Amazon Kindle review

£399
Price when reviewed

After years of attempts by myriad different companies, Amazon may finally have cracked the eBook market with the release of its much-hyped new Kindle eBook reader in the US. It’s compact, easy to use, the text quality is excellent and, crucially, there are more than 90,000 eBooks to choose from already, including many that are actually worth reading.

Amazon Kindle review

Once it’s out of the box, the most noticeable aspect of the Kindle is that it’s nowhere near as ugly as it looks in many of the photographs doing the rounds online. It’s unlikely to win any design awards based on its aesthetics, but neither is it anything like as bad as some have claimed. But it’s clearly been designed with usability in mind, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has himself claimed that one of the key design points is to allow the reader to forget they’re using the device at all, becoming immersed in the book itself.

The Kindle’s 6in display uses a technology known as E Ink, which produces extremely high-quality text on a slightly greyish background. It’s reflective, rather than transmissive, so it’s readable even in bright sunlight. Despite the fact that it’s only capable of showing four shades of grey, it makes a decent fist of showing basic graphics. When it comes to reading, much has been made of the fact that changing pages produces a half-second “flash”, where the image is inverted to white-on-black before the next page displays. In fact, we found that we quickly became used to this and, within a few pages of a suitable compelling text, we found that we stopped consciously noticing it at all.

There’s a Previous Page and Next Page button on each side of the Kindle, so you can use it in either hand. We do feel that the Previous Page button on the left side could have been made smaller, to reduce the likelihood of hitting it inadvertently, but it otherwise works well. The supplied leather cover is designed to bend all the way back behind the Kindle when it’s in use, and the overall experience is very much like holding a real book. Alternatively, you can remove the cover altogether, although we found that the Next and Previous Page buttons were much easier to hit by mistake when we did.

There are already other eBook readers, such as the Sony Reader and iRex’s iLiad (web ID: 125302), but what makes the Kindle stand out is the fact that it includes a cellular wireless connection, allowing you to access the Amazon Kindle store from anywhere, not just from places with a Wi-Fi access point. There’s no charge for this wireless connectivity, since Amazon pays for it under a deal with Sprint in the US. Newly purchased books download in less than a minute, and most are priced at $9.99 or below – far less than the equivalent hardback version and often less than the paperback. Amazon had more than 90,000 books available at launch, along with subscriptions to a few newspapers and several blogs, although we’re not sure how many people will be willing to pay for blog content they can read on their computer for free.

But it’s the fact that you can buy and download books without connecting the Kindle to a PC that makes this device so appealing. You really can buy a book on the spur of the moment – indeed, it’s so easy we’re starting to become worried about the credit card bill at the end of the month. If you do connect the Kindle to your PC or Mac via the included USB cable, it appears as a simple USB storage device, and you can transfer files to and from it, which will then be readable on the device.

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