GADGET REVIEW:Kindle Touch

Robert Bee
Robert Bee's picture

Even though I love gadgets, I’ve never bought a Kindle. I came close on several occasions, but I’ve restrained myself partly because I don’t like Amazon’s proprietary Mobi format. If Amazon went out of business, then all the books you’ve purchased under their ecosystem might become unusable. I believe all ereaders should use an open standard format (currently ePub) so that the books are more portable from device to device. Amazon is also likely to become less flexible in the future, not more so, because they’re selling their readers at a loss, and need to make money selling books, magazines, and other products over their ecosystem.

I finally asked for a Kindle touch for Christmas because I wanted a dedicated reading device. I have an iPad, which I love, but I primarily use the iPad for RSS feeds, surfing the Internet, and gaming. I’ve read three or four books on it, but the iPad has a lot of distractions built in. I’m hoping that the Kindle will be a dedicated reading device that will allow me to get more reading done.

I still have reservations about Amazon’s proprietary format, but if you buy books from Barnes and Noble or Apple they put DRM on their ePub books also. The Nook does give you the option of putting ePub books without DRM on the device, which does actually give you a bit more flexibility, but most sources that offer free books, such as Gutenberg, also offer them in Mobi format. Amazon has the largest selection of books available, which is a good feature for a voracious reader like myself. Amazon’s extensive ecosystem and the general quality of the hardware were the principal reasons I wanted a Kindle. Also, I think Amazon will be around for a long time, probably longer than Barnes and Noble, so buying into Amazon’s ecosystem is more secure. With that said and done, DRM and proprietary formats should not even be an issue. If I buy a paper book, it doesn’t matter if the bookstore goes out of business. My paper book can be read and reread or loaned to a friend, etc. The fact that proprietary restrictions are placed on ebooks grates on my nerves. Fortunately, you can load free ebooks on the Kindle, and there are a lot of them available.

The first thing that impresses me about the Kindle is its screen, which is absolutely gorgeous. The text is so crisp that I’m actually shocked; it’s almost as good as reading a paper book.

One reservation I’ve always had about the iPad is that for a long reading session you need a case to prop it up. The Kindle Touch – which weighs about the same as a paperback -- is light enough that it can be held in one hand.

Battery life is not an issue; the battery will hold a charge 2 weeks to a month. The Touch doesn’t have many buttons, just a home button that is a series of ridges, and a power lock / unlock button on the bottom right. The screen is recessed a bit because of the touch technology.

On one occasion my Kindle stopped responding, and I had to reset it, but after resetting, it worked fine.

I prefer the touchscreen to the keyboard Kindle because I enjoy paging through books by swiping or touching the edge of the screen. You can also swipe through pages. Although there have been complaints online about the touchscreen being sluggish, I’ve never had a problem with it, and would describe the performance of the touchscreen as flawless. Even the onscreen keyboard is usable, and good for notes, although you wouldn’t type a novel on it. The keyboard does not have autocorrect, which makes it a bit harder to use since you will make mistakes typing on the small touchscreen.

Amazon has Whispersync, which syncs page numbers, notes, and bookmarks on any device that you’ve installed Kindle software on. So I can start a book on my Kindle, read more on my iPad, and continue reading on my iPhone when I’m in line at the grocery store.

On the negative side, I find the Kindle’s menus annoying: they’re too awkward and clunky.

Amazon describes the browser as experimental, and they’re correct. I used it, and it worked, but the results were mixed. On occasion the browser worked fairly well for text-heavy webpages, but at other times it was sluggish. That’s acceptable for me because I bought the Kindle to be a dedicated reading device, but if you dream of web browsing in hesitant, black and white eink, that function is inconsistent; if you want an all-purpose device you should buy a Fire, iPad, android tablet, or Nook.

I have the $99 Kindle touch with Special Offers. My Kindle has ads on it, which drops the price a bit. The ads are innocuous, mostly groupon-like, and appear on the lock screen and a low profile bar on the home screen. When I carry the Kindle around with me, I sometimes feel the need to turn it over so that people don’t think I’m advertising a trendy spa. Unless Amazon starts advertising penis enlargement products, I plan on just ignoring the ads. You could of course spend an extra $40 for a version without ads.

I’ve had the Kindle Touch since Christmas, and I’ve gotten a lot of use out of it, reading several books. I don’t have any major complaints, especially for the $99 price. If you’re a heavy reader, the Kindle is a great convenience; it allows you to carry hundreds of books and documents around with you in a device as light as a paperback.

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