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The growing prominence of eBooks has caused a growth of choices as to how you can read the eBooks.

With four new models released to today, Amazon has the broadest range of eReaders of any company.

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New Amazon Fire and Kindle Preview 2

The four different models compared and contrasted

Amazon Kindle Fire

Compare the Amazon Fire with the original Kindle (pictured here).

Clearly Amazon and its eReaders has come a long way in four years.

Part two of a three part introduction to the new Kindles and Fire.  See also 'The Evolution and Context of the Fire and New Kindles' and 'Fires & Kindles compared to Nooks and iPads'.

Please also view our subsequent hands-on review of the Kindle Fire.



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 November 2007.

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.

  Fire Touch 3G Touch Kindle Kindle kbd iPad 2 Nook Color
Screen 7" color 6" eInk 6" eInk 6" eInk 6" eInk 9.7" color 7" color
Res 1024x600
169 ppi
167 ppi
167 ppi
167 ppi
167 ppi
132 ppi
169 ppi
OS Android na na na na iOS Android
3G N Y N N N Opt N
Wi-Fi Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
Memory 8 GB 4 GB 4 GB 2 GB 2 GB 16 GB - 64 GB 8 GB + microSD
Battery 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
Weight 14.6 oz 7.8 oz 7.5 oz 6.0 oz 8.5 oz 21.2 oz 15.8 oz
Price $199 $149 or $189 $99 or $139 $79 or $109 $99 or $139 $499 - $829 $249
Avail 15 Nov 21 Nov 21 Nov now now now now

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 when choosing 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 the Kindles.

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 necessary.

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 Prime.


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Originally published 28 Sep 2011, last update 30 May 2021

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.


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