The latest generation of the Kindle—not the Kindle Fire, not the Kindle Touch, just the plain old Kindle—finally has the attributes I've been waiting for in an ebook reader:
It has a big(ish) high-res(ish) screen, it's thin and light and inexpensive, and it fits into my pocket.
So I bought one.
On the plus side, it has all of the above attributes. The screen is gorgeous. I can hold the device comfortably in one hand, but the screen is much bigger than my iPhone screen. And of course I can read all of my Kindle books on it.
Unfortunately, it has some less-positive attributes as well. For example:
- Every page turn starts with a sort of scrambling of the page's pixels that's really annoying. (Or, I guess another way to say this is that E Ink is still very slow to change the page contents.) This alone may make the device unusable for me; I don't want to be annoyed every time I turn a page while reading a book. But I may get used to it.
- It has ads. There are fairly unobtrusive banner ads across the bottom of the home screen, and there are full-screen ads that appear when the Kindle sits idle. It took me quite a while to figure out how to dismiss the latter; turns out you press the Power button, 'cause none of the other buttons work while the full-screen ads are showing. It turns out you can disable the ads by paying an extra $30; if I keep the device, I'll definitely do this, 'cause the ads are really annoying. I'm not sure whether I would've bought this model if I'd really understood the ads thing.
- It doesn't have a touchscreen. I could have paid $20 more and gotten a Kindle Touch, but (a) it's slightly bigger, so I wasn't sure it would quite fit in my pocket, and (b) I tried the demo model in the store and found it extremely slow to respond to touches, which was really frustrating. (And I couldn't figure out how to get to the home screen on the Touch.)
- The contrast isn't high enough, even when there's plenty of light; it's dark-gray text on a light-gray background. The screen is lovely, but I'm partly color-blind, which tends to manifest as my having difficulty when there isn't much foreground/background contrast. So far, I'm finding the text fairly readable when well-lit, but not as much so as I had hoped.
- General slowness. It's not as slow to respond to input as the Touch seemed to be, but it's pretty slow.
- Size. It's great that it fits in my pocket, but my ideal ebook reader would be just a little bit smaller. This is 6.5" x 4.5" x 0.34"; reduce it to, say, 6" x 4" x 0.2" (or even a little smaller) and it would be just about perfect for me. Funny—I've been saying for ages that I wanted an ebook reader to be the same width and height as an American mass-market paperback book, and this one almost is (slightly wider and shorter), but it still feels slightly unwieldy. And paperbacks are always an awkward fit in my pockets.
Anyway, I'm not sure whether I'll keep it or give it away. It's definitely pretty cool in some ways, but I'm not sure it's what I want.
My ebook reading up ’til now has been on my iPhone and my iPad. The iPad is a great reading experience (especially in iBooks), but it doesn't fit in my pocket. The iPhone is very portable (I take it with me pretty much everywhere), and I love the super-high-res Retina display; but the screen is physically smaller than would be ideal for ebook reading. If the rumored 4"- or 4.5"-diagonal iPhones do come to pass, that may be enough to assuage my desire for a better ebook reader. And the rumored 7"-diagonal iPad might be perfect, if it doesn't have a big bezel. But for now, I'll carry the Kindle around for a while and see how I like it.