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A Kindle for everyone

September 28, 2011
By

You might have heard already that Amazon has announced a number of new versions of the Kindle, including a touch version and a tablet. While I have some misgivings about the specifics of these products, the overall message from Amazon seems to be that there’s a Kindle for everybody…literally! Choice is a beautiful thing and Amazon seems to have pulled out all the stops to give users a range of devices to choose from. I’ll share my thoughts on each in this column and you can make up your own mind about which one(s) appeal to you the most.

The Kindle Fire
Let’s start with the Kindle Fire, Amazon’s new tablet. It’s clearly aimed at Apple’s iPad and it is tightly integrated with Amazon’s content ecosystem. It will sell for $199 and will let users read books, watch movies, browse the web, play games, etc. One of the big pluses for it is that Amazon is reportedly making the web browsing faster by using the power of the cloud. It’s also smaller and lighter than the iPad.

Kindle Fire

Kindle Fire

Here’s a technical spec list from Amazon’s site so you have a clear understanding of what the Kindle Fire offers:

Display 7″ multi-touch display with IPS (in-plane switching) technology and anti-reflective treatment, 1024 x 600 pixel resolution at 169 ppi, 16 million colors.
Size (in inches) 7.5″ x 4.7″ x 0.45″ (190 mm x 120 mm x 11.4 mm).
Weight 14.6 ounces (413 grams).
System Requirements None, because it’s wireless and doesn’t require a computer.
On-device Storage 8GB internal. That’s enough for 80 apps, plus either 10 movies or 800 songs or 6,000 books.
Cloud Storage Free cloud storage for all Amazon content
Battery Life Up to 8 hours of continuous reading or 7.5 hours of video playback, with wireless off. Battery life will vary based on wireless usage, such as web browsing and downloading content.
Charge Time Fully charges in approximately 4 hours via included U.S. power adapter. Also supports charging from your computer via USB.
Wi-Fi Connectivity Supports public and private Wi-Fi networks or hotspots that use the 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, or 802.1X standard with support for WEP, WPA and WPA2 security using password authentication; does not support connecting to ad-hoc (or peer-to-peer) Wi-Fi networks.
USB Port USB 2.0 (micro-B connector)
Audio 3.5 mm stereo audio jack, top-mounted stereo speakers.
Content Formats Supported Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively, Audible (Audible Enhanced (AA, AAX)), DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, non-DRM AAC, MP3, MIDI, OGG, WAV, MP4, VP8.
Documentation Quick Start Guide(included in box); Kindle User’s Guide (pre-installed on device)
Warranty and Service 1-year limited warranty and service included. Optional 2-year Extended Warranty available for U.S. customers sold separately. Use of Kindle is subject to the terms found here.
Included in the Box Kindle Fire tablet, U.S. power adapter (supports 100-240V), and Quick Start Guide.

The price point is good and the tech specs should please most users.

I have to pass on buying one though since I already own an iPad and my tablet use is relatively limited. I can’t justify spending even $199 on another tablet when the one I have works fine for me. I also prefer not to use a backlit screen to read ebooks, I find it hurts my eyes after a while. Thus I will be sticking with my Kindle 3 for reading, as I noted in an earlier column about Why I Stopped Using My iPad for Ebooks.

I also don’t really use Amazon for movies or TV shows. So I am not sure how much use I’d get out of the Kindle Fire for that kind of thing. If you’re an Amazon Prime member or somebody who just uses Amazon’s site to rent movies, TV shows, etc. then the Kindle Fire could work very well for you indeed.

Storage could be a serious issue for some people though since 8GB isn’t really that much. However, Amazon also promises unlimited storage in the cloud so perhaps it won’t be too bad for most people. I tend to want to err on the side of more local storage though in case I don’t have access to the cloud or I simply don’t want to have to download or stream something to watch it.

Overall, I think the Kindle Fire could be a nice introductory tablet for those who are already comfortably nestled in the Amazon ecosystem. It’s certainly nice that you won’t have to waste time syncing content off of iTunes like you have to do on an iPad. Disgruntled iPad users may flock to the Kindle Fire and switch their allegiance from Apple to Amazon.

Note that Kindle Fire does not seem to come in a 3G version, it’s Wi-Fi only. So you’ll need to have a network connection to really enjoy it. This could be a drawback from those coming from the 3G Kindles previously released.

The Kindle Touch
The Kindle Touch is Amazon’s answer to those clamoring for Kindle’s with touch screens. I have very mixed feelings about the Kindle Touch as I’ll share with you below.

The Kindle Touch comes in Wi-Fi or 3G versions. If you go with the Special Offers (bundled ads) version it’s $99 for Wi-Fi Only. If you don’t go with the Special Offers then it will cost you $139 for Wi-Fi only. The 3G version costs $149 with Special Offers and $189 without them. I don’t do a lot of traveling so if I were going to buy a Kindle Touch, I’d go with the $139 version that just has Wi-Fi (forget the damn ad version, who wants to see that when they go to read?).

Kindle Touch

Kindle Touch

The Kindle Touch promises to be 8% lighter and 11% smaller than previous Kindles. Here’s a look at the tech specs of the Kindle Touch:

Display Amazon’s 6″ diagonal most advanced E Ink multi-touch display, optimized with proprietary waveform and font technology, 600 x 800 pixel resolution at 167 ppi, 16-level grayscale.
Size (in inches) 6.8″ x 4.7″ x 0.40″ (172 mm x 120 mm x 10.1 mm)
Weight 7.5 ounces (213 grams)
System Requirements None, because it’s wireless and doesn’t require a computer to download content.
On-device Storage Up to 3,000 books or 4 GB internal (approximately 3 GB available for user content).
Cloud Storage Free cloud storage for all Amazon content
Battery Life A single charge lasts up to two months with wireless off based upon a half-hour of daily reading time. Keep wireless always on and it lasts for up to 6 weeks. Battery life will vary based on wireless usage, such as shopping the Kindle Store, web browsing, and downloading content.
Charge Time Fully charges in approximately 4 hours via the included USB 2.0 cable connected to a computer. U.S. power adapter sold separately.
Wi-Fi Connectivity Supports public and private Wi-Fi networks or hotspots that use the 802.11b, 802.11g, or 802.11n (in b or g compatibility mode) standard with support for WEP, WPA and WPA2 security using password authentication; does not connect to WPA and WPA2 secured networks using 802.1X authentication methods; does not support connecting to ad-hoc (or peer-to-peer) Wi-Fi networks.
USB Port USB 2.0 (micro-B connector)
Audio 3.5 mm stereo audio jack, rear mounted speakers
Content Formats Supported Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, Audible (Audible Enhanced(AA,AAX)), MP3, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; HTML, DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion.
Documentation Quick Start Guide (included in box); Kindle User’s Guide(pre-installed on device).
Warranty and Service 1-year limited warranty and service included. Optional 2-year Extended Warranty available for U.S. customers sold separately. Use of Kindle is subject to the terms found here.
Included in the Box Kindle wireless e-reader, USB 2.0 cable Quick Start Guide.

The silver color of the Kindle Touch is a love it or hate it thing. I prefer the darker graphite look of the Kindle 3 personally. Your mileage may vary, however.

I do like the fact that they’ve made it smaller and lighter. If you are reading with one hand then lighter and smaller is always better. It’s one of the reasons why the Kindle provides a better reading experience than the iPad (though there are other reasons as well).

The touch screen is arguable more convenient since you no longer have to futz around with the controller on previous Kindles.

However, I was dismayed to note that Amazon has removed the page navigation buttons and replaced them with something called EasyReach. EasyReach lets you tap to turn pages forward or back, and it also lets you tap the top of the screen to bring up toolbars. I view this with a dubious eye since the buttons on my Kindle 3 are right over one another and I can easily reach the forward or back button with my thumb. It seems like you will now have to tap the left part of the screen to move backwards to a previous page with EasyReach.

I suspect that EasyReach is also going to be a love it or hate it type of thing for current Kindle owners. I was definitely interested in a touch device, but I had not anticipated Amazon removing all of the buttons. I had hoped for the choice to use the buttons or tap the screen. The Kindle 3′s buttons don’t take up much space on the device so I’m not sure why Amazon didn’t offer buttons on the Touch device for those who preferred them to turn the page while also using touch to navigate the on-screen menus.

All of that said, there are many people who are quite excited about the Kindle Touch and who probably don’t care about the button problem.

I would have liked a color version of the Kindle Touch, I’d hoped for some sort of upgrade in that regard. I guess we’ll have to wait for the e-ink technology to mature a bit more before we see color Kindles (yes, I know the Kindle Fire is in color but I prefer e-ink).

X-Ray is a neat feature that lets you examine “the bones of the book.” You can tap and see passages in the book that mention ideas, historical figures, places, characters or topics that interest you. And you can see detailed information from Wikipedia and Shelfari. I think X-Ray is a great idea that should please most Kindle users.

All in all, the Kindle Touch is alluring for sure. At some point, if I can get over the button issue, I may consider an upgrade to it from my Kindle 3.

The Kindle
The Kindle without touch is also available for those who have no interest in a touch screen. I’m glad Amazon did this because it lets the user choose his preferred reading device. Some people just do not like touch screens and have no interest in using them. So the Kindle without touch fits the bill nicely for them.

The Kindle with Special Offers comes in at a cheap $79 and is Wi-Fi only. Not a bad deal at all. If you want the version without Special Offers then you’ll have to cough up $109. As I said earlier, I’d buy the version without the ads. Ebooks and ads just don’t go together, in my humble opinion.

The page turning buttons are still available in this version of the Kindle. The keyboard, however is gone and the controller is in a different place. It’s not in graphite any more either, it has the same silverish color as the Kindle Touch.

The Kindle

The Kindle

The new Kindle is 30% lighter and 18% smaller than previous Kindles. Here’s a look at the tech specs for the new Kindle:

Display Amazon’s 6″ diagonal most advanced E Ink display, optimized with proprietary waveform and font technology, 600 x 800 pixel resolution at 167 ppi, 16-level gray scale.
Size (in inches) 6.5″ x 4.5″ x 0.34″ (166 mm x 114 mm x 8.7 mm)
Weight 5.98 ounces (170 grams)
System Requirements None, because it’s wireless and doesn’t require a computer to download content.
On-device Storage Up to 1,400 books or 2GB internal (approximately 1.25GB available for user content).
Cloud Storage Free cloud storage for all Amazon content.
Battery Life A single charge lasts up to one month with wireless off based upon a half-hour of daily reading time. Keep wireless always on and it lasts for up to 3 weeks. Battery life will vary based on wireless usage, such as shopping the Kindle Store, web browsing, and downloading content.
Charge Time Fully charges in approximately 3 hours via the included USB 2.0 cable connected to a computer. U.S. power adapter sold separately.
Wi-Fi Connectivity Supports public and private Wi-Fi networks or hotspots that use the 802.11b, 802.11g, or 802.11n (in b or g compatibility mode) standard with support for WEP, WPA and WPA2 security using password authentication; does not connect to WPA and WPA2 secured networks using 802.1X authentication methods; does not support connecting to ad-hoc (or peer-to-peer) Wi-Fi networks.
USB Port USB 2.0 (micro-B connector)
Content Formats Supported Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; HTML, DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion.
Documentation Quick Start Guide (included in box); Kindle User’s Guide (pre-installed on device). Additional information in multiple languages available online.
Warranty and Service 1-year limited warranty and service included. Optional 2-year Extended Warranty available for U.S. customers sold separately. Use of Kindle is subject to the terms found here.
Included in the Box Kindle wireless e-reader, USB 2.0 cable, and Quick Start Guide.

The weight and size difference makes this Kindle very appealing to me. It’s basically a Kindle that promises to fit in your pocket, pretty much.

The new version of the Kindle will definitely appeal to current Kindle owners that want something smaller and lighter. Beyond that though, I don’t see a whole lot to really motivate an upgrade to this model. If you’re current Kindle’s size and weight don’t bother you, then you’re probably better off not upgrading to this one.

Still, I’m glad that Amazon released this version for the non-touch crowd. At least nobody can complain that touch is being jammed down their throat.

The Kindle Keyboard
Last but certainly not least is the Kindle 3, which has now been dubbed the “Kindle Keyboard.” It remains to be seen how long this model will be around. Most likely Amazon will phase it out so if you want one you better buy it now. This model obviously retains the hardware keyboard that has been removed from the newer Kindles.

The Kindle Keyboard comes in a Wi-Fi only version that sells for $99 with Special Offers and a $139 version without them. There is also a 3G version that sells for $139 with Special offers and $189 without them.

Kindle Keyboard

Kindle Keyboard

Obviously if you are going to buy a Kindle keyboard now then you’re sort of a throw-back (like me) that prefers the hardware based page turning buttons and also the hardware keyboard. And you won’t mind the heavier weight and larger size of the Kindle Keyboard.

Here’s a look at the tech specs of the Kindle Keyboard:

Display Amazon’s 6″ diagonal electronic paper display, optimized with proprietary waveform and font technology, 600 x 800 pixel resolution at 167 ppi, 16-level gray scale.
Size (in inches) 7.5″ x 4.8″ x 0.335″ (190 mm x 123 mm x 8.5 mm).
Weight 8.7 ounces (247 grams).
System Requirements None, because it’s wireless and doesn’t require a computer. Check wireless coverage.
Storage 4GB internal (approximately 3GB available for user content).
Battery Life A single charge lasts for up to two months with wireless off based upon a half-hour of daily reading time. If you read for one hour a day, you will get battery life of up to one month.
Keep wireless always on and it lasts for up to 10 days. Battery life will vary based on wireless usage, such as shopping the Kindle Store, web browsing, and downloading content. In low-coverage areas or in EDGE/GPRS-only coverage, wireless usage will consume battery power more quickly.
Charge Time Fully charges in approximately 4.5 hours via the included U.S. power adapter. Also supports charging from your computer via the included USB 2.0 cable.
3G Connectivity HSPDA modem (3G) with a fallback to EDGE/GPRS; utilizes Amazon Whispernet to provide wireless coverage via AT&T’s 3G high-speed data network in the U.S. and partner networks outside of the U.S. SeeWireless Terms and Conditions.
Wi-Fi Connectivity Supports public and private Wi-Fi networks or hotspots that use the 802.11b, 802.11g, or 802.11n (in b or g compatibility mode) standard with support for WEP, WPA and WPA2 security using password authentication; does not connect to WPA and WPA2 secured networks using 802.1X authentication methods; does not support connecting to ad-hoc (or peer-to-peer) Wi-Fi networks.
USB Port USB 2.0 (micro-B connector) for connection to the Kindle U.S. power adapter or optionally to connect to a PC or Macintosh computer.
Audio 3.5 mm stereo audio jack, rear-mounted stereo speakers.
Content Formats Supported Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, Audible (Audible Enhanced (AA, AAX)), MP3, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; HTML, DOC, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion.
Included Accessories U.S. power adapter (supports 100V-240V), USB 2.0 cable, rechargeable battery.
Documentation Quick Start Guide (included in box) [PDF]; Kindle User’s Guide (pre-installed on device) [PDF]. Additional information in multiple languagesavailable online.
Warranty and Service 1-year limited warranty and service included. Optional 2-year Extended Warranty available for U.S. customers sold separately. Use of Kindle is subject to the Kindle License Agreement and Terms of Use.

Final Thoughts
Despite a few misgivings, I’m very impressed with Amazon’s Kindle product selection. There literally is a Kindle for pretty much every type of user right now. Those who want multimedia, games and color can snag the Kindle Fire. Others who are interested in mostly just reading ebooks and who prefer e-ink can grab one of the other Kindle models. Amazon has clearly put a lot of thought into segmenting Kindle’s markets and it shows in the release of all these different models.

It remains to be seen what – if any – Apple’s response will be to all of this. Amazon is clearly aiming at Apple and it’s iOS devices with its Kindle devices. I suspect that the Kindle Fire, in particular, might take a chunk out of some of Apple’s iPad sales. I see this as a very healthy thing over the long run. Choice for consumers is so important and necessary. It’s never good when one company – even Apple – has an overwhelming chunk of a particular market.

Kudos to Amazon for making sure that there’s a Kindle for everyone. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to plop down on the couch and enjoy some quality reading time with my Kindle.

:smile:

What’s your take on Amazon’s Kindle Fire, Kindle Touch and the other Kindles? Share your thoughts in the comments below.  


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2 Responses to A Kindle for everyone

  1. Keith Cundale on February 27, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Hi Jim
    I hope you can help me. I got a Kindle Touch for my birthday (as I am now nearing ‘Senior Citizen’ status this info may help you picture my issues!) and I am enjoying using it. But I am bemused by not being able to delete messages such as “Sorry there was a problem with your credit card” or to delete the sample books that I have now bought. My wife’s old fashioned basic 2011 Kindle had a “right click” feature that allows her to do this. Can you tell me how to items on the Touch version?
    Thanks
    Keith

  2. Shane on September 29, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    Yeah, but when they start shipping them November 19th, are they shipping them out at midnight EST or PST?

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist Jim! Thanks for the reviews, nice to see it all in one spot)



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