Nov 30

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Before I left for China, I was greeted with a wonderful surprise at my front door.

Besides the cute UPS delivery guy who rang my doorbell (something about those shorts…), it was my school girlish excitement as I signed for my Kindle 3.

I’ve spent 26+ hours with it on a plane, countless hours in the back of a car, bus, train and other means of transpo with just one thought.

Kindle 3 is awesome.

I’ve played with a few other e-readers before and of course there’s the iPad, but Kindle 3 is somehow a good fit for a girl like me.

I like the size of Kindle 3. It’s smaller, yet retains the same 6″ (diagonal) screen as previous versions. And I purposely did not order the white one. I wanted something different.

I’m not an avid reader, so at best I was skeptical about carrying around 3500 books (depending on book size, it might be more or less). I mean, it’s not like consuming content on an iPod or my iPhone. The multimedia stuff is bite size and consumed easily. Meaning, I/We don’t have to think. Just gaze at it or listen to the music.

Not much to it really. Reading, comparatively, is a more active exercise. Thus, my skepticism.

Faced with 13+ hours in the air, and my desire to not carry around 2 or 3 books with me, sort of cinched the deal (and the fact that I wasn’t paying for a Kindle 3).

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First, I have to compliment Amazon for their packaging of the Kindle 3. It is really easy to open and designed in an elegant, downright Apple like fashion. Upon opening the little box, I was greeted with a “welcome” message and simple instructions on what to do.

That’s when the clarity of the screen kicked in. The screen is so paper like, that I actually thought the welcome message was printed on a plastic shield. I actually went to peel it of, thinking there’s no way the this is the actual screen, only to find out: it is!

Charging is through a USB port at the bottom and USB cable and charger are included. But if you had a micro-USB to USB cable, you’d be able to charge it on any powered USB port. Meaning most phone chargers will also charge up your Kindle 3 or just plug it into your plugged in laptop.

Setup was even easier. Simply enter your Amazon.com account information (login and password) and you’re done. Anything you purchase is always available to you. Even if you delete it, Amazon.com will always let you download it again on your Kindle 3. If by chance some catastrophic failure happens to your Kindle 3, you can get a new one and be able to have your content back again.

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Just like that. Which leads to me think: if Amazon can do this, why the heck won’t Apple replace that copy of “Kung Fu Panda” that was on my trashed hard-drive that I bought from the iTunes Store last year????????

With Kindle, you can download an app for your smartphone (iPhone available) or your laptop/desktop computer and read your book on there as well. You can even “loan” your book to another Kindle user, but you won’t have it available to read. That’s a bit of downer, but hey, you can share. (More info on sharing and other questions at Amazon).

You can read PDF’s through Kindle’s “conversion” service. Most are docs are free, but you’ll run up a charge if the file(s) is/are too big. But, you can avoid all that if you just convert your own PDF’s and load it up through the USB cable.

Kindle 3 will read PDF’s natively, but it’s more like reading a picture. You can’t actually change anything font wise, just some zooming and rotating features. On a 6″ screen, it’s not really the best and I never intended on reading PDF’s anyways.

Content wise, just about any major book that Amazon has, you’ll be able to get in Kindle format. On most books you can change fonts from the default to one of two others that Kindle offers. On some, you can’t do it and you’re stuck with whatever the publisher decides. You can change font sizes to make text easier to read, but you’ll rarely need it in most cases I went with a smaller text size or stayed with the default.

You can choose letter spacing from regular, condensed and spread out, but I stick with the condensed or regular. The text size can get really big for anyone who needs it, so it’s a pretty user friendly interface.

The big downer most users complain about is the lack of a touch-screen on Kindle. To which, I actually don’t have a complaint about. The touch-screen readers that I’ve seen, I’ve always noticed a slight blur to the text. Compared to the Kindle 3, touch-screen e-ink readers haven’t always been that sharp. I think technically, there’s a layer or something in there to make it “touchable”.

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And sharp readings the thing for me.

The keypad is a nub style keyboard with a 4 direction and push button pad. It reminds me of Droid 1’s keyboard, but with a little better tactile feedback and slight more raised keys. Not bad, you do get used to it.

Page forward and back buttons are paired on each side left and right, so it makes most people happy. And built in wireless (3G+WiFi or WiFi only) rounds out the feature set.

Downloading books is faster than you’d expect and you can download samples of the first few chapters to “sample”. This feature looks like it’s mostly publisher controlled as sometimes you get a lot to sample and others not so much.

I liked the ability to do so and you can always purchase full books from the samples. And bonus here, Amazon knows what books you have, so you’ll find it difficult to purchase multiple copies of the same book. Also a nice feature that I like as in my rush to buy a book I actually bought two of them and only got charged for 1 copy (and only that one copy remains on my Kindle).

The screen is absolutely beautiful. In low light conditions, the reading is just like a book. The backing isn’t as reflective and really does mimic paper superbly. In bright conditions, reading is even better. Cramped in my “super-economy” class seat on my flight to China a few weeks back, reading on Kindle 3 was easy and my overhead light was just enough for me, and somehow “brighter” than reading a newspaper or magazine.

Battery power (with all wireless off) is unbeatable. I charged once before getting on the flight and for about a month, I didn’t charge it again. Again, with all wireless off. Amazon reports about 3+ weeks, and I got probably close to that if not more with daily reading (plus almost 20+ hours on the round-trip flight). Daily reading was about 2-3 hours, maybe a little more.

I carried about 20 books on my Kindle 3. About 10 of them were purchased and the rest were public domain books (really old books) that are just as good as the new ones. You’ll find classics from Jules Verne and even Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography available for free. The more formatted “free” books are available for under a few bucks, but why bother when there is free?

The only gripe I have with Kindle 3 is the menu driven system. It works to manage books and get around. There’s a built in dictionary (two of them that you can read too) that you can use anytime with the “d-pad” and little shortcuts here and there to help you save keystrokes, but it’s still mostly nested menus and a whole lot of moving around.

We’re so used to touch-screens and mice that a d-pad does seem antique. While buying a book and searching is easy on Kindle 3, you’ll find it much easier to just buy it online and send it your Kindle, which Amazon knows you own once you register it.

Sure, you can download the PC/Mac app and manage your Kindle on-line or through the app, but it’s still silly that you have go outside of your device to make management easier.

There are MP3 and web-browser apps built-in on Kindle 3 that do surprisingly a good job. The built in speakers are hardly the best, but will do in a pinch. Plug in your headphones for the best experience. The web-browser is a, well, a B&W PSP web-browser experience. It’s all point and click, but pages (especially Amazon.com) displays really pretty. Like a newspaper ad, only sharper.

Yes, it’s DRM’ed books, but I don’t really have a lot of complaints as I usually buy my books anyways. The downer in buying books digitally is you can’t browse that bargain bin or discount book seller for a used or totally cheap copy of that $39.99 hardcover best-seller from two years ago for $1.99.

E-books are almost always 9.99 (a little more or a little less) and I have yet to see a sale. I’m guessing printed books are pretty safe.

But, there are public libraries that offer up books to Kindle users. The book disappears in 28 days or you can only read it on the library’s WiFi (or some other condition). So, it’s starting to catch on.

Magazines (full prints) and newspapers are available daily, but you’ll be clicking on full articles. You’re sort of locked in once you start reading something. I like “browsing” articles and jump constantly. With Kindle, you’ll have to read the whole thing. Most will offer up free 2 week subscriptions, but after that you start paying. Of course, they’re delivered free just like the books.

To me, the pluses far outweigh the minuses. I even find myself switching between books regularly. If you can take some of the drawbacks, then Kindle 3 does a really good job at giving you something to read. No eye-strain, with really great contrast, sharp text and a super battery life round out what I like. And that’s good enough for me.

I’m perfectly happy with my Kindle 3 and you might too for $189 and under.

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