Steady advances in eBook
readers have helped encourage people to buy the readers and of
course, then to buy the eBooks too. The net outcome is
that Amazon now sells more eBooks than regular books.
Not only have eReaders become
more and more appealing in terms of the reading experience they
offer us, but they have also become more and more affordable.
The least expensive model Kindle now ($79) is barely one fifth
the price of the original Kindle ($399( when first released in
In addition to regular
eReaders, the new Fire Android based tablet eReader takes eBook
reading into a total new area of rich related capabilities.
Nowadays there is a style and
price of eBook reader for almost everyone.
The Complete Kindle Line-up
Amazon announced three new Kindle units plus its new Kindle Fire
unit on 28 September 2011.
It also continues to offer both the
Kindle DX (a large screened Kindle that has rather languished in
terms of Amazon's - and the market's - interest) and a couple of
versions of what is now termed the Kindle Keyboard (with or
without the 3G connectivity in addition to Wi-Fi).
If we ignore the Kindle DX and the Kindle Keyboard with 3G
(identical to the other Kindle Keyboard except for the addition of
the 3G data connectivity),
that leaves essentially five models to choose between.
We summarize the key
features of all five models and also add the iPad 2 and the Nook
Color alongside them for comparison purposes in this table.
||16 GB - 64 GB
||8 GB +
||8 hrs reading
7.5 hrs video
|30 hrs reading
||30 hrs reading
||15 hrs reading
||30 hrs reading
||10 hrs video
||8 hrs reading
||$149 or $189
||$99 or $139
||$79 or $109
||$99 or $139
||$499 - $829
Choosing the Best Kindle for Your Needs
So now you have so many choices, which is the best option? We consider
the various factors that might influence your decision in the rest of this page,
and then compare the Fire to the iPad and Nook Color in the next page.
In addition to price, you have four main factors to consider
the type of Kindle that you'll find best matched to your probable usage.
Let's look at all four issues.
Tablet/Color or Simple eReader/Black & White
The first consideration is whether you are simply seeking an eBook reader, or
whether you want a more multi-purpose gadget. Maybe you already have an
iPad, or maybe you're planning on getting some sort of tablet - perhaps you also
prefer a tablet with a bigger screen. In such a csae, a regular Kindle
would probably be sufficient.
If you already have any type of tablet, you can simply download Amazon's free
Kindle reader software onto it, and then you have a device which doubles
perfectly well as an eBook reader. There would be no reason at all to buy
a Fire if you already have a tablet device of some type. Well, there might
be one reason - the Fire has a good long battery life, allowing you 8 hours of
book reading or 7.5 hours of video playing; many of the other tablet devices
have much shorter battery lives which would be insufficient for, eg, using on a
long international flight.
If you don't already have a tablet, maybe you are attracted to the concept of
being able to spend only $199 to get a multi-purpose device which will act
as an eBook reader and also which has most tablet functions in it as well.
That is certainly an appealing factor, although on the other hand, it seems the
Fire will not have some of the higher end tablet capabilities (GPS or
accelerometers; the latter being mainly of use for game playing).
There is little need for color if all you are doing is reading novels.
There is no color in a novel, so no need for its equivalent electronic form.
But if you're wanting to read textbooks, illustrated non-fiction works, and
perhaps magazines too, you'll find the added value of color a valuable
enhancement to your reading experience.
There is a related issue about screen size. Again, for
reading a novel, screen size is not very important.
Although some people claim it to be impossible or uncomfortable
to read a book even on a small 3.5" phone screen, I've read a
large sized novel in a single sitting spanning many hours on my
iPhone 3G, simply to prove the feasibility of it.
But if you're reading anything that has some special layout
and design, or illustrations/diagrams/photos, screen size starts
to become more important. This becomes even more important
if you're wanting to read magazines or browse web pages.
The Fire has a larger and color screen with higher resolution
than the smaller, lower resolution, black and white screens on
But the fancy color screen on the Fire has an associated
cost. Shorter battery life. You can enjoy up to 30
hours of reading on a Kindle Touch, but only 8 hours of reading
on the Fire.
Interface - Touch, Keypad or Keyboard
The Fire and the two Kindle Touch devices have touch
sensitive screens that you use to control the device. The
lowest price Kindle has four buttons at the bottom, four more on
the sides, and a five way controller.
The older Kindle has a small physical keyboard at the bottom
as well as a set of buttons similar to the new $79 Kindle.
For the new Kindle, if you wish to type something into the unit,
you have to do a lengthy and laborious series of scrolling
through all the letters, one at a time. The two Touch
models and the Fire open up on-screen keyboards that you can
type into, allowing for a much better way of entering text when
On the other hand, you'll almost never need to enter text.
I don't enter text into my present Kindle more than once a year,
and probably less frequently; so don't consider the ability to
type easily as an important function unless you know you'll be
doing a lot of that.
Amazon has had an evolving approach to how to connect its Kindle devices to
the internet. Originally it released the Kindle with a Sprint-powered 3G
wireless data connection and no Wi-Fi connection. This only worked in the
US, and if you were in a no signal area, you had a very complicated process of
downloading content from Amazon's site to a computer, then transferring it from
the computer to the Kindle.
Subsequently Amazon replaced the US-only Sprint data
connection with a worldwide data service, powered by AT&T in the
US, and then augmented it with Wi-Fi connectivity, and
downgraded the 3G connection to an added cost option rather than
an essential feature.
All the different Kindles and Fire offer Wi-Fi connectivity.
3G connectivity is also available as an option on both the Touch
and the earlier model Kindle Keyboard.
We see no reason to choose a Kindle with 3G connectivity.
The only value of 3G would be if you are expecting to be
traveling extensively and not ever in a Wi-Fi hotspot, and even
then, you only 'need' the 3G connectivity if you are going to be
downloading additional content during your travels.
New Content Options
The Fire is a lot more than 'just' an eBook reader. It
adds many of the extra capabilities of a regular tablet
computer, including a good web browser, an integrated email
client, and the ability to not just read books, but to watch
movies, other video, and listen to music too.
If these extra capabilities are worth about $100 to you, then
the Fire would definitely be the better choice of device.
But if you don't want to suffer from 'creeping featuritis' and
just want an excellent book reading device with a wonderfully
long battery life, then a regular Kindle or Kindle Touch would
be your better choice.
Read more about the Kindle eBook Readers
This is the second of a three
part overview of Amazon's new Kindles and Fire.
Please also click forward or back
to parts one and three : 'The
Evolution and Context of the Fire and New Kindles'
and 'Fires & Kindles compared to
Nooks and iPads'.
Please also visit our subsequent
hands-on review of the Kindle
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28 Sep 2011, last update
21 Jul 2020
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