The Kindle eReader has long come with unrestricted 3G access on its more expensive models. This has been such an expected option that when Amazon stopped offering the feature on the newer Kindle 4 and Kindle Touch models it shocked many of us. Fortunately, for those who are still interested in the service, there is always still the Kindle Keyboard 3G. While they aren’t really being pushed as a current product any longer, Amazon still seems to have plenty of the older model with its unrestricted access available on their site.
The biggest problems with taking advantage of this feature for anything besides simply purchasing from Amazon have been tied to the shortcomings of the eReader itself. The Kindle Keyboard’s 5-Way directional controller is nice enough, but can be incredibly tedious to use. The web browser is extremely basic at best, and will almost certainly enough fail to load important pages or crash completely from time to time under regular use. Still, it is a free lifetime 3G connection that accomplishes the goal of keeping you connected to the Kindle Store no matter where you happen to be. It is hard to complain about that.
What was once just a convenience for people willing to spend some extra money on their initial Kindle purchase might now be a valid thing to keep around for emergencies, however. You see, somebody has finally worked out a way to make this free 3G coverage available to more generally useful devices via a tethering hack. While I won’t go into the details here (this is absolutely warranty-voiding and quite possibly illegal enough for action is abused), hacker Andrew D’Angelo has posted the complete method on his easily searchable personal web site. Using this method, you can now get your PC or laptop onto the internet via the Kindle Keyboard’s cellular connection.
I say that this is an emergency tool specifically because every bit of data sent through this connection runs through Amazon’s proxy servers. You are tagged with a unique ID number that can easily trace unusual activity back to your personal account. Since this is, as mentioned above, rather blatantly in violation of the Terms & Conditions for Kindle 3G use, chances are good that both the connection and the associated account will be shut down before too long at the very least.
This could be great to have around for those situations where a storm takes out the local communications, and I can think of some flooding a while back that I would have loved to have it available for, but it is not a tool for daily use. Still, it might be worth considering the 3G option on any new Kindle purchase now even if you have no interest in it as an aid to your eReader experience. $40 added to the purchase price for a cell connection with no monthly fee running through a device that only runs out of batteries once every month or two is great by itself, but being able to use that connection so fully when you really need to have that available is invaluable.
Having discovered an already functional jailbreak for the Kindle Touch recently thanks to independent developer Yifan Lu, I was also pleased to note that there is a way to get your older Kindle devices somewhat more up to date. It turns out that the hardware improvements in the Kindle 3 as compared to the Kindle 2 and Kindle DX, particularly the processors, were not significant enough to make it impossible to run the newer version.
To get this update installed, you will need a few things. The most important, and possibly the hardest to get in some cases, is a working Kindle 3 (Kindle Keyboard) that has been jailbroken. Assuming you have a spare Kindle 3 laying around, the same site linked in the instructions to follow contains detailed instructions on the jailbreaking process under the “Projects” tab. You will also need a minimum of 900mb free on your Kindle 2/Kindle DX and 720mb free on your Kindle 3. Naturally a USB transfer cable will be important as well.
Assuming you have all of these things, check out this page on Yifan Lu’s site. The included instructions are simple to follow and while it will probably take you anywhere from one to three hours to complete the entire process, there is little room for error if you follow the order of operations correctly.
There are several things that you must be aware of before starting in on this:
- Should you allow either of your Kindles to lose power while they are in use, it is likely to cause some major problems. Charge them before you begin.
- Once completed, you will have to repeat the process for any future firmware updates. The Kindle 2 or Kindle DX will not be able to automatically access the files released for the Kindle 3.
- While the hardware difference between these Kindles is not large enough to make the process inadvisable, as it would be if going from the Kindle 4 to the Kindle 3, there is a difference. You will experience slight lag as the downside of your improved functionality.
- Active content such as Kindle games will not work as a result of the update. The developer of this update process doesn’t know exactly why, nor does there seem to be any major fix for this. Be aware.
- Sound/Music playback on the newly updated device will be flawed. Since it will have been jailbroken it is possible to install an alternate music player to fix this, but it is an additional step for people who make much use of the eReader’s audio playback abilities.
- There have been some unconfirmed reports that extremely large PDF files have issues on devices updated in this fashion. This is likely the result of slightly inferior hardware and will probably not be an issue compared to the greatly improved PDF handling, but it is worth noting.
We can’t quite say why Amazon chose not to update these older Kindles, although it has been speculated that they were consciously abandoned to drum up business for the Kindle 3. Also possible is the idea that faster processing simply opens more doors to new features that couldn’t be productively implemented otherwise. Either way, at least now it is possible for owners of older Kindles to get the most out of their devices.
While the newer Kindle 4 and Kindle Touch are great, eReaders are made to last and there is no reason for a satisfied owner to throw away their perfectly good Kindle 2. With the Kindle DX it’s an even more obvious choice, since there is yet to be a hardware update to the larger form and it looks increasingly like there never will be. This update makes it even more desirable for those who need the 9.7″ screen.
The addition of advertisements to the Kindle line is what has allowed Amazon to drive prices down as low as they have on all eReader hardware in the US. It’s really the only reason that the eReader was finally pushed down to the $99 and beyond. While many people were initially upset about the idea of advertising intruding into their reading experience, something that has in recent decades proven fairly inefficient and therefore been disregarded, the way Amazon tackled the problem has left most people satisfied. No ads in the books themselves is the most important part, of course.
The most surprising thing, in a lot of ways, is how effective the Special Offers have been in providing genuine value for customers. Among other things, Kindle w/ Special Offers owners have had the chance to buy $20 gift cards for $10, $1 Kindle Edition eBooks, and more. Amazon has been their own best customer when it comes to these ads despite having some big name partners join in from time to time, and recently there have even been some great local deals springing up as a result of their attempts to take on Groupon. Naturally this has left some owners of older Kindles, as well as people who avoided the opportunity due to suspicion over the ads, feeling rather left out.
Recently an option was introduced to remove these ads from the Kindle by paying for the difference in initial purchase price. Definitely an appealing option since it effectively allows new buyers who are hesitant to accept the idea of ongoing advertisements buy into the device now and get the rest of the experience they want when it’s affordable. It doesn’t hurt that this makes it that much more appealing for new customers to give Amazon’s Special Offers scheme a chance to prove its worth.
The fun flip side is that they quietly introduced the option to turn Special Offers on for Kindle eReaders that either never had them in the first place or decided to buy out of them at some point. By going into the “Manage Your Kindle” section of the Amazon.com website, most of the work is already done. Find your eReader in the list (which may include no more than one Kindle depending on how invested you are in the line) and, under the “Special Offers” heading, choose the Edit option. Turning the ads on and off takes place almost instantly, requiring nothing more than that you turn your Kindle on and connect it to the internet.
I no longer have a Kindle 2 to test out this process with, but I think it is safe to assume that it would not work. The Kindle 3 (Kindle Keyboard) definitely works, and all newer devices should handle it without any trouble. If you haven’t had a chance before now to check out the options, it might be worth a try. Just today I’ve seen a couple tempting ones flipping my Kindle off and on. I especially recommend if you are in an area covered by the AmazonLocal deals. Amazon is clearly not pushing people into this, nor do they make it hard to change your mind. If there’s value to be found, why waste the opportunity?
One of the ways that Amazon has managed to bring down the price of their Kindle eReader to a point that nobody else has been able to match is through their Special Offers. This feature saves customers $30 – 40 on their new Kindle by displaying advertisements in place of the otherwise uncustomizable screen saver images that the device carries by default as well as on the bottom of menu screens. In doing so, Amazon makes enough off the ads, in theory, to offset the discount and maybe even get word out about useful offers they could be interested in.
One of the most notable initial offers was that of a $20 Amazon.com gift card for only $10. This was only available to active Kindle w/ Special Offers owners and got a fair amount of press at the time as a smart move on Amazon’s part. Other ads have included Buick, Olay, Visa, ABC, and more. There was, and for some still is, some question as to how effective this advertising method would prove to be in the end, but responses are coming in from Advertisers that put that to rest for the time being.
For example, while Buick was mainly concerned with building a connection in customers minds between their brand and what they viewed as an innovative new product (the Kindle), they have been reported as noting that their customer engagement matched what they’ve come to expect from other, more established media. ABC’s promotion also went well, with over 24,000 people taking advantage of their free script offer in support of new show “Revenge”.
In the past month, however, people in supported areas might note having seen a focus on the new Amazon Local service. This is meant, by all appearances, as Amazon’s own competition for the popular Groupon site. Nationwide offers in such areas have been somewhat scarce as a result. This has led some to jump to the conclusion that Amazon has been having trouble finding people interested in advertising via Kindle. One Amazon advertising VP, however, was able to come right out and say that there has yet to be a drop in the number of interested advertisers.
In spite of the fact that this appears to be a fairly narrow media venue to exploit, the Kindle has brought reading back to the front of peoples’ minds in a way that many wouldn’t have believed possible five years ago. Millions have been sold and, while Amazon does not and is unlikely to ever, release sales numbers for the Kindle, it is safe to say that several of those millions had the Special Offers included. These devices are cheap, allow for an unhindered reading experience wherein ads will never appear to disturb you, and can even come in handy when bringing deals to your attention. Personally, I was just glad to stop seeing the same dead author portraits over and over again. It seems clear that while there is expansion to be done and experience to be gained, this was a smart move on Amazon’s part.
While the new Kindles have been announced, right now all we have to choose from if we want to read something right this minute are the Kindle Keyboard (formerly the Kindle 3) and the Kindle (or Kindle 4 as we were calling it to differentiate). While neither one is a bad option at all, it wouldn’t have been worth announcing new versions of the Kindle if the old ones weren’t going to be exceeded in some ways. What makes this launch unique, however, is that rather than simply improving on just about everything, such as in the jump from second to third generation devices, here we have a variety of different feature sets to choose from, each with some merit. It seemed worth a look at the two we can get our hands on for comparison.
Superior Reading Experience: Kindle 4
As might be expected, the Kindle 4 definitely seems to offer the better reading experience. It is smaller, lighter, slightly faster, and somehow just more comfortable to hold. This is not to say that there is any problem with the Kindle Keyboard, but if all you care about is the feel as you flip from page to page, the Kindle 4 has an edge. This is especially noticeable in the reduced page refresh time, though even on the Kindle Keyboard it is fast enough to be a non-issue.
Book Browsing: Kindle Keyboard
Whether you’re talking about searching your library for a particular book you’ve been wanting to read or finding a passage in that book that you were hoping to share with some friends, it is simply easier to do on the Kindle Keyboard. Being limited to nothing more than a directional controller and an on-screen keyboard makes that sort of thing quite tedious on the Kindle 4. If you have a particularly large library then navigating without searching might take you quite a while. This is also, incidentally, the case when it comes to annotating your books as you read them. Obviously, anything involving text will be simpler when you can type, though highlighting is about the same. Of course this ease of use will likely be surpassed by the Kindle Touch, but that’s a whole other blog.
Shopping & Internet Browsing: Kindle Keyboard
This essentially comes back to the same point as before. While it is certainly possible to use the Kindle 4 to do all the things that the Kindle Keyboard can do, it is slower and more obnoxious. Unless you are prone to buying nothing but bestsellers, for example, you’re better off hopping on a computer to do your Kindle Store shopping rather than using the actual eReader. The Kindle Keyboard also offers optional 3G coverage with full internet connectivity for life (albeit in the rather limited experimental browser) where the Kindle 4 does not, which is worth taking into consideration.
Battery Life: Kindle Keyboard
Battery life is an important factor in some ways, but might be trivial here. If I were comparing the iPad and any Kindle device, it would be a major difference since the E INK screen allows for battery life measures in weeks rather than hours. When comparing the Kindle 4 and the Kindle Keyboard, however, it’s the difference between one month and two between charges. I don’t know about anybody else, but if I only have to charge once a month my biggest problem becomes remembering where I put the charger rather than getting the most possible life out of the battery. I only point it out because the Kindle Keyboard is supposed to last twice as long, making it slightly superior for heavy readers or long term travel.
Adaptability to User Preferences: Kindle 4
Not only is the Kindle 4 the smaller, lighter device, it is also available to a wider audience right out the door. By doing away with the English keyboard, Amazon gave themselves an opening to allow language changing in the device’s OS. If you like to enjoy non-English books for any reason, this can make a difference in avoiding jarring language switching while navigating. Also, perfect for non-English speakers. Sadly Amazon has not yet found a good way to allow customers to move from one country to another with their Kindles, which really removes some of the appeal for this feature. We can hope that this is on the horizon, though.
Price: Kindle 4
This one is probably a bit obvious, but the Kindle 4’s ad supported model is 20% cheaper than the Kindle Keyboard’s. While they are both incredibly affordable, it’s a factor that many people will want to take into account. Also, be aware that should you decide to remove the Special Offers feature from your device, it will be $10 cheaper to do so on the Kindle 4. You are required to pay the difference between ad supported and normal models when you make the switch, which in this case makes a bit of a difference.
When it comes right down to it, these devices are hard to compare feature for feature because they are essentially the same thing. The keyboard is nice if you’re the sort of person who uses it (once you get used to it), but most people won’t need it at all. Unless you have a good use for it, need to use your eReader via 3G due to lack of WiFi connectivity, travel enough (and lightly enough) to have trouble charging more than every 6 weeks or so, or just plain hate the new aluminum casing on the Kindle 4, there isn’t a compelling reason to prefer the Kindle Keyboard. That said, if you truly want a stand alone device for reading then the Kindle 4’s lack of ease in shopping might be a major problem for you. Trying to find the book you want using the directional controller to peck at an on screen keyboard is painful and will likely put you off entirely unless you know in advance exactly what book you want to purchase. There are definitely good cases to be made on both sides of the comparison.
With the knowledge that a new Kindle is on the horizon there are reasons that it might seem to be worth holding back on your new Nook purchase to see what is coming, but is it worth the wait? At present there are a lot of great products on the market and as tempting as it is to wait for the next big thing, there comes a point when holding off gets silly. With that in mind, is it worth the risk, however slight, of picking up what may soon be an inferior product?
The biggest thing to decide right off the bat is what you are looking for in your eReader. Right now, the Nook Simple Touch and Kindle 3 (no matter which type you choose) offer very similar experiences. The best E INK screens available, page refresh far faster than you could reliably turn pages in a paper book, light and comfortable to hold, literally months of battery life, and a direct connection into each’s respective amazingly comprehensive eBook store. Aside from a couple very small particulars, neither one is physically superior to the other.
If you have to choose right now, based on nothing but the hardware, then you’re essentially on even ground with these two. The Nook Simple Touch is newer, slightly faster, has a touchscreen display, and is a couple inches shorter. The Kindle has the option of 3G coverage, a physical keyboard, and external contacts that can power a book light should you be inclined to use such an accessory. None of these factor in much when it comes right down to reading a book under normal circumstances.
There is always the fact that the new Kindle is coming out soon and will certainly have upgrades that make it stand out, but what real point of superiority is going to put it over the top right now? Short of having a non-backlit color screen to make color eBooks a better choice, there isn’t much room to grow. The Kindle 3 is perfect for reading on, in that once you get started you can forget how you’re reading and just concentrate on the book. The new Nook does the same thing just as well. Chances are, the new Kindle will accomplish it again. As much as I’m looking forward to picking up the new model, and would recommend avoiding any Kindle purchases until it comes out since it is only a couple months away at this point, it does not factor into a Kindle vs Nook decision.
The most important thing in deciding is going to be who you want to do business with. As I pointed out recently, it is definitely possible to jump from one platform to another if you have the patience to deal with file conversion. Nobody really wants to bother with that, though. Since pricing and selection are pretty similar no matter where you buy your eBooks right now, there isn’t a compelling reason to go back and forth between them. It is likely that wherever you amass your first collection of eBooks is where you’re going to stay. If Barnes & Noble is the eReader provider for you, don’t let speculation about new Kindles scare you off. There might be some room for the Kindle to advance right now, but to think that it will be enough in the near future to completely knock competition out of the ballpark is a bit far fetched.
Even now, weeks after the initial release of the Amazon’s(NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle 3 began to arrive on peoples’ doorsteps, there is certainly no unanimous opinion on the quality of the release. It’s worth taking a closer look at what precisely is being said, in both the highly positive and highly negative reviews, to determine how much they are likely to effect you. As is my habit when shopping for new products on my own, I’ll start with the negatives. After all, it’s always nice to know the potential pitfalls in any device, no matter how unlikely!
Kindle 3 Negative Reviews
Beginning at the bottom and working our way up, there are clearly some trends. One-Star reviews on the Kindle page seem to center on just about three areas, assuming that we’re safe in skipping the complainers who write negative reviews for a product based on it taking too long to get to their house or the fact that they forgot to check to see how much international importation would cost in customs.
1. Defective Units
As with any product launch, we can expect some problems. The most vocal will always be those who were the most disappointed. In this case, it is definitely true that dozens of people received their Kindles in only semi-functional condition due to broken antennae, battery issues, and even broken screens. What seems to be universally true, however, is that reviewers who have taken the time to follow up have confirmed that Amazon gladly took the bad units back for either refunds or replacements after walking through a small number of steps to troubleshoot and confirm the problems.
2. Korean Font Issues
It seems that Amazon didn’t choose the best possible option in its default Korean font. It has been described as blocky, childish, hard on the eyes, difficult to read for any length of time, and just plain ugly. To the best of my knowledge, this complaint has gone unaddressed as of yet. It seems likely that it will take at least until the next software patch to get any work done here, so Korean users might be sadly out of luck for the moment as far as default Kindle software goes at the moment.
3. Software Shortcomings
I’ll be honest, most of this could well come under the category of defective units. There are a number of users, though by no means a majority, who have been experiencing issues with frequent locking and rebooting for no apparent reason. These are likely unit failures, given how many reviewers have been offered exchanges, but it’s a pattern to be aware of just in case. Also, many seem to feel that the PDF support remains insufficient. Long load times of image-heavy and/or large files have been reported, as well as unwieldy navigation of zoomed documents. My personal experience does not bear this out, but different people have different expectations or even perhaps still more malfunctioning units given that many of these reviewers simultaneously complain of frequent reboots being required.
Kindle 3 Positive Reviews
In spite of these issues, there is no shortage of praise to be found. Even without filtering out the many people who have marked down the product for simply not shipping fast enough, the Kindle‘s favorable(4-5 Star) reviews stand at just short of four times the number of all the rest put together as of my writing this. We’ve already touched on some of these here on the site in our earlier “Kindle 3 Positive Reviews Summary“, but there are a few things to add that really bring it home for a lot of people.
1. Advertised Features
Yeah, I know, they were right on the packaging. What did we expect? The fact is, however, that many people have been taken aback by how much better things like the new screens and WebKit experimental browser are than were originally expected. I won’t go into this, there are enough ads floating around to find out many details and we’ve certainly talked about new features here enough so far, but these reviews bear out the idea that exaggeration was not a problem on the new Kindle.
2. Setting a New Standard
For many eBook enthusiasts, especially among the early adopter crowd, the Sony PRS-505 set the standard for eReaders until this time. In terms of weight, durability, screen quality, software, etc, it was simply the best to be had. Ignore later Sony models, seriously. According to many reviews, including at least one very well written direct comparison, the only remaining point of shortcoming for the Kindle is the lack of ePub compatibility. These sorts of comparisons are amazingly valuable for both eBook fanatics and newcomers since they tend to pare down the block of seemingly new and amazing features to what is really going to end up being important over the course of years of use. If a functional Kindle is now noticeably better than the device that has long been the fallback for users “in the know”, it’s impressive.
3. The Feel
Now that it’s shrunk down, in terms of size and weight, the Kindle is even more like your average paperback in terms of size and experience. People are noticing. If you’ve been on the fence because you’d miss the feel of your favorite book too much, it might finally be time to give it a try. No more wrist strain, page turn delay that is far less than turning an actual page would be, and a screen that is no longer significantly distinguishable from a paper book in terms of contrast? Little room for complaint.
Honestly, I’ll leave that to you. It is definitely possible to say that this is the best time yet to be buying an eBook reader. Is the new Kindle sufficiently great to be worth upgrading from the previous generation or your Nook? Dunno. Is it good enough for a first eReader? I’d say it’s an obvious yes, but I’m writing a blog about eReaders so there’s an implied partiality in what I have to say anyway. Click a link, check the reviews for yourself, maybe ask a few questions if you need to. I think most people will be pleased.
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
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
Kindle 3 Ergonomics:
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
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
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.
||10.72 : 1
||6.05 : 1
||5.15 : 1
||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
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
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:
||Number of words
|Font size #1
|Font size #2
|Font size #3
|Font size #4
|Font size #5
|Font size #6
|Font size #7
|Font size #8
|Sans Serif typeface
|Small line spacing
|Medium line spacing
|Large line spacing
|Fewest words per line
|Fewer words per line
|Default words per line
|Most words per page
|Least words per page
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
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, Love” here.
Kindle 3 Web Browser:
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.
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 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
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
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.
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.
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.
Kindle 3 White And Graphite
Update: Since Kindle 3 is released and I got some hands on experience with it, you should check out this Kindle 3 Review and this follow up post for more up to date information.
Since the original Kindle 3 release announcement I had some to carefully examine all of the news and press releases and compile this comprehensive Kindle 3 Review.
Although Kindle 3 rumors have been circulating for some time, Fall 2010 was the widely anticipated release date. Rumors intensified when Kindle 2 became sold out on Amazon.com one day prior to the official announcement that came on July 28th, 2010.
In a nutshell Kindle 3 (although Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) never used this name) comes with following features:
Kindle 3 Screen
3rd generation Kindle comes with the same next generation eInk Pearl screen that is found in recently released Kindle DX Graphite but in 6″ form factor. The screen features the same 600×800 resolution with 16 shades of gray. Partially due to new screen technology and partially due to a software update, new Kindle will feature 20% faster page turns than the 2nd generation Kindle.
Kindle 3 Fonts
On top of some software improvements that made the default font look crisper, Amazon has introduced 2 additional font options: condensed Caecilia and Sans Serif. But what is more important, finally Kindle will natively support a broader range of characters:
- Cyrillic used in Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Tajik and dozens of other languages
- Traditional and simplified Chinese
This means that I can finally stop updating Kindle Unicode Font Hack that with time and numerous Kindle software and hardware update has become a conundrum of patches, jailbreaks and uninstallers. It also means that I would be able to republish Kindle Russian Dictionary using native Cyrillic characters rather than transliteration. Since it will not be the only book published with non-Latin characters, the updated font will inevitable make their way to all other Kindle versions.
Kindle 3 Size and Weight
Kindle 3 comes 21% smaller and 17% lighter than Kindle 2. You can select multiple eReaders (by holding the Ctrl key and clicking) from the list below to see how they compare by size.
As you can see, Kindle 3 is smaller than Kindle 2 but slightly larger than nook or Sony PRS-600. Both of these readers however lack keyboard that allows them to be more compact. PRS-300 is smaller still but it has a smaller 5″ reading area too so it wouldn’t really be a fair comparison.
This reduction in size didn’t come free though. Paging buttons are much smaller than they used to be and numerical keyboard row is merged with the top letter row the same way as it is on Kindle DX.
Kindle 3 Storage and Connectivity
Starting from 2nd generation Kindle Amazon has eliminated external memory card storage in their eReaders. Kindle 3 is no exception. Internal flash memory size has doubled compared to Kindle 2. Now entire line-up of Kindle readers features 4GB of internal flash memory for storing books. Not that it really matters: even without global 3G connectivity 2 gigabytes of text will take a very-very long while for anyone to read even with 20% faster page turns. 3G connectivity pretty much eliminates the need for large internal storage altogether barring the scenario of solo around the world sailboat trip.
So far WiFi has been a feature exclusive to Barnes&Noble nook until now. New Kindle will automatically take advantage of 3G WiFi hotspots if they are found nearby. This would provide faster download speeds, ability to download books in places without AT&T coverage and save Amazon money. Amazon used to pay $0.15 per megabyte downloaded to Sprint (and probably still pays similar amount to AT&T). I’m almost positive that it would be possible to configure Kindle to connect to any other wireless network – open or encrypted (provided you know the credentials).
There is a Wi-Fi only version. It is $50 cheaper and 0.2oz lighter. Personally I would prefer to pay $50 upfront for the convenience of being able to download books almost anywhere hassle free and automatically getting my periodicals without having to manually power-manage the WiFi or worrying about finding a hotspot. It should be possible to use Kindle WiFi together with Android phone (like Sprint EVO 4G) or any other device that acts as a mobile hotspot. Any way you look at it – WiFi is a welcome and long awaited addition to Kindle feature set.
Kindle 3 Battery Life
It looks like Amazon has pushed the battery life even further. Previous versions of Kindle used to work 7 days with 3G on and “several weeks” with 3G off. In my personal experience “several weeks” was 1 month. Now Amazon officially states 1 month of battery life with wireless off. So perhaps it would be even longer in reality.
Kindle 3 Browser
It was nice to be able to browser Wikipedia via 3G connection for free, but apart from that and running the Amazon Kindle Book store Kindle 2 experimental browser was hardly useful. The newest Kindle comes with new Webkit-based browser that hopefully would be more responsive and usable on websites with complex layouts. I own and actively use B&N nook and I can honestly say that nook browser is excellent. That being said I hardly ever use either Kindle or nook browser. 4″ smartphone screen offers much better browsing experience than 6″ eInk. eBook reader were built for linear reading and in this eInk excels. Web-browsing is a very random non-linear process. In all likelihood 4″ screen despite it’s small size is going to contain less text than you are going to read before navigating to next page via some link.
Another novel feature – is ‘browser article mode’. Kindle browser will use some experimental heuristics to eliminate everything but the main page text, distilling the web-page into something similar to newspaper article.
Kindle 3 File Formats
With new release the list of supported formats didn’t change. AZW, TXT, PDF, PRC, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP are natively supported. DOC, DOCX, RTF and HTML are supported via online conversion tool. This list may not be final since new formats (hopefully someday EPUB too) can be added via software update as was the case with PDF support on Kindle 2.
Kindle 3 PDF Support
The latest Kindle offers the same level of PDF support as Kindle DX Graphite. You can pan and zoom PDF files, annotate them and do dictionary lookups.
Other Kindle 3 Features
On top of all this Kindle 3 gets voice-accessible menus and microphone. Voice accessible menus (Kindle will read aloud all menu items) along with text-to-speech should take make Kindle a fully accessible device that can be used in a classroom.
As for the microphone. It is there but it is not mentioned in official specification. Therefore it’s reserved for a future use. Most likely it will enable adding voice notes or recording classroom sessions. Some reviewers have speculated on voice-activated page turns and hands-free reading but I personally find such scenarios unlikely.
Social features like Facebook and Twitter integration and sharing favorite passages have carried over from previous Kindle versions. Personally I find “favorite passages” to be the most useful feature. It really adds to the book reading experience and is not intrusive. I have to confess that I selfishly use this feature while not highlighting any passages myself.
Should you buy Kindle 3? If you love reading – Hell, yeah! It’s shaping up to be the best eReader as far a features to price ratio is concerned. Amazon has been developing eBook Readers for years now and each product they release is better that the ones before (which were good to begin with). Personally I already pre-ordered mine so you are sure to see a hands on review soon after I receive it.