Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My New Toy: Kindle 3 Wi-fi with Special Offers. A Review, and Device Details.

Yesterday I mentioned that I'd just gotten a new toy. With money being tight, little luxuries are not the norm, but I firmly believe that it isn't healthy to live as an ascetic all the time out of some vague notion of responsibility. The tax return came in, and I spent just a little bit of it to get a device I purchased with no buyer's regret whatsoever.

I have a Kindle. I'd talked about this once before, and how I'd likely be interested in the new Kindle 3 (wi-fi only) that got a price deferment from ads and special offers. Just because I believe that just because you are unemployed, it doesn't mean you can't treat yourself, I don't think that there's anything wrong with allowing your situation to affect a decision on how frugal to be. Now, rather than just discussing my day and my own perspective on this device, I want to talk a little about the device, specifically a little background on it, how it works and why anyone would want one in the age of the tablet PC.

I got it, and I didn't even have to punch a baby.

The Kindle is a device powered by a software and network platform specifically designed for reading e-books. It is designed with only the purpose of displaying documents in mind, and focuses on performance and battery life while serving its intended function. What an iPod does for music, the Kindle does for the electronically printed word. The first version of the device was released by Amazon on November 19, 2007 and sold out almost immediately. Subsequent versions of the hardware have become slimmer, lighter, with easier to read text and increased battery life. The price of the hardware has gone down over the years as well, with a first-generation Kindle retailing for $399USD, and the least expensive incarnation of the current generation (the one I picked up) coming in at $114USD.

The packaging on the newest Kindle is efficient and clever, almost minimalist, with the shipping carton folding open to reveal a form-fitting compartment with the device itself, below that there is a quick start guide and a compartment for the combination USB/Wall socket power and data cable. That's it, no extra packaging, and the technically savvy can safely ignore the paper manual, as the screen by default when shipped instructs the user to plug the device in and turn the power switch for further instruction.

I think the reason I geek out at efficient packaging has something to do with being a boardgamer.

The Kindle now boasts a battery life of three weeks, or seven days with an active wireless connection. This is due in large part to the technology used in its screen, and represents one of the advantages this device has as strictly a document reader over an iPad or other tablet computer. The e-ink technology used in the current display is based on millions of microcapsules, each about as wide as a human hair, that contain charged white and black particles suspended in a clear fluid. To represent text and pictures, the electrical charge determines whether white or black particles are drawn to the surface based on a positive or negative charge. This means that a black and white display has contrast and sharpness closer to actual ink on paper than any standard screen allows, and since the device does not require constant electrical use to keep the physical “ink” in place once set, the power requirements are reduced and battery life is extended.

Depending on the version of the Kindle purchased, it is capable of connecting to the internet either over Wi-Fi or (only in the more expensive models) over a free 3G cellular web connection. The connection allows access to the Amazon store to shop for books, wikipedia and wikitravel by default, and there is also a simple web browser in the “Experimental Features”. The e-ink technology has to “wipe” the screen and redraw every time an image changes, so scrolling on a web browser in black and white works best on text-heavy sites, though pictures display at an impressive resolution, all things considered. Each Kindle also has its own e-mail address, allowing documents to be sent directly to it from an e-mail client, typically the same one used to start an Amazon account.

The Whispersync wireless content delivery system is real fast.

Natively, the Kindle supports books in its own formats (AZW and MOBI) and can view TXT and PDF files as well. The popular EPUB format is not supported, but there are free programs that allow conversions of EPUB files that are not protected by DRM to a file usable by the Kindle, the most popular of which is called Calibre. The Kindle now also supports text-to-speech where enabled by the publisher using the integrated speakers, and MP3 files can also be loaded onto the device to be played in the background while reading. The quality of the speakers is good for their size, and there is a headphone jack built in for privacy and consideration to those who might not need or want to know that you like blasting Linkin Park while reading Tolstoy. There is also a built-in microphone, though there are no current software-supported features that use it as of the time this article was written.

The tablet PC has, for some people, replaced the functions of an e-reader as a device that has vastly improved features concerning video & audio playback, color screen resolution and web browsing, games and other internet applications, in addition to being able to read books. The difference between the devices is similar to the difference between a smartphone and an MP3 player or a gaming PC and a game console. A specialized device made for a particular function will in some ways perform that task better than a device with the same function as one of many features. In addition, the time between recharging devices is not a small gap, with 10 hours as the average high-end for battery life on a tablet PC, as opposed to an e-reader's 7 days. As technology improves, the tablet PC may well make devices like the Kindle obsolete, but we aren't there yet.

A replacement for the Kindle? Maybe someday, but not today, not for me.

As a gamer and a sci-fi/fantasy fan, I already have my Kindle loaded up with gaming rulebooks, sourcebooks, and various fantasy e-books that I couldn't finish sitting at a computer desk and staring at a screen. I anticipate that the Kindle will be a huge help to me while running tabletop RPGs, and will allow me to store PDFs of adventures, and my own character sheets for those few games where I get to be a player. I can also load a few tracks from my ambient music collection for horror if I want to run horror with music on the go.

On to paying forward the Stylish Blogger Award, as promised yesterday. This is tough, as this award has been around a while and the rules tell you to pass it on to ten or so other blogs, meaning a lot of blogs already have it. I'll link back to the rules here (scroll down) instead of reposting all of them every time I do this. Today, I want to take the time to nominate two sites: A Beer For the Shower, and Surrender at 20. Congrats, guys!

A Beer for the Shower is consistently entertaining, with text and surprisingly-good MS Paint comics related to whatever subject or story is the focus of the current post.

Surrender at 20 is a gaming site dedicated to news, updates and strategies for the PC game League of Legends, and I nominate this site despite its narrow focus for incredibly regular (often more than once a day) postings and really neat site design.
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Alpha said...

Oh, that /is/ nice packaging...

The Angry Lurker said...

Nice review, good recommendations.

A Beer for the Shower said...

If I were to buy an e-reader (which I really want) it would be the Kindle. It definitely won't be an iPad. I'm just not a fan of tablet pcs.

And thanks for the award, btw! I just noticed this after posting, so we'll have to accept next time.

Biff Tanner said...

Looks nice!

Justin said...

Sweet, I'd probably consider getting one of these if I read more...but for now, I'll just stick with the iPod touch, they have eBook apps..nowhere near the same battery life though.

Astronomy Pirate said...

I already follow both those blogs, but they are pretty great. Anyways, I don't know how much I would enjoy the Kindle, I guess it would make travel easier with out the big bulky book, but I still prefer reading on ink and paper. And tablets seem like they don't really fill a good niche other then novelty.

Bard said...

"I firmly believe that it isn't healthy to live as an ascetic all the time out of some vague notion of responsibility"

Amen to that!

G said...

I'm tempted to get one as well and have been toying with the idea... I'd be interested in seeing what you make of it after a few months of usage

Stare Dad said...

pretty nice, congratulations on ur aquisition

Matt said...

That's a pretty sweet purchase there. I've been coveting one for a little while now, it might just be time to pull the trigger after reading your review.

Anonymous said...

Sweet purchase and nice review, want to read more of those !

Kelly said...

You're a really good reviewer for all things techy. I didn't think I would care about getting a Kindle- but after reading this, I'm reconsidering. Also... as you can see, I've finally caught up to your blog. I'm going to comment on the other posts I've missed here, too.

DerpFiles said...

i want somethign to read all my books to me in the voice of morgan freeman.

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