The high profile eBook reading device from Amazon called the Kindle has caught the attention of readers. But then the gadget’s cost, ranging from $350 to $400, gives people pause. This product review will introduce you to the features of the Kindle and my opinions about its strengths and weaknesses.
What the Kindle can do
The Kindle is an eBook reading device about the size of a paperback book. With a screen using e-ink display technology, it allows you to comfortably read digital text in both sunlight and artificial light. The screen refresh rate when you advance an eBook page is faster than turning a paper page. Depending on whether you use the Kindle’s internal memory or add memory cards, you can store dozens to hundreds of ebooks and audio books.
If you like audio books, then the Kindle is a great device because it has an internal speaker for direct listening to audio books. Or, it can be plugged into headphones or external speakers, like in your car. Because the mp3 files for audio books are larger than ebooks, you’ll need memory cards if you plan to load the device with more than a couple audio titles.
In addition to ebooks and audio books, the Kindle can access numerous newspaper and magazine publications and blogs.
A leading capability of the Kindle is wireless shopping. Right now, it has immediate wireless access to the Amazon store in the United States. Purchases can be made and content loaded onto the Kindle without using a computer.
The strengths of the Kindle
Overall, the physical characteristics of the Kindle are ergonomically comfortable. The page turning buttons operate smoothly and can be easily used by all sizes of hands. The power usage of the device is conservative, and depending on your reading habits, you can easily expect to go one or two weeks without needing to charge it.
The large content selection through Amazon for its device is also a strength. With thousands of ebooks, audio books, newspapers, magazines, and blogs wirelessly available to users, you will not lack for easily accessible media.
Also note that the wireless service has no ongoing cell phone charges. Your costs of operating the Kindle will be determined by how much content you buy for it.
The weaknesses of the Kindle
Being a first generation device, the Kindle is not perfect. In my opinion the user interface was hard to understand and the menus were cumbersome to use. For example, when browsing through the table of contents of an ebook, I found it somewhat hard to line up the menu cursor with the headings.
I have noted that the mechanical parts are comfortable to use, but I did not always agree with their placement. The right side only has a control to advance the page while the left side has controls to advance the page or return to the previous page. Therefore, to turn a page back you are forced to use your left hand. I think that page forward and back controls should be on both sides of the device. Adding to my confusion was a control labeled “Back” on the right side, which I would hit in error trying to go back a page. This control actually took me back to a different menu.
Another general complaint made by many users about the Kindle is the proprietary format of the ebooks from Amazon. The device is meant to steer you to make purchases from only Amazon. This is understandable from the company’s point of view, but it does mean that ebooks bought through Amazon can only be viewed on their device. If you decide in the future to buy an eBook reading device from another company, then you would not have access on that new non-Kindle device to any ebooks you purchased from Amazon.
Although designed to be an Amazon device, the Kindle can actually be used to read ebooks from other sources. A USB cable will connect the device to your computer where you could load ebooks in the widely available Mobipocket format (unencrypted files only) or plain text files.
The Kindle presents you with a quality device for reading ebooks along with other media. Although not perfect, especially with a user interface that often left me befuddled, it still performs its purpose well. A final consideration is the seller of the device. Amazon is a large company with a huge content selection, and, very importantly, an excellent reputation for customer service.