Yes, I’m reviewing something here that’s two years old. Why? Mostly because I’m a putz. But that’s not important now. I happened to be wandering around in Target not long ago, and noticed that they were literally BLOWING out their Kindle inventory, price-wise. Since I don’t have ENOUGH gadgets, I picked up one of the Kindles. This unit advertised free 3G, and the price was CHEAP, so I figured why not - I needed a hacking project anyhow. So I picked it up… And I’m pleasantly surprised. Why? Read on….
Much like the Barnes and Noble Nook, the Kindle Keyboard is an e-ink device. If you’ve never used one before, they take a little getting used to. The screen isn’t lit from behind like a tablet or laptop, rather, it’s actually microparticles of an ink like substance that respond to electrical charges. Unlike a laptop or tablet, an e-ink screen uses zero power while displaying an image, and doesn’t have “pixels” in the traditional sense. However, they are currently limited to black and white, and have an abysmally slow refresh rate. These qualities are exactly what make them perfect for an e-reader, however.
Unlike the 1st Generation Nook 3G, though, the Amazon Kindle with 3G has an “experimental” web browser in it, and Amazon allows you to access the web via 3G, and not just limit the use of the 3G to buying books in their online store. Oh, yeah, as an added bonus, the Kindle’s 3G is “worldwide”. You could have one of these puppies with you on a trip to Zimbabwe and you’d be able to surf the net from the bush (in stunning slow black and white, but you could do it.) That’s where the “real” keyboard on this little guy comes in really handy. Most web services like Gmail, Twitter, and Facebook work adequately on the Kindle (again, they are NOT fast - do not assume a desktop experience here) - so you could definitely use the Kindle as a device to stay in touch with the outside world in a pinch, while also having a great e-reader to read on. Be careful, though - as Amazon’s been limiting some users in non-US cellular areas to 50MB/month of free 3G.
The Kindle is also very hack-friendly. Since it runs Linux, it’s not terribly hard to make it dance to a slightly different tune. There’s a great user community over at the Mobileread Forums in the Kindle Developer’s Corner. Check it out if you don’t mind lifting the hood on your Kindle to see what makes it tick. I’ve got a couple of favorite tweaks… one of them allows me to swap out the Amazon-provide screensaver images for ones that I like, and the other is a Frotz Interpreter to play Infocom Z-Machine Interactive Fiction games on. Up for a round of Zork, anyone?
The other thing I want to talk about is Amazon Prime. When I first heard of it, I thought “$79 a year for free 2-day shipping? Nice, but I don’t use Amazon enough.” However, I got a free one-month trial with this Kindle, so I figured I’d give it a go. Come to find out, there’s other perks you get besides the free shipping – like free streaming video via Amazon Instant Video, and special pricing from time to time on various goods. My favorite perk right now is the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. In a nutshell, you can “check out” a couple of books a month for free, directly on your Kindle, if you’re an Amazon Prime member and a Kindle owner. If you figure the average Kindle book runs about $7, you’re talking a $168 value over the year. Not bad for your $79, if you’re a voracious reader, and you’re not even taking advantage of the free two day shipping deal. Speaking of that, now that I AM a Prime member, I’m finding myself getting more and more things via Amazon. I can wait two days for most of my junk. :)
In closing, if you’ve been on the fence about getting an e-reader, specifically a Kindle, go for it. They’re nice units, and the Kindle Keyboard is worth its $139 list price. If you can find it cheaper, POUNCE on it, it’s a helluva deal.
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Disclaimer: I’m an Amazon affiliate - but only became one after I got the Kindle. I’m that satisfied. :)