Kindle 3G – Early thoughts

My brother and I have a kind of gentleman’s agreement to buy each other the gadgets we want but can’t justify as Christmas presents every year. What’s more, we cunningly subvert the despotic rules of our childhood by giving and opening these gifts long before Xmas day.

This was how I ended up with the shiny (actually virtuously matte) new Kindle 3G in my hands.

Anti-Kindle Prejudice

As an ex English Literature student, I was adamant that eBooks weren’t for me. I won’t repeat the hackneyed arguments here but suffice to say, I ticked most of the boxes and couldn’t imagine that the digital experience could hold a flame to the esteem in which I held the experience of reading.

And then I got my iPad. However, while iBooks remains an extortionate wasteland of poor selection and high prices, the Kindle app instantly stood out through its excellence in both these areas. What’s more, I’d dabbled with Stanza, an approximation of the software in its previous form for jailbroken iPhones before the App Store was born.

For the kinds of books I’m only likely to read once (biogs, disposable commuter fiction) it’s an ultra-convenient and cost-efficient way to consume. I guess it really is a mistake to judge (or overthink the importance all round) of books’ covers.

The Rundown

Anyway, thoughts so far:

  • Truly pocket-size – It fits in my jacket pocket or the back pocket of my jeans and I totally underestimated the difference this makes. On bus/train in the morning, it has done for reading what my smartphone did for email. That is to say, made it so convenient to stop and start in the way that a jumbled commute can often force. More thoughts on this and what it means for 7″ tablets like the Tab soon…
  • The extras aren’t bad – I’ve barely used the browser but the mp3 function, activated with a quick tap of Alt+Space, is a really nice and convenient addition. At the moment I’ve a little Feist and a little Cinematic Orchestra on there. There aren’t any controls other than Alt+F to skip forward a track but I don’t really want such distractions if I’m reading and it makes you think carefully about what you load on beforehand.
  • Free samples – Like browsing the bookshop (a fond experience) anywhere, any time. Have ended up with so many samples of things I might have otherwise written off and instead immediately end up buying. DANGER.
  • Passes the bath test – Nothing like relaxing with Idle Thoughts on an Idle Fellow or its ilk after a long day. Unlike the iPad, it doesn’t matter if the screen steams up (thanks e-ink) and to have music there as mentioned above, is nice too!
  • Always in sync across iPad/ Kindle – score another point for convenience.
  • Battery – as it should be with all modern gadgets (but never is); lasts forever and I’m surprised every time it asks for a refill.
  • The Screen – More exciting than the iPad (if not the iPhone 4), something feels really different about reading from it. Would definitely be a good thing if this is a primitive glimpse of the future.

How could it be better?

Amazon are taking steps toward this becoming a more well-rounded reading device rather than just an ebook device but if they hurry up then it could work out very well for them indeed. Ways to access the likes of Instapaper, Google Reader and Wikipedia in a device-specific format would quickly expand the value, especially for the 3G version.

Anyway, if you’re considering taking a punt on one, and you value my opinion at all, I’d say do it. Even if you upgrade a year from now, you’ll have got a year of the e-ink experience and a nice little library going at a price that’s far from extortionate. I swear I’ve spent more than this on iOS apps this year…

It makes reading a bit of a treat for tech nerds too.

- Max Tatton-Brown

December 4th, 2010