Document copyright 2010 Mark Minasi; please see below for info on subscribing, unsubscribing or copying portions of this text.
Hi all —
I'm a Windows guy, but I must admit that two non-Windows tools have greatly changed my life in the past couple of years: the iPhone and Amazon's Kindle. I travel a lot, but I never leave home without my Kindle 2. I love its easy-to-read screen, its ability to store hundreds of books, and its amazing battery life -- I've gotten four weeks on a charge. Now, I know that a lot of you are avid readers of fiction and non-fiction, and I'll bet that while you love reading, you feel that an e-reader wouldn't be as satisfying as a physical book. Well, let me tell you something: I, too, felt that way until about a year and a half ago... and I was wrong. Unlike LCD screen-based readers, devices like the Kindle are so easy on your eyes that -- believe it or not -- I can actually read a book on Kindle about 20 to 30 percent more quickly than I can read the paper version of that book!
Whether you're a current Kindle owner or still on the fence about e-readers, though, you probably know that Amazon has just redesigned their Kindle and may be wondering, "is it any good?" Well, I just got mine and so wanted to pass along some of what I've found... but first, a word from our sponsor:
Is the Kindle 3 Worth the Upgrade?
I just got my new Kindle 3G and have been spending some time comparing it to my old Kindle 2. The results? Basically, I can't find anything bad to say about the 3G in comparison with the 2, except that I think Amazon over-hyped the screen differences. Essentially the Kindle 3 offers a screen that's perhaps a tad better than the Kindle 2, with a significantly improved form factor and control set, at a much-improved price.
First, let's compare the looks. Here's my old Kindle 2 next to the new 3G:
That's the 800x600 view, but if you'd like to poke around a big closer, click here to see the 3700x2700 view (warning, it is 1.8 MB in size). Thus, you can see that the screen size is identical, but the Kindle 3G housing is noticeably smaller than the Kindle 2's.
The Viewing Screens
How different are the screens? Amazon says (http://g-ecx.images-amazon.com/images/G/01/kindle/shasta/photos/us-wan-compare._V186815592_.png ) that the screen has "50% improved screen contrast" and "crisper, darker fonts." Well, let's set the two of them side-by-side in the sun and see what we see:
See much difference? I sure didn't (click here to see the full-size version, it's a bit above 2 megs), and so thought that perhaps the page I first showed -- a page from a book about sharks and rays in the Gulf of Mexico -- was perhaps badly converted to Kindle (a far too common occurrence) and so chose a page from the Oxford American dictionary that ships with every Kindle. (I'm assuming that Amazon did it, and that Amazon knows how to convert books to Kindle format.) Choosing a few words from each and placing them next to one another, we can see this:
Guess which one is which? The one on top is the 3G, the one on the bottom is the 2. No, I didn't get that backwards; the darker one is from the Kindle 2. (That's partially due to slight differences in the angles of the Kindles with respect to the camera and due to me not being an expert photographer.) The point is this: Hold a 2 and a 3G in your hands side-by-side in a good light, and you'll see that while the 3G screen is better than the 2's, it's a marginal improvement, not a "50% improvement."
If you're a Kindle 2 user and wondering if an upgrade's worth it for you, then, as I've already said, the screen's probably not a sufficient reason. Nevertheless, I don't regret getting my Kindle 3G, as some of its new fit-and-finish is quite nice.
First, the size. When I read about the 3G, I honestly didn't think that shrinking the Kindle by a half-inch in height and a half-inch in width, and dropping its weight from 288 grams to 230 grams (a bit above 10 oz to a bit above 8 oz, and those are my measurements, not Amazon's) would make any difference, but it really did. Don't get me wrong, I've always liked how light the Kindle 2 is -- just about one third the weight of an iPad -- and the size is easy to handle, but it is large enough that I sort of grip it on the left side, as I would a pad of paper. The Kindle 3, in contrast, is lighter and skinnier enough that I hold it in my hand rather than with my hand, and given the many stories that I've heard of people dropping and breaking their Kindles -- just a two or three foot fall to the ground is often irreparable, I'm told -- I like the added security.
The 3 also puts the keys and buttons in better places, or at least it seems that way to me. Both Kindles have two buttons on their right and left sides -- here's a look at the 2's right-hand side and the 3's left-hand side buttons:
The Kindle 2 buttons are wider than the 3's, but the 3's work more easily and don't make the loud "click" sound that the 2's do and that's no small thing -- someone complained a few times about the sound. What the buttons do on the two Kindles varies as well. The Kindle 2 sets the left-hand-side buttons up as "Next Page" and "Previous Page," and the right-hand buttons as "Home" and "Previous Page," and many's the time that I wished that Home button could be configured as a "Previous Page" button. The 3 grants my wish, and now I've got a Previous Page and a Next Page on each side.
The Kindle needs a "Home," "Menu," and "Back" button, and the 2 scatters those among some oddly-placed side buttons on the right-hand side. I have frequently sought to press "Next Page" but instead got "Menu" or "Back." That doesn't seem to happen with the Kindle 3, as Amazon has clustered Home, Menu and Back next to the new five-way "joystick," all of which are tucked into a corner of the keyboard:
I wasn't sure about it at first but now I'm liking it quite a bit. The previous joystick used a small rectangular bump both to indicate direction and selection, and so it was a bit iffy sometimes. The new one seems much better.
What else does the new Kindle offer of interest?
What Kindles Still Need
Overall, then, the Kindle 3 is a winner. But they either goofed or entirely ignored a few important things, in my opinion.
And If You're Not Upgrading...
If I've convinced you not to upgrade to a Kindle 3/3G, then my apologies, but let me leave you with the following note. The Kindle 3/3G has a somewhat improved on-screen user interface, including a wider array of font sizes than those found in the standard Kindle 2. You can, however, upgrade your Kindle 2's firmware to get many of the Kindle 3's software features -- not the new Web browser, though -- with Kindle Software Update Version 2.5. You can find it here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200324680 and I found it worthwhile on my Kindle 2 before the new guys became available.
I'll get back to Windows topics soon, but I've found the Kindle to be such a great convenience that I wanted to pass along what I've learned about the new Kindle to my readers. I hope you found this information useful!
I hope to see some of you at one or both shows!
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All contents copyright 2010 Mark Minasi. I encourage you to quote this material, SO LONG as you include this entire document; thanks.