Monday, April 4, 2011

A Look At Amazon's New Kindle 3

Click to enlarge all photos in this post.

The latest Kindle e-reader from Amazon is the 3rd generation of the device. They make three versions of the new one. The cheapest has wi-fi at $139. The second is identical to the first but adds 3G for $189. And then there's the Kindle DX which has a considerably larger screen size, wi-fi + 3G, and works globally, but its price tag is a whopping $379.

The following photo shows several e-readers for comparison. Top-left is the older Kindle 2. Just to the right of that is the Barnes & Noble Nook. Top-right is the iPad 2 (not really an e-reader, but people often use it for one). Middle-left is the Kindle 1 (ain't she ugly). To the right of that is the new Kindle 3. Beneath those two is a Sony e-reader. At the bottom-right is the larger Kindle DX. Except for the Kindle DX and the iPad, all the other e-readers here have 6" screens, so they're about the same as a small paperback book.

The Kindle DX has a 9.7" screen. As you can see in this next photo, the Kindle 3 fits onto the screen of the DX with room to spare. I circled some controls on the DX in red to show you how poorly placed those controls are. They're exactly where you'd want to put your right hand. They need to move those up to the top.

Finding a place to put your hands and fingers is the one drawback of every single e-reader I've yet to come across. They seem to be designed for the hands of young children—not adults. I just bought the new Kindle 3. I'm happy with it in almost every other aspect, but as you can see, if I were to hold this thing in the most comfortable (and common sense) way, the side of my hand would rest right on the page turning buttons and my thumb would rest on the bottom of the screen.

Also, my Kindle 3 is incredibly thin from front to back (probably about a 1/4"). It would be much more comfortable to hold if it were about an inch thick. Along with making it a little thicker, all they need to do is to make the unit a couple of inches longer, and poof!, problem solved as I show in this PhotoShop mockup. I hope you're listening Amazon. Small is for children!

If you're in the market for a Kindle (or any e-reader), I would suggest you look at Craigslist for a cheaper used one first. You'll find tons of them on there right after Christmas being sold by people who got them as presents and didn't want them.

The wi-fi and 3G features on e-readers are mostly a useless luxury. The best way to go by far is to download books to your computer's desktop and then transfer them to your Kindle via USB. Why not just download them directly to your Kindle from places like Amazon? Because you can't trust Amazon to keep all the books you bought on their servers for one thing (as many people have attested too). If a book they sold you previously suddenly goes out of print, and you later find your version has gotten corrupted and you need to re-download it, they're going to tell you that they no longer have the book available on their server even though you already paid for it. So download books to your hard-drive instead where you'll always have them (and obviously a copy to your backup drive as well—duh)!

(While we're on the subject of downloading books, I'm going to leave a separate post on this blog to show you how to make plain text downloads from Gutenberg display correctly on your Kindle because it took me most of an entire afternoon to find a good way to do it.)

The Kindle comes with a pair of 1" speakers on its backside (not a particularly bright place to put them)! This allows you to download mp3 files to listen to music or audio-books. But something else that's a nifty feature is that Kindle has a text to voice feature. What this does is to take any book that you have loaded on your Kindle and turn the text into speech that's read back by a rather robotic sounding voice. The book's publisher can choose to disallow this feature, but it seems they rarely do. Unfortunately, the speakers are too tiny and under-powered to be of much use except in the quietest of settings. Of course, you could always use the headphone output, and with a strong pair of headphones you'd have all the volume you need. (There's also a volume slider on the bottom of the Kindle.) An intriguing feature is the mini-mic input jack next to the headphone output. It's not in use at the moment, but Kindle apparently has future plans for this. I'm assuming that at some point we'll have the ability to use our Kindles as voice recorders.

Kindle allows you to make folders on the device so that you can more easily find the books you're looking for. For instance, you could make a separate folder for each author. What really sets Kindle apart from most e-readers though is it's small keypad which, not only gives you the ability to highlight text, but to make your own annotations as you're reading, something that's great for doing research work.

Perhaps best of all is that you can now lay comfortably in bed and read an 800-page epic without muscle strain. The Kindle 3 only weighs half a pound.

Other than the Kindle 3 being a little hard to hold, there's really very little to fault this thing with. The text is incredibly easy on the eyes and very much like reading a real book even outside under the sun. You're gonna love it.


  1. Cale, This is just the sort of comparison I have been looking for. Thanks for taking the time to share this info!

  2. Go, and do ye no evil with thy new found knowledge my child. (But if you're gonna be bad anyway, call me, and we'll be bad together). Thus speaketh the Cale.

  3. I love love love my kindle also. I got it last May with the built in wifi. I think with the newer kindle you can surf the net, use facebook and do research and of course buy the book with the research info in it. Clearwater, FL High School bought kindles for every student. They are loving it both teachers and students. The textbook companies had to scramble to get their books formatted for kindle. Evidently these companies are not jumping into e-book textbooks. Thanks for the info. Happy reading!

  4. I love my kindle but would love it more if the cover art was in color and if it had icons on the screen (kind of like apps on an Ipad). Also, it would be nice if it was a touch screen.

    I agree, holding it is a pain in the butt. I wish it didn't have the page turning buttons on both sides because there is really no where to hold it without accidentally turning pages! They need to have only ONE set of page buttons and move them up higher.

  5. I just got the lighted cover they make, and it helps holding it a little because it's thicker now. But they still need to move the page buttons up and give you more room for your thumb in the middle. I also wish it came with a chess game like the Nook does. I don't care about color because I don't read magazines very often.

    JQ, you can connect to the idiotnet, but it's quite slow. Who's got time for wasting online anyway? Life's too short. People to see, things to do etc.