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Review of Amazon’s Kindle E-Reader

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

I was lucky enough to receive a shiny new Amazon Kindle e-reader for Christmas so after a few weeks of use I thought I’d offer my experience of the reader so far.

Picture of Amazon Kindle 6" Wifi e-readerI have been very happy with my Kindle.  I find the e-ink screen easy to read, no different really to reading a book.    The texture of the screen means that there is very little reflection, unlike reading on a mobile phone or tablet.  The size and shape of the Kindle and the positioning of the page forward and page back buttons make it very convenient to handle, much easier than a thick book.  I believe that earlier models were a bit sluggish but I find the page turn speed is fine on my Kindle, as quick as turning the page in a  real book.


My Kindle has no keyboard but there is a  little button which pops up a keyboard on the screen, you then use the 5-way controller button to  select the letters you want to type.  It works fine for searching, I haven’t experienced the Keyboard version of the Kindle but I don’t think there would be a lot of advantage in having the keyboard, at least for the Kindle’s primary purpose, reading books.

WiFi or 3G?

My Kindle is the cheaper WiFi only version, we have a fairly good broadband connection at home and we already have a Wifi network so we didn’t really see the need for 3G.  If you don’t already have WiFi network at home then 3G makes sense, you can still use WiFi if you are somewhere with a network but you can use Amazon’s Whispernet system to download books pretty much anywhere in the world (with no network charges).  If you travel a lot then 3G would be perfect and you can use the (experimental) browser to surf the web anywhere in the world too.


I have a 3rd party leather case which adds to the size slightly but it gives it a bit more of a book like feel, otherwise I think it might just be a bit too slim and sleek.  The case also incorporates a stand so I can prop the Kindle up and read it while eating my breakfast if I want to.  Reading on the Kindle can be a totally hands free experience (except for page flips of course), whereas some books can be a bit of a hassle to read one handed.   My only complaint about the particular case I have is that the case slightly blocks the 5-way controller button on the Kindle making it a bit difficult to scroll down.

Reading Books and Manuals

I have two main uses for my Kindle, reading for pleasure and reading for work.  I find the Kindle perfect when reading normal books,  each page is a bit smaller than a regular book (though you can adjust the text size and font if you wish), but you don’t really care where the page breaks come when reading most books.  When reading a book for work, mostly computer books, you do notice that the page breaks on the Kindle don’t always match the page breaks in the original and things like program listings aren’t formatted quite as tidily as in a printed book.  Having said that, I haven’t found this to be a problem, everything is still quite readable and of course I can carry  several kilos of computer books on my 170g Kindle with no problem at all.

The Kindle uses black and white e-reader technology so obviously colour isn’t an option but pictures and diagrams are very clear, there is no apparent loss of definition.

Availability and Pricing of Books

The Kindle can handle various file formats including PDF (though not quite as nicely as mobi files) and ePub but the biggest source of  Kindle books is of course Amazon itself.  There are many thousands of books available for the Kindle but the market is still a bit patchy.  A lot of classic books (out of copyright) are free which is nice, I certainly plan to read a few classics that I have never got around to.  Newer books are often available in Kindle format but the price is not always competitive, sometimes it costs more for the Kindle book than the printed version which doesn’t make sense to me at all.  In between are a lot of older books which just aren’t available at all in any electronic format.

There is a bit of ironing out with licensing and marketing agreements between Amazon etc. and publishers before the ebook market becomes mature.

An Aside

I subscribe to The Economist (an excellent paper, and not really anything to do with economics at all, I can recommend it), I noticed that there was a Kindle edition which could be delivered electronically to my Kindle every Friday morning.  But the Kindle edition costs more than the printed edition which I receive in the post every Saturday!

I believe that the difference in cost is because the print edition is subsidized by  advertisements whereas the Kindle edition is ad free.   While I am quite happy to flip past the ads in the print edition I think they would be a lot more intrusive on the Kindle.  Nothing is simple is it?

E-reader or tablet?

Most Kindles (including mine) are e-readers rather than tablet computers, the exception being the new Kindle Fire (not yet available in the UK).  E-readers and tablet computers (like the Kindle Fire or the iPad) are superficially similar but actually fill quite different slots in the computer eco-system.


A proper E-reader will use e-ink (or similar) technology to display the text on the screen, there are colour e-ink screens in the pipeline but currently only monochrome screens are generally available.  E-ink screens are not backlit, they rely on an external light source,  if you want to read in the dark you will need a torch just as if you were reading a normal book.  Most e-readers have non-reflective screens which makes them very easy to read even in bright sunlight, there are some touch screen e-readers but so far no touch screen has the non-reflective characteristics which make e-readers so good.

The good thing about E-readers is the reading experience, it is very similar to reading a book and much less tiring than looking at a computer screen.  The non-reflective, non-backlit screen means you can use an e-reader pretty much anywhere in comfort.  They also have a very good battery life, you need to recharge every few weeks rather than every few hours.  They are a viable replacement for a whole stack of books (a very large stack of books).

The Kindle comes with a web browser (labelled as experimental) so you can use it to surf the web but it is pretty basic and of course the web you see will be monochrome rather than colour.    And of course using the pop up keyboard for any length of time would be tiresome.


Tablet computers don’t have e-ink screens, they have lovely shiny touch screens which display wonderful colours and provide great interactions with the websites you visit and the apps you use.   They are backlit so you can read in complete darkness if you wish but they are shiny so even the best of them isn’t easy to read in bright sunlight.  They are also more tiring to read on than e-ink.

For a proper web browsing and app using experience a tablet is way ahead of an e-reader and of course you can get a Kindle app for your tablet  so you can read your books on it too.  The downsides are cost (even the Kindle Fire which is a pretty basic tablet costs about twice as much as a regular Kindle), readability (you are still reading a computer screen not a book) and battery life (hours rather than weeks).  Also the iPad (with its 10″ screen) is quite a bit bigger than the Kindle (with its 6″ screen)  so it isn’t quite as portable (or chuckable).

If you have an iPad then it makes sense to load the Kindle app so you read your books on the iPad but I wouldn’t want to use it as my main reading device (but then I don’t actually have an iPad).


I am very pleased with my Kindle, in fact I would like to use it even more but I still have a lot of old fashioned books.   I   plan to use it as my main way of reading  in the future, the only issue may be availability and pricing of books.