Since the introduction of the original Kindle in 2007, Amazon has been the undisputed leader in e-reader sales. The Kindle 2, released in 2009 solidified that position and the latest generation, announced in July, 2010, quickly became the fastest selling Kindle ever. The third generation of Kindle (unofficially referred to as Kindle 3) was released in two versions, the Kindle 3G and a less expensive Kindle Wi-Fi. This is a review of the Kindle 3G, although other than 3G capability, the two models are identical in features and form factor. Colors available are graphite gray and white.
The Proprietary Format Conversation
Upfront, it's important to realize that just as with previous Kindle models, buying a Kindle assumes you're willing to buy into the Kindle ecosystem. Amazon has continued the policy of encoding Kindle e-books in its proprietary AZW format and the third generation (like previous Kindles) is not capable of reading EPUB e-books. So don't expect to be trading e-books between a Kindle and a Sony Reader, NOOK or Kobo e-reader. If you don't want to be locked into a Kindle going forward (or a smartphone that's capable of running a Kindle app), then this is probably not the e-reader for you. Otherwise, read on!
The Kindle arrived in a compact box that includes a quick start guide and a combo AC adapter/micro USB cable (a $10 upgrade). Although Amazon has designed Kindle to be managed wirelessly through your Amazon.com account, a physical connection to a computer or USB port is required unless you opt for this upgrade. The power adapter recharges your Kindle via its micro USB port and is a reasonable price, considering most other e-reader manufacturers charge $25 and up for a power adapter. If you feel the need to physically connect your Kindle to a computer, the micro USB cable is removable from the power adapter to give you that option. The Kindle arrives with start-up instructions displayed; you basically plug it in to recharge, and are then presented onscreen with a detailed e-book manual.
The design of the latest Kindle is familiar, yet much sleeker than previous generations. The form factor is similar, including the physical keyboard below the display, which remains at 6-inches. However, the case of this model has been trimmed, coming in at 7.5" x 4.8" and 0.335" thick. That's roughly 1/2 of an inch shaved from the length and width of the Kindle 2. At 8.7 ounces, this Kindle is also lighter than its predecessor. Storage (which is not expandable) is doubled from 2GB to 4GB. Popular features such as Whispersync and Text-to-Speech are retained. Two slots on the left side of the Kindle allow it to securely latch onto supported covers, and Amazon has released a new line of Kindle covers that complement their new e-reader, including ones with built-in lighting.
Display: 6-inch E Ink Pearl
Size: 7.5" x 4.8" x 0.335"
Weight: 8.5 ounces
Storage: 4GB (roughly 3,500 books)
Battery Life: 10 days (wireless on) or 1 month (wireless off)
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, free 3G (supported in 100 countries and territories), USB
Formats supported: AZW (Kindle), PDF, TXT, Audible, Mobi (Doc, HTML and graphic files can be converted via Whispernet)
Fonts: 3 styles, 8 different sizes
Dictionary: New Oxford American Dictionary built in, plus wireless connectivity to Wikipedia
Music support: MP3 vis USB from computer, headphone jack and external volume button
Price: $189 (power adapter $10 extra) at Amazon.com
Although I've always been a fan of Sony's e-readers, I really enjoyed using the Kindle 3G. The E Ink Pearl display is beautiful: it provides excellent contrast and fast page turns. The 3G capability was extremely useful too, with books downloading in under a minute. The experimental web browser Amazon includes is surprisingly functional, if infuriatingly slow (to be expected when every movement of the cursor requires redrawing the E Ink screen), and I was even able to use it to check my e-mail on the go.
While the Kindle's case may not be as pretty as say the aluminum Sony Reader Touch, it is attractive enough and works perfectly for one handed reading. Edges are nicely rounded and it feels quite solid for a plastic device. Placement of the page turn buttons on either side of the display help make for page turning that was natural and didn't cause any fatigue. Battery life is trending at a bit better than advertised, which is a refreshing change. I've had 3G enabled at all times, read several books and I've been playing extensively with the web browser over the course of a week (7 days), and the charge level is still at the halfway point.