ought to have 3G working for your Kindle as well.  Better still, the 3G works all over the planet, not just in a particular region or country.  Antarctica might be the exception, so don't go there with your Kindle.

The Kindle is a grayscale screen (versus the Nook which is color).  Unless you plan to use the magazine subscription feature (automagically downloads magazines to your Kindle each month, for a fee) the grayscale isn't a problem.  Books generally are in black and white anyway.

Downloads are fast.  Kindle boasts "60 second downloads," and that seems about right.  Being a huge Twain fan, I had to download everything I could find by Twain.  It was mostly free, since most of his work is out of copyright.  I surfed and clicked and ordered and surfed.  Pretty soon, I had ordered over 70 books, all free.  I started reading "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses," and about halfway through I decided to see how many of the books had downloaded.

All of them were finished.

Books you've bought and downloaded are stored on your Amazon account so you can download them again free of charge whenever you like.  So if you go on vacation and your daughter borrowed your Kindle, you can still read your George R.R. Martin series on your laptop without buying the books all over again.  In fact, Amazon has something called "Whispersync" technology, so you can buy a book once and download it to your Kindle, PC, laptop, Android, iPad, etc. without buying it over and over.

Kindle reads PDF files, some graphics formats, and whatever formats are available at Amazon.

Books you've bought can be loaned to friends temporarily under Amazon's intriguing "Kindle Book Lending" program.  Recipients can access the book for a limited time on their devices, just like a library book.

Kindle has an audiobook capability, which is exceptionally cool for those of us who enjoy audiobooks too.  The Kindle speaker is not really loud enough for this in a car, but it is headphones-capable, which helps a lot.  For people who get carsick reading in a moving vehicle, this is a big plus.

One of my favorite little features is a common-sense addition called "Real Page Numbers," where books on Kindle have page numbers that correspond to the pages on actual print books.  That's a big deal for those of us who do a lot of research reading, and need to cite pages and source our quotes.

Kindle offers a text-to-speech feature which is pretty neat.  While much better than the blocky, stilted artificial speech of yesteryear, it's still not quite right yet.  It's not bad for nonfiction, but if you're reading mostly novels this feature is just annoying.  No doubt it will be improved over time.

But that brings us to one of the best reasons to get into a Kindle -- the firmware updates on the fly.  When they write a new version of the software, add a feature, or fix a bug, you don't need to buy anything or even initiate the download.  Kindle does it for you.  So the new features will come to you, free of charge, probably while you're asleep.

Another nifty feature for real book junkies and researchers is the "highlight" feature.  It lets you highlight passages, just as we would do with a highlight marker or pen.  That makes it ever so much easier to come back and find the important stuff later.  Plus, we can see what other readers highlighted, how many people highlighted a passage, and it's done in such an inobtrusive manner that it's not distracting at all.  Excellent execution.

My one real complaint about the Kindle is that it's more fragile than I would have guessed.  Sure, any electronic device is fragile, but the feel of the Kindle suggests more durability.  It's only a suggestion, though.

I don't know that my 3-year old granddaughter got a hold of it, but the third day I had my Kindle I woke up to a Kindle with a screen that would not function.  I called Customer Service, expecting a hassle.
Boy was I surprised.  Amazon delivered the best customer service experience I have EVER had.  They were polite, apologized for the broken device, shipped me a new one even before I shipped the broken one back, and it didn't cost me a thing.  I was stunned and extremely pleased.

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