Monday, June 13, 2011

Amazon Kindle Review

Ok, maybe it's doesn't quite fall into the category of outdoor gear, but I drag this thing with me everywhere now. It's even light and compact enough to go on back country trips (just keep it dry!)

Some basic info about Amazon's Kindle
, in case you aren't familiar with it:

- It is a true 'ebook', not a portable computer or tablet
- Uses 'liquid ink' technology, not an traditional LCD or OLED display
- Can hold thousands of books
- Connects through either a free 3G connection or through Wifi to download content
- Battery life of about a month! (with wireless turned off)
- You can read it in direct sunlight! (even with polarized shades on)
- You get books from Amazon (literally hundreds of thousands of books available)

This review covers the new version of the Kindle, which is basically just a little faster and also sports a more streamlined look then the original. Amazon has also added 'ad supported' models for a cheaper price tag that will display Amazon ad's instead of the random artist portraits etc from the original. A small price to pay to save ~$50 I would say.

In a nutshell, I love the Kindle. I use it for exactly what it's intended for, reading books. This isn't for browsing the internet or checking your email. It is quite literally an electronic translation of a paper book. The advantages of this very specific purpose are many. As I listed above, the screen is truly electronic paper, you can read it in bright light just like it was a paper book (try that with your iPad). This means you will need a light source when reading in a dark room (or outdoors at night) just like a real book. The other huge bonus of this design - the battery lasts almost forever. You can forget to charge this thing for up to a month and still be able to read. If you totally forget that it's actually an electronic device and the battery dies completely - don't worry, you can fully charge it in about 45 minutes.

Content is pulled down from Amazon either through the free 3G service or through a Wifi connection. The Wifi only models are a bit cheaper, and totally fine if you don't absolutely have to be able to download books anywhere anytime.

Extra bonus - you can download a free Kindle book reader for just about anything, your PC, Mac, droid, Blackberry etc etc. At present time Amazon lets you download one book on up to five different devices. So you can even do some limited sharing with your friends using a little creativity (I will go into detail about this another time). And even better, all your devices will automatically sync to your current page! I regularly bounce between reading on my Kindle, Droid Smartphone, and Kindle for PC on my laptop. It's almost too easy.

And of course, there are a myriad of accessories available. You can customize your Kindle with a fancy cover. I keep mine protected with a simple leather cover. Though there are fancier ones with built in lights like this one: Kindle Lighted Cover (Fits 6" Display, Latest Generation Kindle) Charging is done with a standard micro usb cable. So charging from your laptop on the go is a snap, or with a portable USB charger.

My original Kindle has operated without flaw from day one, and I really expect it to live forever. The buttons all feel solid still, and the screen is very robust.

The only con I have ever encountered - getting harassed by flight attendants during take off and landing. They will insist you 'turn off' your Kindle, even after you inform them that it doesn't 'turn off'. (You can turn off the wireless connection, that's it). Even after you explain it to them, then will still demand you shut it off. So I just flip the cover closed, wait till they walk away, then continue reading. As an alternative, you can ask them to turn it off for you, and watch their dumbfounded expression as they push the standby button with no effect. Good times.