Amazon Kindle 3 e-book reader
Mobile library downsized and overhauled
Review Even a blind man in a dark room can see what the problem is with eBook readers has been – the cost. Every eBook reader review Reg Hardware has run has been followed by dozens of comments all along the lines of: Nice idea, but how much?
Amazon's Kindle 3: e-book gets new cover
Now Amazon has bitten the bullet and released a new third-generation Kindle eBook reader with the altogether more realistic price of £109 for the Wi-Fi only model and £149 for the Wi-Fi & 3G version which comes with free cellular connectivity. That compares to £207 for the earlier model reviewed here.
Of the two devices it's the cheaper Wi-Fi only version on review here and, in my opinion, it's clearly the one to get. Surely, even the most avid reader doesn't get consumed by the burning urge to buy literature so suddenly that they need a cellular link, and it's not as if hotspots are that hard to find these days.
Get the Kindle 3 in your hand and it soon becomes obvious that, in one sense, you are actually getting rather less for your money. At 190 x 123 x 8.5mm and weighing 241g the new model is 21 per cent smaller and 17 per cent lighter than the Kindle 2, and feels it.
The controls have been subtly modified to accommodate the new smaller format. The page turn keys on either side of the device are now much thinner, though still easy enough to use. The old joystick has been replaced by a decent little navigation pad that, along with the menu key, has migrated down the device to form part of the keyboard layout.
Slight modifications to controls to suit the new size
As well as the traditional white casing, the new device is now available in graphite and seems all the better for it. The back is also now textured and slightly soft-to-the-touch, another small but significant change that makes the new version more pleasant to hold for prolonged periods.
Next page: Inked in
In my opinion the 3G one is clearly the better option
If the Kindle weren't available when 3G then I wouldn't have bought one. True, wireless hotspots are not too hard to find but if you're in a hotel that requires you to connect to the network then open your browser to authenticate then you're out of luck as the Kindle can't do that.
I'm a frequent business traveller so I like the way I can get my daily newspaper 'delivered' every morning no matter where in the world I am without having the mess about finding a wireless hotspot. Turn the Kindle on and within a minute or two there's my newspaper.
Even if I weren't a frequent traveller I'd still have goen for the 3G version if only to get around the annoyance of being on holiday, finishing all your books and wanting something else to read. A couple of weeks ago I was in Munich (oh how I love the Oktoberfest) and while waiting for my flight back to Heathrow I finished my last book so without any hassle I went on the Kindle store from my Kindle and downloaded a book.
Global 3G is one of the main differentiators for me between this and other eBook readers.
My only gripe is that the directional keypad has a thin border on it so with my fat fingers I often push the central button when trying to push a directional button. A minor annoyance to what is otherwise an excellent device.
To be fair...
anyone reading a book in a dark room would have the same problem.
Swings and Roundabouts
Well, it's nice to see that the price of the Kindle has dropped, but I was shocked to see that prices of eBooks at Amazon are now mostly higher than their paperback (and often hardback) equivalents.
Of course, the olde Gutenberg-sourced eBooks are available for free, but is there really any excuse for delivering books electronically at a higher price than the paper versions? Apart from attempting to preserve the dead-tree-based business model?
Of course, you use something like Calibre to convert file types, and Amazon handily will convert all sorts of PDF and doc files into Kindle-ized documents, within minutes of you sending them an email.
The 3g version is probably worth it if you're the kind of person who would like to check the web on the way to work, rather than youtube - which isnt compatible. I find the guardian mobile sites, and my Uni course webpages display with perfect functionality.
The 3g also is useful for looking up further info, and as someone who lives and works and commutes in places that have no hotspots, it's a godsend. It's FREE INTERNET! (albeit B&W Internet).
But yeah, awesome, isn't it?
Price and the format are critical
People don't like format wars, and ebooks are the mother of all format wars. Seriously we've been subjected to 10 years of this shit where dozens of proprietary ereaders & apps have sprung up for PCs & devices. Each platform of course heavily favours one particular proprietary format, usually ties the format to a store and ignores or pays lip service to other non DRM formats.
The consequence of all this fighting is the ebook market place is a wasteland of failed services and cliques busy building little alliances and fiefdoms. No one seems to want to take their head out of their asses to question what would happen if they worked together on a single DRM and format, and stopped engaging in predatory / cartel like price fixing.
If the industry were to unite around a single open format and sell their books at a fair price and a fair & competitive basis from various online vendors then sales of ebooks would increase ten fold. Everyone would benefit. I am surprised publishers are letting Amazon get away with things so far. Don't they remember what happened to the recording industry and Apple? The publishing industry should be mandating a level playing field for their own independence and long term viability.
The laughable part is the only people unaffected by this infighting and warring are the pirates who can scan a book, proof it and have it out within hours of general release. The general public are the victims here, either by buying into a proprietary anticompetitive service, or by sitting on the sidelines until the war ends. And there is no sign of that happening any time soon.