Kindle 3 – Review

My Kindle 3 (International Version) was delivered to me on 14th February. In these three weeks, I ve already read 4 novels which is quite good considering the little time I get after office.

For me the main motivation behind purchasing a Kindle was to have at my disposal a large collection of books anytime, anywhere. Also, the flexibility to manage my collection on my computer or on the device is well worth having. This post is going to list out some of my thoughts on whether the Kindle has been entirely successful at that.

Kindle 3 comes with 4GB of memory which Amazon claims is enough for 3500 ebooks. This is a huge plus point. I generally tend to swing wildly between different genres of books – classical english writing to history to technology to novels. Having a large collection of books spanning all these categories is important – I wouldn’t want to take a few hundred ebooks with me on a vacation and somehow not find the ‘right’ book to read.

The most important aspect of the Kindle is the screen. The e-ink technology is nothing short of amazing. Text looks perfect on it and it makes for a great reading display. Before having used one, I was quite skeptical of it. I used to read fine off a regular laptop LCD. After having used this though, its hard to go back LCDs. Its vastly better. Some people who have seen the Kindle though are put off by the ‘flashing’ effect which happens each time the screen is redrawn(for a new page say). It hasn’t bothered me much though.

One thing about the screen that has bothered me is its size. Amazon has touted it to be paperback sized. However, it simply is not so. At the smallest font size on the Kindle(which I find to be the most comfortable), you get on average 10 words per line. Most paperbacks I own do much better than that. Amazon should target a screen size of 7″ or 8″, in my opinion.

The Kindle also offers no serious on-device mechanism for management of ebooks. It is possible to create ‘Collections'(which are sort of like folders) and include your ebooks inside of them. But its only a half measure. Another point here is that all of the ebooks and collections on the device are simply listed out. So navigation is always linear – up/down. Once the cursor(which is controlled via the d-pad) hits the bottom of the screen, you turn to the next page and continue along the list. A grid arrangement of collections and ebooks would make navigation simpler. Right now, on my Kindle, I have approximately 6 pages worth of items. Its a pain to linearly progress through the list. It is the one thing which deters me from filling it up completely with my entire collection of ebooks.

Amazons usage model for the Kindle includes only the following:

  1. Buy content from the Kindle store and have it transferred wirelessly to your device.
  2. Mail your personal documents to the Kindle mail address to have Amazon convert it into a Kindle optimized format and transfer it to your device wirelessly.
  3. Connect the Kindle to your PC and like you would with any USB drive, copy over all the Kindle readable ebooks/documents that you may have.

There is no PC/Mac software that Amazon provides to manage your collection of ebooks. Thankfully, an excellent and free alternative is available – Calibre. This software is the iTunes equivalent for managing ebooks. Among various other features, it lets you convert most ebook formats like epub, pdf, doc etc. into mobi, with varying results. While I have no issues with Calibre, a software from Amazon with better document conversion capabilities would be much appreciated.

Another gripe I have is that while Amazons Kindle store is huge, it has a far greater collection of novels instead of non-fiction or technical literature. Besides novels, I also indulge myself on popular science and technology oriented books. These few books are grossly over-priced. I ve come across such books priced around $50-$60, which is around $10 cheaper than the paperback edition. That is a price too high to pay for an ebook which is not DRM-free. If ever, I move away from the Kindle, these ebooks would be a waste.

Though Amazon claims that the Kindle is capable of handling pdfs, I ve not been able to read a single pdf ebook of mine on it. It is too cumbersome as most pdfs are too large for the small screen – with pdfs there is no text reflow as well. Kindles larger cousin, the DX is far better suited for this purpose and also for technical books and white-papers.

Overall, I ve been quite happy with my buy. Even though the bullet list of negatives is longer than the positives, the Kindle gets a thumbs up from me – the pros easily outweigh the cons. I recommend it to all book worms.

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