Amazon Kindle 3 review roundup

Amazon has announce that the newest version of its famous Kindle e-reader device will be hitting the (virtual) shelves on August 27th. At £109 for a Wi-Fi device, and £149 for 3G + Wi-Fi, the reading device is certainly one of the most affordable readers available – but is it better than a book? We’ve scoured the web to find out if the Kindle really is the droid we’ve been looking for.


The first stop on the Kindle-trail was Amazon’s own website – no-one has laid-out the merits of the new device better than them:

  • All-New, High-Contrast E-Ink Screen – 50% better contrast than any other e-reader
  • Read in Bright Sunlight – No glare
  • New and Improved Fonts – New crisper, darker fonts
  • New Sleek Design – 21% smaller body while keeping the same 6″ size reading area
  • 17% Lighter – Only 241 grams, weighs less than a paperback
  • Battery Life of One Month – A single charge lasts up to one month with wireless off
  • Double the Storage – Up to 3,500 books
  • Built-In Wi-Fi – Connect at home or on the road
  • Books in 60 Seconds – Download books anytime, anywhere
  • 20% Faster Page Turns – Seamless reading
  • Enhanced PDF Reader – With dictionary lookup, notes, and highlights
  • New WebKit-Based Browser – Browse the web over Wi-Fi (experimental)

Outside of these mainstream enhancements, i-Reader Review has revealed 22 interesting things about the Kindle 3, the most interesting of which are:

  1. There’s a microphone on the Kindle 3
  2. Kindle 3 and Kindle WiFi support CJK fonts and Cyrillic fonts
  3. There’s now an Audible section in the Kindle Store. Audible audiobooks can only be downloaded when you’re using WiFi – else you can download to your PC and transfer to Kindle.
  4. Pressing Alt + any character in the top row gives you a number (Alt+Q = 1 and so on). Numbers are also accessible via the SYM key. Removing the numbers row is a terrible decision.
  5. The speakers are now on the top left and the top right of the back of your Kindle 3.
  6. The back is now texturised rubber for a better grip.
  7. There’s a ‘View Downloading Items’ option in the Menu of your Kindle 3 Home Page that will display what items are being downloaded and their download progress. This is pretty cool.
  8. The Kindle 3 Experimental Web Browser supports JavaScript, SSL, and cookies but not Flash or Java Applets.

CrunchGear have shed some light on the use of the microphone, announcing it will be used for a “new voice navigation option”.

The real insight comes from the good people over at Engadget, who actually managed to get their hands on the new handheld. The feedback is mainly positive, reporting that “the Kindle is still very much the reading device you know and love (or hate, depending on your preferences). The build quality and materials used did seem slightly more polished than the previous version, and we really liked the new, more subtle rocker. We can also attest to screen refreshes and overall navigation feeling noticeably more responsive and snappy compared with the previous generation.”

The people at PC Advisor, however, are even  more generous, claiming that the new device is “is unlike any other e-book reader [they’ve] handled before” and that “its lighter weight and its more compact design [gives] a more pleasing experience than with earlier models. The unit felt very balanced in-hand, and the buttons felt like they were in convenient, ergonomic places (more on that in a moment).” The conclusion is that it’s “a winner poised to top the pack.”

Other details have been also been revealed by CNN, including the Kindle’s code-name: Shasta. They also noted Amazon’s intentions for the device, by quoting Amazon’s VP of Kindle content, Russ Grandinetti: “It’s like running shoes. If I’m going five miles, I put on a pair that are designed for running and will be supportive, not my Chucks.”

ZDNET’s have managed to cover it twice already, with one blogger claiming that, “$139 was enough to make me sit up and take notice, though, and give some more serious thought to what it would take for Kindles to start really adding value”, while another announced the “Amazon Kindle will be the sole survivor of the eReader Apocalypse”.

It seems that from various hands-on tests, Amazon’s claims are true: the new Kindle is better than its predecessor in every way. And as a dedicated ebook reader, its stiffest competition was probably its older self – with newer readers, such as the Nook, underwhelming critics.

For everyone who wants a media-rich, iPad-clone, however, the Kindle is still not (and never tried to be) an alternative – sorry, you’ll still have to fork out over £500 and buy Apple.

Even students might think twice about this one – sure, it can post book extracts to Facebook and Twitter (possibly pretentious?), but without a touchscreen or stylus annotation system, it’ll only provide half the experience of a regular textbook.

For me, however, the £109 cost and positive reviews have sold me. The sheer number of out-of-copyright books that can be downloaded for free means that it’ll have paid for itself in about twenty reads. For standard books it seems that the new Kindle is finally ready to take over the bookshelf.

Firmware update from Barnes & Noble sets the Nook pages apart


The electronic reading market is moving up a gear and e-book readers are having to crank up features and tweak performance and interfaces in order to compete with the multifunctional units, which incorporate an e-book reader app, like the iPad, which sold almost a million units in the first month.

Being aware of the rising pressure specific e-book reader units are under to provide a more seamless `streaming experience, Barnes and Noble have launched a third firmware update expanding the Nook e-book reader and re-modeling it as the “crème de la crème” of this increasingly popular market.

Since Barnes and Noble launched the Nook e-reader late last year there have been reports of some serious limitations to its functionality. In response to these limitations B&N introduced the new firmware version 1.3, which once installed, provides for more substantial, improved and seamless electronic book reading, setting it pages apart the Amazon Kindle, the Nook’s most direct rival.

One the 1.3 update is installed new icons will appear on the colour display window – Wi-Fi, Audio, Web and Games, which enables users to access features with greater speed and ease.

One unique improvement of the Nook’s 1.3 update is that it gives owners the ability to read any e-book within the B&N library for free. There is however some serious drawbacks to the new “Read in Store” feature. Having to be physically inside a Barnes and Noble store to take advantage of this free service is one, as it counts out those Nook owners who do not live within a realistic proximity of a B&N store. Once a Nook owner has located a B&N store and is sitting comfortably inside it, the user is limited to just one hour a day of ‘free reading’ – not long when you consider how fast time goes when your head is buried in a book. Although users are allowed to reconvene their title the following day for another 60 minutes, alternatively they could pick up a copy of the actual book in store and read it at their leisure. Or would that be far too passé?

Surfing the net on the Nook is vastly improved with the 1.3 firmware as it offers both a Wi-Fi network as well as the original 3G network, Wi-Fi obviously generating greater Internet speed and efficiency than the 3G. Also aiding the efficiency of the Nook’s e-reading experience is that the new version is more reliant on fixing certain bugs, including a freezing problem, which was a commonly reported problem with the original Nook e-reader. With the eradication of such bugs page turns are reported to be faster, a definite improvement in the quest for flawless electronic reading.

Why is it avid readers are often associated with the game of chess? Two Android games, chess and sudoku are also addition features of the 1.3 firmware.

Despite the fact that this is the Nook’s third firmware upgrade, which provides arguably long overdue features and improved functionalities, for now B&N are sticking with the price of $259 (approximately 170 pounds) – a snippet of a price for avid book lovers but an expensive no-no for the more dispassionate about books.