The new Amazon Kindle (quick review)

Books / Web/Tech

I ordered the original Kindle the day it was released. I’d been dreaming of a device like that for years; a small, energy efficient tool optimized for reading long form writing. I’ve not been disappointed.

I ordered the iPad the day it came out. I ordered it for the iBookstore and the Kindle application. Adding color, email, web browsing, etc, to the ability to carry my whole library with me seemed like the next step in the logical chain. I’m still using it and its effectively replaced my laptop for travel use.

So I ordered a new Kindle (the cheapest version possible) the day it came out. It arrived yesterday. It’s exactly what I was hoping it would be. It’s small, light weight, has reasonable storage and an excellent e-ink screen. And buttons, blessed buttons!

I’ve realized that I do most of my reading online these days. Tools like Instapaper and Readability, even the reader function of the Safari browser make it possible for me to read long essays, articles and short stories quickly. The iPad is extraordinarily well suited for this. It works pretty well for book reading too, though not as well as I’d hoped. It’s much better than the original Kindle for reading books with illustrations, or for annotating texts. But its weight and size make it hard to curl up with hour after hour. And it can be hard on the eyes…

The Kindle e-ink display, especially the third generation display found in the latest batch of Kindles, is perfect for reading. It’s non-glare, high contrast, and there’s no sense of a display scanning when you use it. It’s monochrome, but that’s more of an asset than a liability when reading books or long essays. It’s very light. It has excellent battery life (though to be honest so do all the Apple devices). It’s a perfect secondary device, a back up for traveling, or for taking outside to read on the patio or around the pool.

It works just like you’d expect. No surprises, no issues. If anything it might be a little too light. I’m used to the heft of an iPhone or an iPad. They feel substantial. The new Kindle is so lightweight that I’m afraid to hold it with too strong a grip. It feels like it would snap. But the screen is awesome. And it quickly synced with my existing purchased and I was reading my newest one in just a few minutes.

And it has buttons. I decided to go with the cheapest possible model in part because it was cheap. This is a secondary tool with a specific usage case. I didn’t particularly care about the 3g access; I can use my iPhone as a mobile hotspot if that’s needed. I don’t particularly won’t a first generation touch e-ink screen. I’m not at all convinced that it’s going to work – the smearing from fingerprints is much more noticeable on my Kindle than it is on my iPhone or iPad for instance. And I’m not optimistic about the accuracy the new screen is going to have in tracking finger movements.

I just want a tool optimized for a specific task – reading novels. This has buttons to turn the page (which means you don’t have to move your hand around) and there are no accuracy issues to manage. It’s not great for annotations or highlighting, but the iPad is. Besides I hardly ever annotate a novel. I scribble up the margins (metaphorically speaking) on reference works – but I prefer to do that on iPad with its color display and larger screen.

The price is right too. Actually the price of both the Kindle and the entry level Kindle Touch are very interesting. Breaking the $100 barrier may mean that these become impulse items – stocking stuffers at Christmas. I expect it won’t be too long before there are vending machines selling these things in airports. For a reader this is a great option.

But as Steve Jobs said once, “people don’t read books anymore…” I don’t think the tablet makers are worried. And I expect that’s why Amazon seems to have put most of its eggs into the Kindle Fire rather than the e-ink devices it released this week.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...


  1. I agree with you balancing Kindle and iPad, I have both too and use them the same way. Book reading is still better for me on the Kindle because there is neither glare on the screen or from behind the screen.
    I think eventually Amazon will give away its basic Kindle in order the sell more books. I have preordered the Fire mostly because it will access Amazon Prime Video and all the video that can’t run on the iPad.

    It is a great time for deep readers, but an even better time for writers. People lament the diminishment of books and loss of bookstores, but what is also dying is the hegemony of publishers. Thanks to Amazon and others a writer can get their work out in digital and print versions for ver few dollars. Thebget e bigger royalty and like “regular writers” have to self promote.

    Amazon’s publishing suite is Nimble, as a Church we might learn from it.

  2. I’m going to wait to see where Amazon goes with the Kindle Fire. I read today that there’s a rumor that Amazon is interested in purchasing Palm and the WebOS IP from HP. That makes a lot of sense to me, Palm bought Be back in the day, and that’s still the best operating system for multimedia ever created. If Amazon wants to do content, that’s where they ought to be headed.

    Plus it gets them away from the Microsoft tax for using Android.

    I’m all for the Episcopal Church learning to be nimble in its use of technology. I’m less so when it comes to theology and the reception of new teachings… But that’s just me. Heh.

  3. I’m in the THICK of converting my books to mobi and e-pub. We can’t blame the devices for the sorry look of e-books. The standards and tools for this morphing from print to screen are a mess at the moment and in transition. I expect that books will look GREAT maybe a year from now. When the standards are better established, better tools will be available to designers (as opposed to coders). The InDesign-to-e-form bridge has LOTS of holes in it. And I don’t have the dough or clout to hire an OceanMedia. A fascinating time for us all.

  4. Nick,

    How is the new Kindle for reading PDFs and zooming in on diagrams in things such as textbooks? I have a second-generation Kindle that doesn’t work well at all for that, alas, and since most of my assigned reading in my MSW programs are PDFs, I *really* want to be able to read them on my Kindle.


    • I haven’t actually tried reading a PDF on the Kindle. I tend to use the iPad for that since it’s so much easier to get them on that device using MobileMe or Dropbox.

      I would imagine that a small screen Kindle is going to be a less than optimal way to read PDF’s – the DX works better for that since it was designed with that use case in mind as I recall.

      There is a way to email a PDF to your Kindle, and if the PDF is created with the text intact (as opposed to just a graphic scan of a page), the text is reformatted to work better on the Kindle. I’ll see if I can find the details for how that conversion works.

      That might help a bit.

  5. OK, I took the plunge and got a Kindle Touch 3G. Amazon’s page says it’s not coming out until Nov. 15. Did you do anything special to get yours earlier?

    Thanks much!

    • Why yes. I got the Kindle and not the Kindle Touch 3G. heh.

      The basic new Kindle was available the day of the announcement. The Fire and the new Kindle Touches won’t be out till next month. Apparently they’re way popular!

  6. Ah. I couldn’t justify spending extra money for extra bulk, so I went with the Touch. I do want a new Kindle pretty desperately, given the back pain I endure in my MSW program even with a rolling briefcase (one of my classrooms has myriad unavoidable stairs — so much for disabled accommodations!), but I’m hoping this Kindle lasts me even longer than the first one (a second-generation) did, and that device changed my life and got hours of use almost daily.

    I was a little bummed that only the keyboard version will run the web browser, and I’m not happy about the ads on the discounted version (I imagine I will frequently be accidentally activating an advertised link when I pick the Kindle up, and I really loved the old author-portrait screensavers). But now that my old Kindle has to be plugged in to work for more than ten minutes, I just can’t hold off getting a new one.

    • My Kindle has the browser and it works via the pop-up virtual keyboard. Not optimally but it works. I would imagine the Kindle Touch would have the same!

      I have ads on mine. Don’t really notice them. They’re only on the screen saver.

  7. matt Marino says

    Have you weighed-in on the Kindle vs Nook “battle”? As I recall, your youth director went with Nook. St. Anthony’s yd with Kindle.

  8. James Smith says

    ‘It has excellent battery life (though to be honest so do all the Apple devices).’
    I am afraid to say that this statement is completely untrue. The Apple devices are known for draining batteries and even the new iPhone 4s suffers from this problem, it is known to drop 20% a day whilst on stand-by. Whereas the Kindle’s battery lasts for months.

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