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On this blog we will track down the latest Amazon Kindle news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great Kindle3 tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest KindleDX accessories.

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Kindle 3 Photos

Picture is worth a thousand words so rather than writing one more Kindle 3 Review (which I encourage you to read if you haven’t already), today I decided to publish several Kindle 3 photos.

eReader Comparison: Kindle 2, Nook, iPad, Kindle 1, Kindle 3, Kindle DX, Sony PRS-600

eReader Comparison: Kindle 2, Nook, iPad, Kindle 1, Kindle 3, Kindle DX, Sony PRS-600

Personally I’m a huge eReader fan and gadget geek as you can see from my pile of eInk hardware. Out of all devices Kindles get the most use: 6″ devices to read books and Kindle DX to read newspapers and magazines. iPad is also used quite a bit but mostly not as eBook reader.

Kindle 3

Amazon Kindle 3

Kindle 3 frontal shot. Kindle has a picture viewer easter egg. In order to use it: create “pictures” folder in the root directory of the Kindle USB drive, create some sub-directory there and fill it with pictures. Once in home screen, press Alt-Z to make Kindle 3 rescan picture folders. Subfolders of “pictures” folder that have JPEG, GIF, PNG or BMP files in them will be visible as books and images will become pages. It may be a nice way to enjoy manga on your Kindle 3.

Kindle 3 Back Cover

Kindle 3 Back Cover

Kindle 3 back cover has a nice rubbery feel to it that makes the device very comfortable to hold. I has Amazon Kindle logo embossed in it. If you look closely at the slit between front and back covers you will be able to see screwdriver marks from my Kindle 3 disassembly attempt.

Kindle 3 Weight

Kindle 3 Weight

For some reason Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) has overstated Kindle 3 weight. It really weights around 8.2 ounces as opposed to the official spec of 8.7 as confirmed by multiple sources.

Kindle 3 in Lighted Leather Cover

Kindle 3 in Lighted Leather Cover

Kindle 3 Light

Kindle 3 Light

One of the standard Kindle 3 accessories that Amazon sells separately is Kindle 3 Leather Lighted Cover. It is intended to protect your Kindle from scratches and falls. Although I’ve never field-tested it, judging by it’s solid construction it should do a good job. It also has a built-in LED light for night reading that draws power from Kindle battery via conductive cover hinges. The downside is that the cover doubles the weight of the device.

As you can see, page lighting is not completely even. However from my personal experience I can tell that the cover is completely usable for reading at night. DSLR cameras tend to exaggerate contrast.

Kindle 3 in Leather Cover

Kindle 3 in Leather Cover

When not in use the light slides into the cover and stays completely hidden. There is also leather cover without built in light that costs less and is couple of ounces lighter.

Kindle 3 Power Light

Kindle 3 Power Light

Amazon designers have moved all buttons (except for paging) and connectors to the bottom edge of the device. From left to right you see volume control (for two built-in 1W stereo speaker or headphones used for “Read To Me” text-to-speech feature, listening audiobooks or DRM-free MP3 files), stereo mini-jack headphone connector, microphone (that is not used for anything right now according to the user’s guide), standard micro-USB PC/charging connector, power switch with integrated large charging LED light. The light blinks green when Kindle 3 is turned on or off, glows orange when Kindle is charging and glows green when the device is completely charged.

Kindle 1,2 and 3 side by side

Kindle 1,2 and 3 side by side

Witness 3 years of Kindle evolution. Kindle 1 released on the 19th of November 2007, Kindle 2 releaed on the 9th of February 2009 and finally Kindle 3 Graphite released recently. Notice the improving progression of screen contrast as eInk displays evolved over time.

Kindle 3 and Kindle 1 side by side

Kindle 3 and Kindle 1 side by side

Kindle 3 vs Kindle 1 - thickness comparison

Kindle 3 vs Kindle 1 - thickness comparison

Although Kindle 3 and Kindle 1 have very similar footprint in the terms of thickness, Kindle 3 is almost 3 times thinner than the original first generation Kindle.

Kindle 3 and Kindle 2 size comparison

Kindle 3 and Kindle 2 size comparison

Kindle 3 vs Kindle 2 - thickness comparison

Kindle 3 vs Kindle 2 - thickness comparison

Although K3 and K2 are almost indistinguishable by thickness (the difference is 1/50 inch), difference by footprint is considerable.

Kindle 3 and Kindle DX

Kindle 3 and Kindle DX

As you can see Kindle 3 completely fits inside Kindle DX screen with still some room to spare. These are two different classes of devices.

Kindle 3 vs Nook - Size overlay

Kindle 3 vs Nook - Size overlay

Kindle 3 vs Nook : Thickness comparison

Kindle 3 vs Nook : Thickness comparison

Kindle 3 vs Barnes and Noble Nook side by side

Kindle 3 vs Barnes and Noble Nook side by side

Kindle 3 is slightly smaller than Barnes & Noble Nook. It is also almost twice at thin and significantly lighter while packing same 3G + WiFi connectivity. In case of Kindle 3 however you can use free 3G Internet to browse any website rather than just download books.

Kindle 3 vs Sony PRS-600 Touch Edition

Kindle 3 and Sony PRS-600 Touch Edition side-by-side

Kindle vs Sony PRS-600 Touch Edition By Thickness

Kindle and Sony PRS-600 Touch Edition - Thickness

Kindle 3 has slightly larger footprint than Sony PRS-600 because of keyboard but is slightly thinner and considerably lighter. However the main difference is in display contrast. Kindle 3 Pearl eInk display contrast is almost 5 times higher than that of Sony. This difference has mostly to do with the touchscreen layer in PRS-600.

Kindle 3 vs Apple iPad

Kindle 3 vs Apple iPad

Although these are completely different kinds of products I still photographed Kindle 3 and Apple iPad side-by-side just for the fun of it.

I’ll wrap up this Kindle photo review with a daily Amazon.com user review and shipping date check-up:

Right now there are 220 customer reviews for Kindle 3. Of these 155 are completely positive five star reviews, 35 – positive four star reviews, 6 – neutral 3 star reviews, 7 – negative two star reviews and finally 17 – completely negative one star reviews. For the last several days ship date for Kindle 3 remained unchanged as “on or before September 17th”.

BTW: I have plenty of hosting bandwidth so you are welcome to hotlink these pictures.

Kindle 3 Positive Reviews Summary

In case you haven’t read Kindle 3 reviews I’ve published before, here they are:

  • Original Kindle 3 review (July, 29th) - largely based on official Amazon press release and personal speculations.
  • Kindle 3 review round-up from online media (August, 6th) – summary of opinions from sources.
  • Kindle 3 review (August, 28th) – my personal hand-on review of the device with battery life estimations, screen contrast comparison, partial disassembly and other useful bits of information.
  • Kindle 3 review follow-up (August, 29th) – some minor things I forgot to mention in the original review, comparative screenshot of different typefaces of Cyrillic characters and in-depth look at some of the negative reviews on Amazon.com

This time around I would like to focus on positive Kindle 3 reviews people left on Amazon.com so far. There are 151 positive reviews on Amazon.com out of 168 total reviews right now. Of these 151 reviews, 124 gave Kindle five out of five stars.

Reviews are split almost equally between Kindle 3G + WiFi and Kindle WiFi Only so both versions sell equally well.

I have read though most of the reviews and compiled some numbers which indicate what users like about Kindle 3.

Screen seems to be the biggest hit as it’s mentioned 150 times in all of the reviews. While people who previously owned eReaders mostly note the improved contrast, those who didn’t have eInk device before are very enthusiastic about how comfortable it is for prolonged reading.

Next big thing is the size. There are 94 mentions of how small the device is. Again this aspect is equally appreciated by both long time eBook reader adepts and new converts.

After that comes improved browser with 68 mentions. In this case, positive feedback is mostly in the form of comparing to Kindle 2 “basic web”.

Surprisingly only there are only 43 mentions of weight.

Then come 39 mentions of WiFi, which mostly note speed improvement over previous generation 3G connection and different font options.

There are very few mentions of magazines and newspapers in these reviews (only 7 and 8 correspondingly). Reviewers don’t seem to care much for this aspect of Amazon Kindle. Although personally I never liked dead-tree paper newspapers because they were bulky and messy and get most of my news from online sources it’s still nice to relax and read a well written article in WSJ without the temptation clicking on any of the gazillion links that websites offer.

Here are some quotes from specific reviews that you can check out:

Kindle vs. Nook:

If you’re trying to choose between a nook and a kindle, perhaps I can help. My wife and I bought a nook, a kindle 2, and a kindle DX last month, just days before the kindle 3 was announced. After using them intensively for a few weeks, we returned them and pre-ordered two kindle 3′s, which we have in our hands now. We’ve each read a few chapters and a few newspaper articles on our kindle 3′s and are very happy with them, so far.

K3 is perfect:

The size is absolutely perfect. In the Amazon cover, it is exactly like reading from a paperback book. It’s noticeably lighter and easier to hold for reading, even with arthritis in my hands. The page turn buttons are wonderful. Almost no noise, and you don’t have to push them as hard. It should make it much easier for those with weak or disabled hands. I also like have next page and previous buttons on both sides. I didn’t think it would make a difference to me, but it really does.

K3 Even Better than its Predecessor:

My wife and I share a last gen 6″ Kindle and just received a new 6″ display K3. I know, Amazon doesn’t call it that, but how else can users refer to it? In twenty words or less, it is an improvement over an already excellent product. Smaller, but not too small to be held comfortably. Same size display, but sharper and crisper, better contrast. Easy to use, somewhat smaller keyboard that takes a little, but very little, getting used to. It took me a few hours to stop accidentally pressing some neighboring keys, but now using the keyboard is second nature. And the page turning buttons are silent, but have sufficient tactile feedback, excellent feel.

Enjoy!

Kindle 3 Review Follow Up

Kindle 3 Weight

Kindle 3 Weight

I’ve had some time to play around with my new Kindle 3 and to read what other users are saying so now I’m ready to publish this follow up with some of the information I’ve recently gathered of forgot to publish before.

In case you haven’t read reviews I’ve published before, here they are:

  • Original Kindle 3 review (July, 29th)В - largely based on official Amazon press release, other online sources and personal speculations.
  • Kindle 3 review round-up from online media (August, 6th) – summary of opinions from sources like CNET, PCWorld etc.
  • Kindle 3 review (August, 28th) – my personal hand-on review of the device with battery life estimations, screen contrast comparison, partial disassembly and other useful bits of information.

One thing I would like to mention specifically is the weight. I weighted the device on a digital scale it showed 8.2 oz. At first I though that my scale was off but then reports and pictures started surfacing on forums indicating that Kindle 3G + WiFi weights as low as 8.1 oz and Kindle WiFi as low as 7.8 oz. Official Amazon specs indicate 8.7 oz for 3G + WiFi and 8.2 oz for WiFi only version.

Kindle 3 software

Kindle 3 runs software version 3.0 (515460094) and has serial number starting with B006 marking it as new hardware series. No surprise there. In the past Amazon has stopped updating 1.* firmware for first generation Kindles once Kindle 2 came out. Hopefully this is not going to be the case with Kindle software 2.* despite the fact that apparently Kindle 3 will clearly outsell Kindle 2 soon enough (more on that later).

Kindle 3 is much more similar to second generation Kindle than Kindle 2 was to original Kindle 1. Kindle 2 user base now is much larger than Kindle 1 user base was when Kindle 2 came out. It would be easier for Amazon to maintain one code branch than two (since it seems that 1.* software development is essentially non-existent). Unicode characters have been added to 3.0 software. Eventually books in Kindle store will start using these characters. It would be very bad PR for Amazon when people with older Kindles will start buying these books only to see empty boxes instead of characters. This is why I guesstimate that eventually 3.* software will make it to Kindle 2 and older Kindle DX devices. Perhaps it would be software 3.1 or 3.0.1

There are several new features in Kindle software 3.0 that I forgot to mention in the original review:

  • Device password. You can set a password that will be required to use the device every time it’s turned on. Without the password it’s impossible to access Kindle UI or Kindle USB drive. It’s pretty useful if you keep sensitive work related documents on your Kindle. In case you forget your password, it is possible to completely reset the device deleting all stored information in the process.
  • Collections. Although these are not exactly new and have been around before Kindle 3, I’ve never taken the time to write about them and would like to point this feature out. Historically all Kindle books were piled in one flat list that was sorted by last-read date, title or author. Best way to navigate it was searching. Several months ago Amazon has introduced collections as a way to organize your library. A collection is similar to a tag as one book can belong to several collections (Sci-Fi, H. G. Wells, “Favorite Books”, etc)
  • Manually setting device time. Previously Kindle relied on time information from 3G wireless network. Now you can manually set Kindle clock if you have WiFi-only version, don’t have wireless coverage or live on a different time than your GSM provider.

Kindle 3 Unicode support

Kindle 3 finally got a font with broader range of Unicode characters. These include Cyrillic, Simplified and Traditional Chinese, Korean and Japanese. I’ve done some quick tests and to me it looks like characters are there. However I didn’t do a full scale test of all possible characters from these planes. Some people on forums and in comments complained about poor support of Chinese and Korean but so far there has been little specifics.

There were some claims that non-Latin characters display the same in all typefaces. I’ve verified it and it does seem to be true for Asian characters and definitely not true for Cyrillic. Here are some screenshots showing different typefaces in Russian text.

Kindle 3 Russian Typefaces

Kindle 3 Russian Typefaces

By the way, good way to download and format Unicode text files so that paragraph breaks would display properly and lines will not needlessly wrap is eBook Text Formatter tool that I’ve created a while ago. It still works great.

Kindle 3 WebKit-based browser

New web-browser in Kindle 3 is great. It can event load and run desktop AJAX version of Gmail (however using mobile version at https://m.gmail.com/ is still recommended as it’s much faster). Some users reported problems with browser or apps. Kindle software would occasionally crash. It is generally believed that it’s caused by background indexing process running alongside browser. Whenever new book, text file or document is downloaded to Kindle, it is indexed to provide almost instantaneous search results. This process is resource intensive and may conflict with web-browser or word game applications that are available for Kindle.

Therefore it is recommended to refrain from browsing while Kindle indexes new books. Usually this process is completed within minutes of downloading a book or a document. If you download hundreds of books at once it may take hours and seriously drain your battery. 75% overnight battery drain has been reported after downloading 100+ books.

In case your Kindle browser stops working completely (“launch browser” button does nothing or causes a crash), restarting your Kindle will fix this problem. To restart your Kindle press “Home”, “Menu”, select “Settings”, press “Menu” and select “Restart”. In case this doesn’t work, holding the power button for 30 seconds and then releasing it does the trick. Please note that Kindle will not restart while you are holding the button. You need to press the button, slowly count to 30 and then release it. Within several seconds your Kindle will reboot.

Kindle 3 User Reviews

For some reason there were no user reviews for Kindle 3 on Amazon website until Saturday afternoon. Perhaps they were held in the pipeline for some reason. Now that reviews are finally in, you can check them out here.

For Kindle 3G + WiFi and Kindle WiFi there are 139 total reviews at the moment. Of these 104 gave Kindle 5/5 stars, 24 gave it 4 stars, 3 gave it 3 stars and 8 people were completely unhappy with their purchase and gave Kindle 3 one star. Since there so few one-star reviews, I took a look at them individually and here’s the scoop:

I would like to start completely quoting review by Roger: “The ipad has so much more functionality, why anyone would want to limit themselves to a Kindle is beyond me.” It doesn’t look to me like Roger ever had or will have a Kindle. Nonetheless he’s entitled to his own opinion and we’ll leave it at that :)

3 people seemed to have received defective devices. I can understand how this can lead to a bad review, however every device has a potential of being defective. When I started building servers of the first batch of 8 HDDs from a major manufacturer 3 failed within 24 hours of stress testing. Bad luck, I guess because since I replaced these 3 and installed dozens more like them I’m yet to see a single hard drive fail. So given the overall volume of Kindles shipped, 3 reviews about defective devices is pretty good.

One reviewer was extremely unhappy with quality of Korean font glyphs. Kindle 3 Unicode support is something that I want to investigate further. I’ll definitely report on it once I have the full story.

There is one bad Kindle 3 review dealing with new smaller buttons. Personally I liked Kindle 2 buttons more as well. New controller layout takes getting used to and judging by scarcity of negative reviews, benefits like WiFi and better screen greatly outweigh discomfort from smaller buttons. By the way there is a good old trick for reading from Kindle without having to use buttons at all: start text-to-speech, adjust the speech speed to your reading speed and then mute the volume. Pages will flip automatically.

User with “Book Worm” alias gave new Kindle 3 one star because he purchased Kindle 2 right before Kindle 3 was announced so the user ended up paying $259 for and older device rather than getting new one for $189. I can completely understand this frustration. Unfortunately Amazon doesn’t have a specific schedule of “surprise” product launches like Apple when everyone expects new iPhone to be announced in Spring and release in the Summer. Such things happened in the past when international Kindle or graphite Kindle DX was released. While it’s unlikely that anything can be done in this particular case, I would like to note that historically Amazon Customer support was quite flexible on 30-day return period. According to comments from several users you can get a refund (if the price dropped) or return your Kindle for a newer one up to one week after 30 days have passed from your purchase. But please don’t tell Amazon that I told you this :)

Final bad Kindle 3 review has something to do with the way user set up his/her account rather than with the device itself so I’ll not comment on it.

For these 8 negative reviews there are 128 positive reviews from people who are mostly extremely happy with their Kindle experience. Some highlights include:

  • Small size and weight are mentioned in almost every positive review (and even some negative onces)
  • Improved screen contrast and fonts is the second biggest thing mentioned in positive reviews.
  • People love new low $189 price point of Kindle 3G + WiFi and $139 of Kindle WiFi.

In the future I’ll do a more detailed analysis of positive reviews and publish the stats here.

Kindle 3 Sales Numbers

On August 25th in the press release announcing early shipments of Kindle 3, Amazon also revealed that Kindle 3 is the best-selling product by four-week sales:

(NASDAQ: AMZN)в_”Amazon.com today announced that more new generation Kindles were ordered in the first four weeks of availability than in the same timeframe following any other Kindle launch, making the new Kindles the fastest-selling ever. In addition, in the four weeks since the introduction of the new Kindle and Kindle 3G, customers ordered more Kindles on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk combined than any other product, continuing Kindleв_Ts over two-year run as the bestselling product across all the products sold on Amazon.com.

In the summer and amid slowing economy Kindle 3 was able to beat international Kindle 2 launch that was tied to the holiday shopping season last year. This is quite impressive but not surprising when one considers improved specs and features, price that got slashed in half and amount of customer awareness generated by previous launches.

New Kindle 3 Review (hands-on)

I’ve just received my new graphite Kindle 3 Reader along with Kindle Lighted Leather Cover. Both items were overnighted by Fedex for a nominal $3.99 a piece thanks to Amazon Prime. So now I can finally get started on this hands-on review of Amazon’s latest gadget.

Kindle 3 at a glance:

Amazon Kindle 3

Amazon Kindle 3

Here are the highlights of Amazon’s new Kindle 3 eBook reader:

  • Small and light В - 7.5″ x 4.8″ x 0.335″, 8.7oz. In fact it’s one of the smallest eReaders out there and the best one by features by size and weight ratio. Easily fits in a small purse or a coat pocket.
  • Sharp and fast 6″ 600×800 eInk screen. The contrast ratio is measurably better (see Kindle screen contrast measurement) that in other eReaders. eInk screen is free of glare and can be read in direct sunlight. There are several options including Leather Cover with LED light and Clip-OnВ Mighty Bright XtraFlex2.
  • 3G + WiFi connectivity. Kindle 3 can download books and access Wikipedia via free 3G connectivity in more than 100 different countries. WiFi (when it’s available) allows faster download speeds and connectivity where GSM data is not available. In some countries including US you can also access any website on the Internet via free 3G coverage.
  • No computer required. You can buy and download books from the device itself.
  • Long battery life. Up to 1 month with wireless off. Up to 3 weeks with WiFi connectivity and up to 10 days with 3G connectivity. You can read as much as you like without having to worry about recharging.
  • Text-To-Speech and fully accessible menus via Voice Guide let you listen to the book as it is read and make Kindle 3 a fully accessible device.
  • 670,000+ modern books with majority priced under $9.99. These include 107 of 111 New York Times Bestsellers. 1,800,000+ older out-of-copyright books available for free. These include books by Mark Twain, Jane Austen, H. G. Wells and other famous and popular authors.
  • First several chapters in any book are available as free sample.
  • Books purchased in Amazon Kindle store can also be read on a variety of different devices and platforms including: PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry.
  • All books purchased from Amazon Kindle store can be shared among all devices connected to the same Amazon account and read simultaneously.
  • Built-in dictionary for instantly looking up word definitions. Alternate dictionaries can also be installed. For example English-Russian dictionary to provide instant translations.
  • Native support for PDF, MOBI, PRC, TXT, JPEG, PNG, GIF and BMP files. DOC(X) is supported via online conversion.
  • Native support for Cyrillic (Russian), Traditional and simplified Chinese, Japanese and Korean characters.
  • Kindle 3 supports Audible (an Amazon subsidiary) audio books and allows bookmarking and chapter navigation. Although it lacks a fully functional audio-player, Kindle can play DRM-free MP3 files as a background music for a book.
  • Social features. You can annotate your books, newspapers and magazines and share your annotations and highlights via Twitter and Facebook.
  • Kindle 3 features upgraded WebKit-based browser that lets you view almost any website on eInk screen.
  • 2 great word games (Shuffled Row and Every Word) with more applications on the way.
  • 4 gigabytes of built in memory that can store up to 3,500 books.

Please read on for in depth review of these features and how they compare to Kindle 2 and other eReaders.

Kindle 3 Unboxed:

As usually both cover and Kindle came in Amazon’s signature “frustration free packaging”. You can easily get to your merchandise just with your bare hands without having to use knives or scissors. It is a minor but nonetheless pleasant element.

Latest Generation Kindle 3 and Lighted Leather Cover Unboxed

Latest Generation Kindle 3 and Lighted Leather Cover Unboxed

Kindle 3 Ergonomics:

Kindle 3 Weight

Kindle 3 Weight

As you can see on our eReader size comparison page, Kindle 3 is one of the smallest eReaders out there. It is also one of the lightest. Although Amazon states 8.7 ounces of weight, actual measured weight is 8.2 ounces. Weighting 8.2 ounces В you can hardly feel it in your hand. Adding another 8 ounces of Leather cover with light to that really feels like a crime. Personally I’m going to shelf the cover at home and only put it on the Kindle while travelling. Amazon really did a great job on the weight and compactness. While Kindle 2 was just the right size to fit into my coat pocket, Kindle 3 fits in it easily with some room to spare.

Power and volume buttons, along with headphone audio jack all moved to the lower edge of the device, leaving all other edges nicely clean. Charging light is now integrated into the power button. Overall this setup is very similar to the original first generation Kindle.

As far a new control layout goes, Lab126 somewhat dropped the ball here in my opinion. Kindle 2 was the ultimate one-handed reader. Jeff Bezos even made jokes about it when interviewed by the media. In Kindle 3, Amazon designers did away with the 5-way controller, replacing it with a 5 button setup that is located much lower. Paging buttons stayed on the same place but became much smaller.

Kindle 3 Symbols Menu

Kindle 3 Symbols Menu

I’m a right-handed person. With Kindle 2 I could hold the device in my right hand and manipulate “Next page”, “Menu”, “Home” and even “Back” button along with the 5-way stick with my thumb. Unless I needed to type an annotation or search for text I never had to engage my left hand. With Kindle 3 paging buttons are still easy to use – you just need to hold the device the same way you did Kindle 2 and slightly rock your thumb to flip pages. Surprisingly I’ve found it easier to to hold Kindle 3 and flip pages with my left hand. 5 navigational buttons along with “Menu”, “Home” and В “Back” are much harder to reach and manipulate with thumb. It’s not impossible but personally I prefer to hold the device in the left hand and use right hand when I need to look up a word or manipulate a menu.

Given the fact that 97% of time it’s the “Next page” button that you are pressing I would consider it a minor defect, but defect nonetheless.

Unfortunately I don’t have any southpaw friends to provide feedback on Kindle ergonomics for left-handed people so I would be more than interested in comments from my readers in this regard and I’ll surely include them in this and subsequent Kindle 3 reviews.

Alphanumeric keyboard lost the numeric row (same as Kindle DX) so now you have to combine the Alt button with upper “QWERTYUIOP” row to type numbers. Slash (/) button was also eliminated so now you need to press Sym-Right-Right-Right-Ok to produce this symbol. Character table invoked by the “Sym” button got a whole new row filled with digits giving you yet another way to type numbers. On Kindle 3 buttons seem to bulge from the device body slightly more than from Kindle 2, making them easier to press. It is a minor plus but a plus nonetheless.

According to this review, larger charging light is easier for partially color-blind people to read than smaller lights in earlier generation Kindles and other eReaders.

Kindle 3 Screen:

Kindle 3 features eInk Pearl screen. eInk screens don’t have any light source and only require small amount of power to change the picture. Static pictures can stay on the screen forever without draining the battery at all. Since eInk screens are reflective, they can be read from easily under direct sunlight just like regular paper book.

Amazon claims that Kindle 3 has “50% better contrast ratio that any other eReader” and it seems that this claim does have some merit. Although I don’t know which methodology Amazon used in their tests and I’m a amateur photographer rather than a professional colormetrist, I did some measurements of my own and it does look like Kindle 3 beats other eReader in terms of contrast.

Kindle 3 Screen Contrast Test

Kindle 3 Screen Contrast Test

I took a sheet of office paper and cut a rectangular hole in it to do measurements. Then I created a picture that was half fully black and half fully white. I displayed the picture on several eReaders that I had and photographed both white and black sections of the image covered by paper in such a way that only hole and paper would be in the frame. To make sure that all pictures are created equal I disabled all automatics and post-processing in my DSLR and used flash in manual mode to get consistent lighting. For better accuracy I used 16 bit/color channel resolution. I then blurred pictures to eliminate noise and measured intensities of reference paper, black and white sections of eReader screen in Photoshop. Since light intensity of the same piece of paper differed by less than 1% on all pictures I assume that my measurements were accurate enough. I then calculated white and black intensities relative to reference paper intensity and relative white to black intensity of each reader that represents contrast.

eReader/Measure Black/Reference White/Reference Contrast (White/Black)
Kindle 3 6.44% 69.11% 10.72 : 1
Kindle 2 12.22% 74.00% 6.05 : 1
Nook 14.22% 73.33% 5.15 : 1
Sony PRS-600 29.11% 64.66% 2.22 : 1

As you can see Kindle 3 is a clear leader in the contrast front with white to black ratio of almost 11. While all eReaders produce comparable white intensities, it is black intensity that really differentiates them and defines contrast ratio. Kindle 3 clearly produces darkest blacks of all devices, followed by Kindle 2 and Nook. It’s white is not as bright as the one one produced by older generation of eInk screen found in Kindle 2 and Nook but overall it clearly wins.

I was quite a bit surprised by Nook performance since I actually expected it to outperform Kindle 2 in contrast department. When I picked it up in the store couple of months ago the first thing that struck me was sharpness and contrast of text. It still looks sharp to me so I guess that it has to with fonts and the way they are rendered on the screen.

Sony PRS-600 touch edition is a clear outsider here – no surprise. Adding touchscreen layer on top of eInk really ruins the image clarity. Now I have actual numbers to back it up.

The new Kindle 3 screen has the same resolution of 600×800 with the same 6″ diagonal, giving it the same 167ppi spatial resolution. This resolution is adequate for comfortable reading at any reasonable font size.

Amazon claims 20% faster page turns. While I wasn’t able to test and accurately measure this metric subjectively it does seem to be true when I compare Kindle 3 and Kindle 2 side-by-side.

Kindle 3 Battery:

Kindle 3 Battery

Kindle 3 Battery

Although officially Kindle 3 battery is not user-replaceable, it’s very easy to pop the cover off (you just need a thin screwdriver or a knife). Kindle 3 comes with LICO S11GTSF01A 3.7V 1750 mAh Lithium Polymer battery. This is an upgrade compared to 1530 mAh battery by the same manufacturer found in Kindle 2.

According to Amazon it allows up to 1 month battery life with wireless off and up to 3 weeks with wireless on for В WiFi-only Kindle 3 and up to 10 days for WiFi + 3G Kindle.

Buy doing some simple math we can calculate average current drains of about 2.4 mA with wireless completely off, 3.5 mA when running on WiFi and 7.3 mA when running on 3G + WiFi.

Many people are wondering about what would cover with built-in LED light do to the battery life. Luckily I had a digital multimeter and a piece of wire handy so I was able to measure the drain current of the cover as well. It turned out to be 76.6 milliamperes. This by an order a magnitude larger than what Kindle 3 consumes even with wireless on. So with LED light on battery life is going to be between 20.85 and 22.15 hours of constant reading. This is about twice as long as 10 hour battery life of Apple iPad.

Even though the battery is not officially replaceable, it should not be a big problem. Since Kindle can go on weeks without a recharge, this means fewer recharge cycles per year and therefore more years of total battery life.

Another thing worth pointing out is the fact that Kindle 3 would use WiFi network whenever it is available and disable 3G. Depending on how power management is implemented in hardware in software it might be possible to get same 3 weeks battery life on 3G+WiFi Kindle if the device is within WiFi range most of the time.

Kindle 3 Font Options:

Kindle 3 Font Test

Kindle 3 Font Test

With the latest firmware Kindle 3 supports 8 font sizes, 3 typefaces, 3 line spacing settings and 3 line widths. Overall this gives you 168 different ways to display any text. I ran some tests to give get an idea how these settings differ by displaying “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” sentence over and over on the same page.

On default settings (Font size #3, regular typeface, large line spacing, default words per line) Kindle screenВ accommodates 221 words. Following table illustrates the effect of different font settings on the number of words per page:

Setting Number of words
Font size #1 160%
Font size #2 117%
Font size #3 100%
Font size #4 65%
Font size #5 47%
Font size #6 35%
Font size #7 14%
Font size #8 8%
Regular typeface 100%
Condensed typeface 119%
Sans Serif typeface 124%
Small line spacing 122%
Medium line spacing 110%
Large line spacing 100%
Fewest words per line 68%
Fewer words per line 83%
Default words per line 100%
Most words per page 240%
Least words per page 2.7%

While in my opinion “words per line” setting that was originally introduced on Kindle DX doesn’t make much sense on a small 6″ screen, other settings give users lost of ways to customize their reading experience.

When reading PDF files none of these options are available since fonts are embedded into the files themselves. However there is “contrast setting” with 5 possible values: “lightest”, “lighter”, “default”, “darker”, “darkest”. What it really does is control the weight (boldness) of the font. Is very useful for making small fonts readable without having to zoom into PDF or change screen orientation.

Kindle 3 PDF Support:

Kindle 3 PDF Viewer

Kindle 3 PDF Viewer

Initially PDF native support was introduced in Kindle DX. Back then Kindle software lacked support for zoom and pan so large 9.7″ screen was the only way to deal with documents that are intended for letter size paper (due to the way PDF format works it may be impossible to reflow text in PDF files, although Sony PRS-600 seems to be quite good about it). Since then PDF support was backported to Kindle 2 and after that received several upgrades.

In Kindle 3 you can:

  • Zoom and scroll/pan PDF files. One good alternative to zooming is changing screen orientation to landscape and using paging buttons to scroll the page up and down.
  • Do dictionary lookups just like with regular books.
  • Highlight and annotate PDF files. Although annotations can be shared via Twitter and Facebook users will only see your annotation text but not the portion of the document you’ve annotated. Perhaps Amazon will fix this issue in the future.
  • Search within PDF file.
  • Change font weight.

You still can’t use any external or internal document hyperlinks or use built-in table of contents. This can be somewhat alleviated by searching for chapter names or using “Goto page number” menu function. Hopefully hyperlinks are also on Amazon’s TODO list.

Overall I can say that compared to “fair” PDF support in Kindle 2, Kindle 3 has “good” PDF support that can become “excellent” some day.

Kindle 3 Wireless Options:

Historically Kindle has shipped with free 3G wireless connectivity. Initially it was available though Sprint CDMA network only in the US. In 2009 when International Kindle 2 was released, Amazon switched to AT&T GSM network with roaming agreements in more than 100 countries.

Kindle 3 comes in two flavors: WiFi Only and 3G + WiFi. WiFi only option is $50 cheaper, slightly lighter and gets one more week of battery life. WiFi + 3G Kindle users the same AT&T 3G GSM network with international roaming as international Kindle but will use protected and unprotected WiFi networks whenever they are available. AT&T bills Amazon around $0.15 per megabyte of downloaded data so it’s a reasonable step for Amazon to forgo this cost while providing users with higher download speeds.

I’ve tested Kindle 3 with AT&T 3G connection and in WiFi mode with my home wireless network and with Sprint EVO 4G in mobile hotspot mode. Every time it worked perfectly. Both 802.11B and 802.11G networks are supported.

People who have mobile hotspot capable smartphones (ex: Android-based phones) may opt for the cheaper $139 Kindle WiFi and still enjoy global wireless connectivity via their phone. Personally I opted for $50 upfront 3G fee for the added convenience always-on connectivity and not having to worry about phone battery charge (mobile hotspot drains phone battery really fast).

Amazon claims 1 week longer battery life for WiFi only Kindle with wireless on compared to 3G + WiFi version. However Kindle 3 would always prefer WiFi connection to 3G so if it is smart enough to completely power off 3G modem when it is not used 1 month uptime for Kindle 3G may also be possible if the device spends most of the time within WiFi range.

It’s also worth noting that there are no separate controls for WiFi and 3G. There is a single menu option “Turn Wireless On/Off” that controls both radios.

Kindle 3 Social Features:

Kindle 3 has the same set of social features as recently released Kindle DX Graphite. You can share highlights and annotations from the books that you read with your friends via Twitter and Facebook. This features also works in newspapers and magazines but not in blogs (it’s a pity since despite doing most of my work on computer I prefer to read blogs like TechCrunch on Kindle if possible)

On top of that Kindle has a kind of social network of its own. You can opt-in to share your book highlights with Amazon. This way passages highlighted by multiple people become highlighted in the book as you read it and made available online. For example you can check out the most highlighted passages from “Eat, Pray, Lovehere.

Kindle 3 Web Browser:

Kindle 3 Browser Article Mode

Kindle 3 Browser Article Mode

Kindle 3 comes with new WebKit-based web browser that does a much better job at rendering websites than previous browser in Kindle 2. New browser is much faster, more standard compliant and generally better at displaying complex web pages.

When I previously compared Kindle 2 with Nook, Nook was a hands down winner in web-browser department. Websites loaded much faster and nicer than with Kindle 2. In fact some websites Kindle 2 failed to load at all.

Kindle 3 addressed this problem nicely. Previously I would only use Kindle 2 browser as a last resort (if my smartphone wasn’t available) for anything other than Wikipedia. With Kindle 3 I would have to admit that web-browsing is quite usable and fast. In fact with some websites larger screen gives Kindle an advantage over smartphones. I did several side-by-side tests with Nook and found that loading speed was almost exactly the same. It didn’t have any problems even with active javascript content like eReader size comparator.

Another killer feature is “Article Mode”. It is specifically tailored for blogs. When it is turned on Kindle strips away headers, sidebars etc and displays only article content from the page (including images). Since this mode takes away all fancy formating, paging back in forth is extremely fast.

Overall with proper browser, free unlimited 3G Internet and WiFi option Kindle is a clear leader among eReaders when it comes to web-browsing.

Other Kindle 3 Features:

Kindle 3 added native support for several ranges of Unicode characters, including Cyrillic (Russian), Traditional and simplified Chinese, Japanese and Korean. You no longer need to install hacks or convert your books to PDF to read them on Kindle. All you need to do is save text file in UTF8 encoding and copy it into Kindle documents folder. Hopefully Amazon will enable these characters in self-published books soon so international dictionaries including English-Russian dictionary can be properly published.

Kindle 3 Unicode Support (Russian, Chinese, Japanese)

Kindle 3 Unicode Support (Russian, Chinese, Japanese)

Kindle 3 has 4GB of built-in flash memory with 3.3 gigabytes available for your books, documents, photos and MP3 files. This is an upgrade compared to 2GB in Kindle 2.

Audible audiobooks are supported just as they were in Kindle 2.

Kindle 3 retains all of Kindle 2 Easter eggs, including picture viewer, calculator, minesweeper and gomoku.

There are two word game apps available for Kindle: Shuffled Row and Every Word. More applications are on the way.

Kindle 3 doesn’t have an accelerometer like Kindle DX so page orientation needs to be changed manually.

Kindle 3 Lights and Covers

Kindle 3 is a very lightweight device. Even so accidental drops might break it and the screen is not resistant to scratches. So protective covers are recommended. Although one is not included with the device itself, Amazon offers two models in seven colors each:

Kindle Lighted Leather Cover has a built in LED light. Cover hinges are conductive so the light draws power from Kindle battery. Estimated battery life with the light on is around 21 hours. The cover generally gets good reviews on Amazon. Unfortunately it is quite heavy. At 8oz weight it doubles the weight of the device. Nice thing about this cover is that the light shuts off when Kindle goes to sleep so it will not drain the battery if you leave it on the table and forget to turn off the light.

If you just need the light and not the cover Mighty Bright XtraFlex2 might be the way to go for you. It weights under 3 ounces, runs off 3 AAA batteries and clips-on to almost anything (including Kindle). Although I don’t know exact battery life of this light I can say that I’ve had it for more than a year and it still runs on original Duracell batteries that came with it.

If you want cover but not the light, there is basic leather cover. It is roughly 1.5 ounces lighter, costs $25 less than the one with the light and does a great job protecting your Kindle from scratches and falls.

Kindle 3 Leather Covers

Kindle 3 Leather Covers

Be aware that Kindle 3 has a different cover hinge configuration from Kindle 2 so covers designed for Kindle will not work.

Kindle 3 Disassembled:

Seeing how easy it is to remove Kindle 3 cover since there are no parts attached to it either outside or inside at all I couldn’t resist the temptation to take it off and snap the following picture (click to see full resolution version).

Kindle 3 Disassembled Kindle 3 Disassembled

Here’s a scoop of what I was able to see:

  • Battery is 3.7V 1750 mAh 6,47Wh Li-Po В LICO S11GTSF01A branded for Amazon Kindle. Kindle 2 contained 1530 mAh battery so this is a slight upgrade.
  • 3G modem is AnyDATA DTP-600W, FCC ID: P4M-DTP-600W, IC : 4594A-DTP600W.
  • WiFi card is Atheros AR6102G.
  • It uses Wolfson Microelectronics WM8960G stereo codec and 1W speaker and headphone driver chip.

At the moment I didn’t want to dig deeper since I didn’t want to risk accidentally ruining the device before this review is done. I promise to take a better look at what’s inside in the future.

Conclusion:

At $189 price point Kindle 3 is the best value for money eReader on the market. It is a third generation device and Amazon has addressed few issues and shortcomings that previous generations had. At the moment it has the best eInk screen among all eReaders that I’m aware of. It is a a well-polished device that is optimized for reading books and at that it excels. In addition to reading books Kindle 3 provides good experience for browsing the web (especially when one considers the fact that global Internet access is gratis from Amazon), listening to audio-books, and playing simple games.

At $139 Kindle WiFi with the same sharp and high-contrast screen and other features is a steal given wide availability of free WiFi internet worldwide.

While it has some potential for improvement (like any other device), issues like PDF table of contents support can be addressed by a software update in the future.

However don’t just take my word for it – check out what people are saying in their reviews.

Samsung to Launch S60 E-Reader

Samsung is launching a new e-reader called the S60 in the UK on August 26.  The company will partner with WHSmith, a book, music and electronics retailer similar to Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN).  The S60 has a 6 inch screen and 2 GB of memory.  There is an option of adding memory with an SD memory card.

The S60 includes a stylus that allows the reader to make notes and annotations.  I really like the idea of using a stylus over using the the keyboard on the Kindle and Kindle DX.  The Kindle’s keyboard is tiny and adds unnecessary space.  The drawback would be having to keep up with the stylus.  If the S60 is anything like the Nintendo DS, Nintendo’s handheld gaming device, it should include a slot for the stylus when it isn’t being used.

The S60 is Wi-Fi only so you would have to download books from home or a Wi-Fi hot spot.  Amazon offers a choice of Wi-Fi or 3G versions of the Kindle.  As for book formats, the device includes ePub, PDF and TXT files, as well as MP3 and text to speech options.

Samsung is a great company known for its well designed electronics. The sleek design of the S60 holds great promise and possible competition for the Kindle, however, it is still a bit pricey and is currently targeting the UK market.

Carl Hiaasen for Kindle

Carl Hiaasen recently came out with a satirical novel called Star Island that has been a big hit,  and is in the top 10 on the Kindle Bestseller list.  Star Island features a 22 year old pop princess named Cheryl Bunterman (Cherry Pye) who gets sucked into the perils of drinking, drugs and sex.  Cherry is surrounded by an entourage dedicated to maintaining her image while she ends up in one rehab center after another.  The novel is an imaginative, yet seemingly accurate spoof on the lives and activities of Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, as well as the general modern pop star scene.

If you aren’t familiar with Hiaasen’s work, one of his older novels, Stormy Weather, is a good one to start with.  It is set in Florida, which is the setting for most of Hiaasen’s books, during Hurricane Andrew, a devastating hurricane that struck Florida in the mid 1990′s.  The plot involves scam artists, corrupted politicians who are destroying the environment and an offhanded swipe at Disney World.  Reviewers say that Hiaasen manages to let his imagination run wild with outrageous characters, but somehow the story maintains a natural flow.

Skinny Dip is another novel that Hiaasen is well known for.  Chaz Perrone finds out that his wife Joey has discovered his dealings with a crooked tycoon to pollute the Florida Everglades.  He tries to throw her off a cruise ship to get rid of her, but she survives and seeks revenge.  She does so by messing with his mind and driving him insane.  Not knowing what someone is going to do can definitely drive a person nuts.

I think it is awesome that Hiaasen just lets his imagination loose when setting up the plot for his books.  He touches on issues that are very real in today’s society.  But, his books are much more of a beach read flavor than a philosophical discussion one.

Have you read any of Hiaasen’s books?  What do you think about them?

Amazon Considering Other Gadgets

Reports have been swirling around this past week that Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) is supposedly considering creating other gadgets to sell along with the Kindle and Kindle DX.  This would be one tough feat considering that Apple has the monopoly on music players with its iPod, and cell phone carriers make the most revenue from cell phone services.  Plus, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) have a good head start with the iPhone and Android smartphones.

Amazon might be able to compete more closely with the iPad if it creates a tablet like device with a color screen and better internet access.  However, by going to a LCD color display, the company would be abandoning it’s stance on providing a pleasurable reading experience that simulates the experience of reading a regular book.

A recent article from Bloomberg Business Week suggested that Amazon resell items that are already popular in it’s marketplace.  That would save the hassle of creating a new product, and they could still make a decent profit from it.

I think Amazon should focus on the Kindle Books by working with the publishers to make the digital quality better and the prices more affordable.  The Amazon Kindle app. is available on many different devices, including the iPad, and books can be transferred from one device to another.   The recent drop in price and Wi-Fi only model was a smart move on Amazon’s part because the newest Kindle is now sold out.   A cheaper Kindle means consumers can make up for the cost in buying more books.

Pat Conroy Kindle Books

After reading South of Broad by Pat Conroy on my Kindle last year, I was disappointed to find out that none of his other books besides My Losing Season were available on the device.  This circumstance recently changed however, with the release of The Prince of Tides for Kindle on August 10.  The Lords of Discipline, The Great Santini and The Water is Wide will follow on August 17, 24 and 31st respectively.

For those of you familiar with Conroy’s works, his books are for the most part set in Charleston, and have an uncanny ability to provide hilarity mixed in with some extremely deep and troubling circumstances.  He deals with murder, prejudice, rape, family issues and the power of friendship.  The Lords of Discipline is especially intense, set in a military academy, but even it manages to have comic relief.

South of Broad is Conroy’s first book in 14 years.  The reviews are all over the place.  Conroy manages to touch on all of the themes of his previous books, but some reviewers say that the book is jumbled and even a bit trashy.  I thought the humor in South of Broad covered up the troublesome issues a little more than his earlier books, and Leo, the main character, sure is a smooth talker.  The deeper issues in this book were tinged by comical moments so much so that I didn’t take them as seriously as I took the events in say, The Prince of Tides.

Leo, or Leopold Bloom King, is the narrator of the book and is stumbling is way through life following the death of his brother.  His dialogue with his overly religious mother cracks me up.  This book has a strong Catholic undertone and the plot runs from the 1960’s to the 1990’s.  The plot takes such unexpected twists and turns that it definitely keeps you on your toes.

Conroy has a new book called My Reading Life coming out in November that features anecdotes from his own reading experiences.  I am sure there will be plenty of humor.  Overall, I really enjoy Conroy’s books and his ability to add humor into such troublesome situations, but I can’t really decide which one is my favorite.  Has anyone read his books and have one they particularly like best?

Water for Elephants Kindle Edition

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is an excellent novel that chronicles the life of Jacob Jankowski and his experiences in the Benzini Circus, one that is second rate at best compared to the Ringling Bros.  Water for Elephants opens in the present day with a cranky old Jankowski living out his last days in the nursing home. The novel flashes back to the Depression era when Jankowski’s parents are killed in an automobile accident one week before he is supposed to take his final exams for vet school.   Left with nothing, he abandons his exams and randomly ends up on the circus train where he spends the majority of his adult life.

There are some heart wrenching moments in this book, and Gruen touches on heavy issues such as animal cruelty, human-animal bonds, the experiences of being a misfit and living life in a nursing home.  It was interesting to hear from the viewpoints of the people who have to live as a freak in the circus, or who go to a nursing home knowing that is where they will die.  Gruen has definitely done her research into the circus life and lingo.  This novel has a lot of depth to it that makes it much more than a simple beach read.

Gruen, also known for her earlier sequels, Riding Lessons and Flying Changes, has a new book called Ape House coming out September 7. Ape House features the communicative behaviors of bonobo apes.  It presents another human-animal bond that is present in all of Gruen’s books.  One of the critics says that this book does not fare very well compared to its predecessor, however, another critic says that it is a wonderful book.  So it is a matter of preference I suppose.   Water for Elephants will be a tough one to beat.  It was published in 2006 and still remains in the Kindle Top 100 list.

New, Free Kindle Games

Amazon recently introduced two new free games for the Kindle called “Every Word” and “Shuffle Row.”  “Every Word” is a speed game where you try to make as many words as you can in empty spaces on a board from a scrambled list of letters.

In “Shuffled Row,” you race to see how many words you can make from 60 letter tiles.  Both games are fun but maintain a literary element.  The best part?  Both of these games are free!  Hopefully, there will be more free or low priced games to choose from in the near future.  Unfortunately, these games are not available for the original Kindle.

The reviews are very positive.  Both games are a lot of fun and addictive.  Even the graphics got good reviews, contrary to the complaints about graphics on Kindle magazines.  As word games, they seem to enhance the core goals of what the Kindle is meant for, which is reading.  Both games are also good fillers for when you are in between books or not in the mood to tackle a whole book.

Has anyone tired these new games?  So far, Amazon is only emphasizing the literary aspect of the Kindle.  It will be interesting to see if Amazon continues to take that route, or whether they will add more games that are not literary in nature.



Eat, Pray, Love Kindle Edition

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert has remained a huge hit since its release in 2006.  Gilbert recently published a new book called Committed that didn’t quite meet the mega star standards of her first book.  Eat, Pray, Love is in the top 10 on the Kindle Bestseller list.

Eat, Pray, Love chronicles the events of the year following Gilbert’s sudden decision that she didn’t want to be married anymore.  She spends her time in Italy, India and Bali enjoying the culture while searching deep within herself.  I was amazed at how well she captured her experience with the yogis in the Ashram in India.  While reading, I felt like I was right there with her experiencing the same enlightened emotional response that she did during meditation.

Some reviewers argue that this book is self centered, annoying and obtuse because Elizabeth Gilbert focused on herself, and not the political issues in the countries that she visited.  The counter argument is that this is meant to be a book of self discovery and is meant to be taken with a  bit of humor while Gilbert fumbles her way along that path.

The reader gets a chance to learn about spirituality, life and relationships in a lighthearted, witty manner as opposed to a wise and more serious one.

Committed, Gilbert’s newest book about marriage, has a completely different tone than Eat, Pray, Love.  It discusses what marriage is and isn’t, and the implications of transitioning from an independent life to spending it with someone else.  Gilbert addresses marriage as an institution that has been through a lot of analyzing  and has evolved a great deal over the centuries.  How has this institution remained intact despite these changes?

Some reviewers thought Committed was too chatty, whereas others pointed out that the deeply personal insight into Gilbert’s life made them uncomfortable.  It is all a matter of preference and what you take from it.

Both books are geared towards women and their viewpoints on marriage, spirituality and relationships.  Each book has its unique strengths and weaknesses, and are not meant to be compared to as sequels to each other.

Kindle 3 Reviews By Online Media

Well, it’s been a week now since we got word of the new Kindle 3 release date and the details that go along with it.  Most regular consumers won’t have a chance to get one in their hands for a while yet, given the “On or before Sep 4th” updated release date and the fact that those who didn’t jump right in must now wait a bit longer, since Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) has already sold out their initial stock.  In the meantime, there are a few reviewers who have been given a chance to get to know their new Kindles a bit in advance and a huge number of people wishing they had as they examine every detail they can get while they wait.  What exactly is being said so far?

PCWorld’s Melissa J. Perenson gave us a good look at the new features.  The expected highlights are all there and duly noted as a greatly improved experience.  She liked how the darker border accentuated the screen, the more comfortable button layout, an improved keyboard, faster page turns, etc.  Things that might not have stood out to most potential users, but that seem to be a big deal in practice, are: the lighter weight of the new design(15% lighter than the Kindle 2, which was itself noticeably lighter than the competing nook device), the rubber backing which greatly increases the comfort of reading one-handed(assuming no case, of course), and the ability to change your preferred typeface.  This last might seem like no big deal to the majority of long-term Kindle owners, but it is a feature that most every other eReader, from LCDs to the nook, has had for a while now.  As far as this review goes, she found absolutely nothing worth listing as a significant downside.

ZDNet’s Larry Dignan also managed to get his hands on one and was kind enough to present some opinions.  One of the things that readers will be pleased to note is that the page turn speed is now, according to this description at least, a complete non-issue.  As he describes it: “Simply put, the Kindle turns pages faster than I can. It’s instant book gratification.”  In addition to this, the 50% higher contrast and the improved design of the physical interface were both deemed worthy of mention as major selling points.  A somewhat surprising note was the improved Webkit browser.  While the convenience of a Kindle‘s browser has occasionally been useful, I don’t think many people would consider it a vital feature for improvement.  Maybe Amazon will surprise some people here.  Dignan’s cited negatives as far as the new Kindle goes concentrate on the format(and really who doesn’t want Amazon to at least support third-party EPUBs at this point?), and lack of apps.  Since we’ve started to see some KDK projects in the form of games become available for public consumption already, it’s fairly safe to say that the latter point is becoming moot.  Is the lack of open format going to be enough to turn most people off of the device?  It seems rather doubtful.  Another reviewer with a very positive look at things.

CNET’s David Carnoy takes a bit of a more speculative view on the device, observing its potential for the future, as much as what it offers at the moment.  As usual, note is made of the improved screen, both in terms of contrast and refresh speed.  The brief note that Amazon has advised their customers that they can return their Kindle 2 purchases for the new model, assuming those purchases were made in the last 30 days, should be fairly useful for some.  He also, fortunately, provides us with some details that have not seen as much attention as perhaps they should.  First, the new Kindle software will, it appears, allow for the reading of password-protected PDF documents.  This will, of course, have an effect on a fairly narrow range of users at the moment, but it will also open up a number of new potential business applications.  Second, the new browser, in addition to being faster and easier to use, will have something called “Article Mode”.  This viewing mode will allow users to cut away everything but the text content on a page for ease of reading and to minimize the necessary page refreshes.  While Carnoy once again cites the arbitrary $99 price point as something Amazon has thus far achieved, this is the only negative he seems able to come up with at this point.

Try as I might, and I did, to find a counterpoint to all this unbridled positivity, nobody seems down on the new release for anything rational.  There’s a small crowd of people complaining that $139 isn’t $99, so Amazon is bad.  There’s also a similar contingent claiming that since it isn’t a color touchscreen tablet, the $500iPad renders it worthless.  Overall, however, this is clearly the most positive, most anticipated, and most affordable addition to the eReader market so far.

Nobody is going to claim that there is nowhere left for eReaders to go, but this is clearly a high point for consumers, with an accessible price point, strong hardware that does its job well, an incredible selection, and the whole Kindle platform as it spreads across nearly every computing device one is likely to get an urge to read on.  It will be worth checking back when the device starts hitting homes and people have more first-hand experiences to talk about, but nobody seems at all hesitant to be impressed.

In case you’ve missed out on our own Kindle 3 review, you can check it out before making up your mind.

First Kindle Apps Hit the Marketplace

Shuffled Row Kindle AppAmazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) has just released first two Kindle apps: Shuffled Row and Every Word, thus opening the era of Kindle applications. Both applications are currently completely free. Since they are written by Amazon Digital Services and seem to be mostly geared towards promoting the Kindle platform, they are likely to stay free for an indefinite period. I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point they will be bundled with every new Kindle device sold.

A while ago I guestimated that Kindle 3 launch would be a great opportunity for Amazon to release Kindle App store and take the KDK out of closed beta. This guestimate turned out to be correct.

Both applications are quite predictably word games. Games seem to be the most numerous and popular application type on mobile platforms. Word games in particular are very likely to appeal to reading crowd which is the core of Kindle user base.

The goal of Shuffled Row is to construct words from available letter tiles. Up to 9 letter tiles are available at any given time. New tiles appear pretty fast. Once the rack is full, oldest tile starts disappearing. This process is also pretty fast. Once you construct a word, tiles comprising this word are also gone from the rack. Using rare letters yields more points (Z is 10, V is 4, etc). So does constructing longer words (4 letter word gets 2x multiplier, 5 letter – 3x, etc up to x7 for 9 letter word). If you submit something that game doesn’t consider a valid word, the letters are gone from the rack and no points are awarded. If you finish the game with empty rack you get 10 point bonus. Overall I would say that the game is very exciting to play and it is surprisingly dynamic from an app running on hardware with eInk screen (I’m playing it on 1st generation Kindle DX right now). Amazon did a great job of designing game mechanics in such a way that only small portion of the screen is updated at any given time and even that with just 2 colors (which is the fastest way to update eInk screen). Because “Shuffled Row” is such e dynamic game, I wouldn’t call it a relaxing time-killer but rather a very engaging brain-twister. On the first attempt I’ve scored 321 which is not bad considering that English is my second language. Since 60 letters are shuffled differently every time, no two games are the same.

Every Word Kindle AppIn Every Word you need to uncover words on the board by constructing them from scrambled sets of letters. Unlike “shuffled row”, constructing the word doesn’t eliminate letters from the board. You can immediately reuse them to construct the next word. Game consists of 10 levels. You advance to the next level by uncovering the one of the longest words on the board. Quite often there is only one longest word on the board and each time that I’ve played it consisted of all of the available letters. Game has “relaxed” and “timed” mode. Relaxed mode doesn’t have a time limit. In timed mode you are given 3 minutes to complete each level. This not much at all. If you are stuck in “relaxed mode” you always have the option to forfeit the game and see the answers (which I do quite often). So depending on the mode the game can be either a brain-twister or relaxing time-killer.

Both games rely on vocabulary and therefore are quite large (around 1 megabyte of compressed data). Both games set a high standard for other Kindle games to come in terms of graphics, dynamics and usability on eInk display.

Both “shuffled row” and “every word” are a welcome addition to my Kindle library as they add useful time-wasting functionality to the device without taking away from it’s main function – reading. While Kindle will never be able to compete in gaming with devices such as Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad or Nintendo (PINK:NTDOY) DS, adding these games is similar adding a nice crossword puzzle to already interesting newspaper.

New Kindle for the UK!

UK Kindle

While the Kindle has long since become an international phenomenon with customers found all over the world, many people are surprised to find that there have been significant shortcomings to being a Kindle user outside of the US.  Sure, the books are digital property and take a lot less time to ship than if you decided to import a sofa, but delivery time isn’t everything.  Up until now, users in the UK have been forced to pay extra for all of their eBook purchases, simply for being outside the United States.

The launch of the Kindle Store UK is currently scheduled for August 27th, coinciding with the release of the new Kindle 3, though I’m told that Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) insists that it be called simply Kindle, and in preparation has begun selling the Kindle directly from the Amazon.uk site for the first time.  This should mean no more import fees or expensive overseas delivery charges, if all goes well, as well as an end to any obnoxious side effects and hassles from the necessity of converting currency into dollars.

Apps are already being updated to incorporate this new development, with Android already rolling out and iOS being expected in the near future, so there need be no thoughts that this is beneficial to just eReader owners.  As the platform localizes, UK readers can surely expect to see a larger selection(especially of native UK authors), better prices, and more attention to the region’s specific demands.  If all goes well, it doesn’t seem unreasonable in the slightest to expect to see further nationalization of the Kindle platform across the international community.  If anything, the fact that character support in the new Kindle software has been expanded would seem to hint that this is definitely on the books.  This is exactly the sort of move that Amazon needed to further ensure that their eBook application becomes the default for the industry in the long term.

Kindle 3 Cleared ADA Hurdle?

With the announce of the new and updated Kindle, Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) may have offhandedly and with little fanfare cleared away their largest hurdle to being considered a valid teaching tool.  Earlier this year, courts ruled that the use of Kindle devices in the classroom was discriminatory against students with disabilities since navigation of menus via the popular text-to-speech option was unavailable and therefore the device was effectively inaccessible to the visually impaired.  Today, if you look toward the very bottom of all the feature lists on the sales page, you can find a quietly inserted “Voice Guide” for menus that will lead users through navigation in exactly the way they were told was necessary.

So, can we expect to be seeing eBook-based curricula and eReaders on the student shopping lists in the near future?  It’s difficult to say for certain, but chances aren’t great in most places.  Given the new features, and especially the $139 pricing of the Kindle WiFi, it seems a more viable option than ever before for new students.  It will take years for it to truly establish a presence, however.  Doing analytical reading on such a device requires completely different notation habits than are currently espoused by most students and professors, so our most likely early adopters in the education scene are going to be incoming students without much in the way of established habits.  I think it’s going to happen, especially in the humanities, but it’ll take time and exposure, since there’s more to academic reading than simply turning the pages and enjoying yourself.

Fly Away Home Kindle Edition

Jennifer Weiner, the author of popular novels In Her Shoes and Good in Bed has a new book out called Fly Away Home that is currently #4 on the Kindle Top 100 list.

Fly Away Home is about a politician’s wife named Sylvie and her two daughters, Diana and Lizzie.  In the wake of scandal, mother and daughters have to look deep within themselves and figure out who they are and what they stand for.  In her usual fashion, Weiner manages to delve into serious issues while adding in some comical moments as well.

Reviews for the book were mixed.  Many said that this book was a delightful summer read, and fit Weiner’s style perfectly.  Others said it fell a bit flat.  An interesting point that one reader made was that Fly Away Home references to important political wives such as Elizabeth Edwards, Jenny Sanford and Silda Spitzer.  All of these women have faced difficult marriage situations in the public political arena.

Weiner’s debut novel, Good In Bed, was a huge success.  It is about a young woman named Candace “Cannie” Shapiro, a Philadelphia Examiner reporter who has weight issues.  This book deals a lot with self worth and body image, which are very applicable for women in today’s society.

Weiner is also known for her novel, In Her Shoes, which was made into a movie featuring Cameron Diaz.  This novel focuses on two sisters.  Rose is smart, successful lawyer but is quite dull in appearance. Maggie is beautiful, but isn’t too book smart.  This book touches on the power of family and the bond that sisters can share.  It also touches on jealousy and the strengths and weaknesses of the traits that each sister portrays.  Out of the three or four books I’ve read by Weiner, this one is my favorite.  I have yet to read Fly Away Home, but it is definitely on my list of books to read for the Kindle.

Weiner’s books are great summer reads, but they also manage to touch on important issues such as life, family, friendship, self worth and body image in a easy to read and often hilarious manner.