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The Kindle 3: My review

I've been using the Kindle 3 for a couple of days now, and as far as I'm concerned, the news is almost all good. The Kindle 2 is a perfectly usable eReader, but Kindle 3 is even better. The (not very good) picture at the bottom of the entry shows the progression from K1 through K2 and K3. You can see it got bigger and then smaller, even though the screen size stayed the same.

Here's what's new in the K3

Higher contrast screen
The Kindle 3's screen is lovely! In addition to clearer text, illustrations in books look much sharper and have more detail. The graphite case (a color option not previously available) helps improve contrast, too, I think.

This is a great enhancement. I hadn't realized the speed difference in 3G and wifi until I downloaded a previously purchased book from my Amazon media library to the Ki3 using wifi. I clicked the download link and in less than ten seconds my Kindle home page flickered and showed the new title. That is fast! I tried it from the Archived Items screen on the Kindle, and it was just as fast.

The less expensive K3 has only wifi, but I got the model that has 3G, too. Once you add a network, the Kindle remembers it. There is no menu to switch from wifi to 3G; if wifi is available, it uses that. If you send personal documents or other vendor's non-DRM'd books onto your Kindle using the email delivery, there is no charge if you use the wifi connection.

The Kindle 3 offers the standard Kindle serif font, plus a condensed version with slightly narrower letters, and also a sans serif font for folks who like that. It's also easier to set the line spacing (i.e., the amount of leading) since it's now an option on the font menu. I find the condensed font highly readable.

Improved buttons
I say improved because I like the new arrangement, but some folks have complained. Basically, the page forward and backward buttons are now the only things on either side of the Kindle. They are much skinnier and are no longer easy to press by mistake. The Home, Menu, and Back buttons are now in the keyboard area. And instead of that square peg, the “five-way controller” is now a recessed square button with a ridge around it. You press the top, bottom, left or right edge of the ridge to move the cursor.

Voice guided menus
This is an enhancement for the visually impaired. You turn it on from the Settings options and then it reads your home screen and the menu options aloud to you. I thought it was odd that it didn't also turn on reading the books aloud; that's still a separate option that works just like it did on the Kindle 2. Also, I noticed it worked to read what's on the Kindle, but not to shop in the Kindle store. Still, this is a big step up for accessibility.

Not part of the Kindle but cool
I got the sold separately and not cheap leather cover with the built-in light. It comes in several colors, and the light is hidden in the top right corner. Once you pop the light out with the K3 plugged into the cover clips, the LED light works from the Kindle's battery. I tried it last night, reading in bed, and it worked great.

What I can't speak to yet is the improved battery life; a single charge is supposed to last up to a month if you leave the wireless off.

What's gone with K3
The number row is gone from the keyboard! You can type numbers from the symbol page or by pressing Alt and then a top-row letter, but they didn't print the numbers anywhere on the keypad, so it's annoying.

Thankfully, the K3 uses the same charger as the K2, so my spare charger and my car charger (I am serious about my Kindle!) work with my new device.

Addendum: Adding a link to an excellent Dear Author review of the K3 cover with built-in light.

All in all, I'm very pleased.

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( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 4th, 2010 10:16 pm (UTC)
Nice review! Were the missing number keys the only downside for you?
Sep. 4th, 2010 11:07 pm (UTC)
The only one I've seen so far. Typing the web key without a number row was a royal pain. Fortunately, I only had to do it once-- well once per Kindle 3. I had set up the first one before it started crashing.

Speaking of which, I have seen a few folks complaining online that their Kindle 3's suddenly reset themselves. Mine hasn't done that, although I realize I forgot to mention how I managed to crash it in the review. I wanted to go to a specific book (The Graveyard Book) in the home screen, so I put the list in Sort by Title mode and pressed a g. Then I was trying to push straight down on the 5-way controller, which would have taken me to the page of books that start with g, but I realized later I had actually pushed the right side of the controller first, and then pushed down. Since moving the cursor to the right selects a "search my items for" option, in effect, I had asked my Kindle to find every single instance of the letter g in my 130 books and short stories. I'm not surprised it froze up.

Something to watch out for when you get yours.
Sep. 5th, 2010 09:04 am (UTC)
Thanks for the warning. I'm sure it will take a little getting used to, but that's normal enough with a new gadget...
Sep. 5th, 2010 09:09 pm (UTC)
The coder and the QA folks should have caught that extreme scenario. (And that's coming from an ex-software QA person.)

Sep. 5th, 2010 03:58 am (UTC)
I've thought about getting a Kindle but need a new laptop more right now.
Sep. 5th, 2010 03:46 pm (UTC)
Well, it is strictly for reading. I send my own books to it to read them, and all I can do when I find a typo is make a note of it. And laptops are getting cheaper and cheaper! Windows 7 seems to work pretty well, too.
Sep. 5th, 2010 04:04 pm (UTC)
I'm open to recommendations for laptops!

What file types does Kindle read? Does it have to be a special format, or can it read PDFs? I get a lot of books from authors to review in PDF.
Sep. 5th, 2010 04:42 pm (UTC)
Kindle can either convert PDFs using the email conversion or it can read them natively, but I find that for most PDFs, the conversion works best. The K3 screen is only 6" diagonally, so you pretty much have to put the book into landscape mode to read it, and that's not an easy way to read. Either that or you zoom in, read, zoom out, page down, zoom in, etc. Kindle 3 is the first Kindle that lets you highlight and annotate PDF books and look up words in a PDF in the dictionary, BTW.

The email conversion is handy for personal documents; every Kindle has its own email address and any attachment in a supported format can be converted to Kindle's format. If you send a PDF, though, you have to make sure the subject line consists of the word "Convert" (and only that word) or it will put it on your Kindle as a PDF. If you're using wifi to send, there is no charge for this conversion.

I have a fairly new Lenovo with Windows 7. It was pretty cheap and it has a built in web-cam. It only has two USB ports, though and they are too close together so I use a hub,
Sep. 5th, 2010 04:47 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the info. I often end up printing out PDF copies of books, just so that I can transport them, which is an awful waste of both paper and ink (especially considering the quality of some of these books!). Hopefully, as Kindles are adopted by more people, the price will come down, just as it has done with digital cameras.

I don't know what sort of laptop I want. I just know it should be lightweight and reasonably prices! The built-in web cam would be nice, especially for teleconferencing with family.
Sep. 5th, 2010 09:10 pm (UTC)
Interesting review. Are they thinking about working on a color eInk screen?
Sep. 6th, 2010 02:40 pm (UTC)
Yes, it's supposed to be under development. But I would not want one if it cuts battery life-- unless they can make one where you only get color if you need it, and the rest of the time the screen still uses very little power.
Sep. 6th, 2010 02:56 pm (UTC)
Well, I can't imagine the screen being an active one in the same manner as the traditional active matrix screens on laptops. That way leads to backlight and being unable to read in daylight.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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