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On e-Reader Tech News we track down the latest e-Reader 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 e-reader tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest devices and accessories.

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Kindle 3G vs WiFi Only Review

Let’s assume for a moment that you’re not a Kindle owner.  Moreover, let’s assume that you want to be one!  Have I got your attention?  Chances are you’re in the right place for making the next important purchase decision, then.  You know you want an eReader, clearly the selection of books, pleasant form factor, or some other neat aspect of the Kindle in particular stands out for you, but which Kindle is right?  Sometimes it’s worth the extra money to spring for the 3G model, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everybody.  Let’s break down the relative merits a bit.

Kindle WiFi:

This is obviously the more affordable option at just $139.  Choosing this one gives you the full feature set as far as reading goes, of course.  It also has the same browsing capabilities as the 3G model, as well as an infinitesimally decreased weight, and an improved battery life while connected wirelessly (verified by the the author or this blog personally).  Basically, besides connectivity, you lose absolutely nothing in grabbing the cheaper model.

The most important concern, obviously, is the restricted mobile options that it presents.  To get the best possible use out of your browsing, to say nothing of the best possible option for getting books onto your Kindle and browsing the store in general, you’ll need regular access to a wireless network.  While there are always exceptions to the rule, it is pretty safe to assume that your home network will be fine. Where you can run into problems will be hotels, airports, and all the usual WiFi hotspots that you might expect to be easily accessible in day to day life.  I’m not going to make the claim that you’ll never be able to connect in these places, but I’ve run into problems in the past and as such I can’t tell you that they’ll be 100% for you either.  If you read at home for the most part, or plan to do your shopping at home and otherwise not bother with the internet connectivity, then you’re all good.

Kindle 3G:

If, on the other hand, you think you’d like to be a bit more flexible with your internet usage, you will likely find the extra $50 a very worthwhile investment. The 3G connection is a permanent feature, not a monthly fee, so you’ll be ok in pretty much any situation where a cell phone would work.  If you happen to be in a bind and can’t get cell reception, as I know happens in a few places locally, you will still be able to connect to WiFi.  In fact, being able to connect to such a local network will increase your connection speed, reliability, and just general quality of experience.  When you need to be able to get some info, or that book on the go, the 3G comes in very, very handy.

90% of the time, nobody is going to feel the lack of 3G on the WiFi model, but if you travel a lot then there’s not much more valuable than having the whole Amazon library at your disposal to make those train trips or long flights bearable.  Something to keep in mind as holiday travel comes upon us!

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.

More Plastic Logic News

logo_plastic_logicPlastic Logic has revealed that their device will use AT&T’s 3G network to download  content.  This move places the Plastic Logic Reader in even more direct competition with the Kindle, which uses Sprint’s 3G network instead.

If the battle between Barnes & Noble’s store and Amazon’s comes down to the eReaders themselves, this is a significant step in Plastic Logic catching up.  They’ve even one up’ed Amazon by adding WiFi to the device (although WiFi might not be too far off for the Kindle).

The catch is that no details have been revealed as to what kind of pricing plan will be in place to use the network.  Unlike Whispernet, which is free excluding the upfront device costs, Plastic Logic could decide to go in a different direction.  Whispernet doesn’t cost anything because Amazon pays every time you download something.  If Plastic Logic didn’t want to make that kind of commitment, they could defer payments to the customer.

Either way, the plot has thickened with Barnes and Noble and Plastic Logic.  It seems like the best way to compete with Amazon is to find a way to copy their model.

Kindle DX to have WiFi in the future?

Kindle DX WiFi

Kindle DX WiFi

Kindle DX was taken apart by RapidRepair.com recently. Kindle Zen took a closer look at these photos and suggested that Kindle DX’s PCB is wired for WiFi chipset and antennae. It’s quite possible that Amazon would sell WiFi Kindles in countries where it will not be able to reach an agreement with wireless operators. In the past Jesse Vincent speculated about possibility of 9.7″ Kindle based on Kindle source code and was right.

I wouldn’t hold my breath any time soon about WiFi in US version of Kindle because that would be a completely new device and Amazon has already released two during last three months. This caused some anger among Kindle 2 users who felt that their devices almost immediately became outdated when Kindle DX was released.

Fujistu FLEPia features color eInk

Fujitsu has launched FLEPia – “color e-paper mobile terminal”. It features:

fujitsu-flepia

  • 8″ 1024×768 e-Ink resistive touchscreen that can display either 260,000, 4,096 or 64 colors. Depending on the number of colors page update time ranges from 1.8 to 8 seconds.
  • 158 x 240 x 12 mm size and 350g weight. This makes it larger and heavier compared to Amazon Kindle 2 (135 x 203 x 9 mm and 289g). I would imagine that version with 12″ screen would be even heavier.
  • SD slot that can accommodate up to 4GB of flash memory
  • Connectivity is represented by 802.11b/g wireless, Bluetooth 2.0 and USB
  • It runs Microsoft Windows CE5.0 on XScale RISC CPU
  • Battery life is 40 hours or 2,400 page turns which is impressive for a device with these capabilities.
  • eBook formats supported are: BunkoViewer XMDF and T-Time .book. Both are eBook formats widely used on mobile phones in Japan. Since device runs a generic Windows CE5.0 OS I can speculate that it would be possible to broaden format selection by installing additional applications
  • Price tag is ¥100,000 ($940)

While I didn’t have the opportunity to play around with this device I’ll speculate a little bit…

Although some news sites might call this device a “Kindle Killer”, it’s obviously not that. First of all it’s geared heavily towards Japanese market and Japanese users. Secondly, it is not hooked to Kindle Book Store which is crucial to Kindle‘s success. My personal belief is that Kindle would have been successful even without eInk technology though maybe slightly less. And thirdly even 8″ version costs around $1,000 which is to high for “eBook reader for the masses”

It is good to see this device comercially released though because it would allow for further development of color eInk technology and eventually prices will come down and we’ll see more devices featuring it…