Amazon’s Kindle, with its 6in display and built-in 3G wireless is the leader in the burgeoning market for e-readers – hardware designed for the sole purpose of reading books that are delivered in electronic formats.
Amazon has applied their expertise at online shopping and distribution to the entire Kindle lifecycle. From hitting the ‘Buy’ button at their website, we had the Kindle in hand and ready to use in four working days – and it had our Amazon account details entered so that we could start buying books straight out of the box.
Buying a book was dead simple. You just browse the Australian catalogue of Kindle books at Amazon, choose a book and pay for it. Using Amazon’s Whispernet service, the book arrived on the Kindle in about a minute or so. The 3G connection is built into the Kindle and the data cost is built into the book price so there’s no need to sort out a contract with a carrier. Purchases can be made either on the Kindle or at Amazon’s web site.
The Kindle’s E Ink display is not backlit and is capable of displaying text and images in four levels of grey at a resolution of 600 x 800. We were able to read in the same lighting conditions as a traditional book and the display is very gentle on the eyes.
As well as being able to store up to 1500 books bought from Amazon’s store, PDF and text files can copied to the Kindle and read. Word documents in doc, docx and rtf formats can’t be read by the Kindle.
We found that after a few minutes of reading that we really didn’t miss the feeling of holding a paperback. The font size can be easily changed but we’d also have liked to be able to adjust the line spacing. Books could be marked up with comments and highlights, although we found the keyboard buttons were small and quite stiff to push.
For convenience, Amazon ships the Kindle with your credit card details preloaded from your Amazon account but there’s no way for the Kindle to be password locked. Although potential thieves won’t have your full credit card details – the Kindle only displays the last three digits and expiry date – it’s a little concerning.
Most book prices varied from $2 to $10. We found that the books in the Twilight series were priced at around $6 to $7 and older works were as cheap as $2. Classical works by Dickens, Shakespeare and Bronte were extremely cheap, with their collected works costing about $3 each.
However, many books weren’t available to Australian Kindle users at all because of restrictive distribution deals. For example, even local bestseller Tara Moss only had two books available to Aussies.
With only occasional connections to our Mac for charging – there’s no AC adaptor with the Australian Kindle – we were able to keep going for a couple of days at a time, reading for about three hours each day. If we turned off the wireless comms, battery life jumped to several days.
Weighing in at less than 300g, as thin as a pencil and about the size of an A5 sheet of paper the Amazon Kindle is a surprisingly compelling device. To be honest, we weren’t expecting to become so attached to the Kindle but it really captured us. We found ourselves reading more and the sheer convenience of the Kindle has made it part of our standard travelling kit.
This article first appeared in the March issue of Australian Macworld magazine.