A stylish ebook reader from the online bookshop
Amazon’s Kindle is the best-looking ebook reader we’ve seen so far. While the Sony Reader products are good (see below), they do look like computer equipment, whereas the Kindle looks like a high-tech but classy device that doesn’t mark the user out as a geek. In a sense it’s like the Apple iPod – it’s not the first device around but it’s the first to look like something most of us would want to use.
It uses the same e-ink screen as most ebook readers, so the display can’t be read without light, just like a paper book. It also suffers from the same problem in which the screen flashes when it changes, for example each time you ‘turn’ the page. Text looked good on the screen, however, and it offers a good range of letter sizes.
Unlike all the others, though, the Kindle comes with a wireless connection built in – this actually goes over the mobile networks rather than Wifi so it’s available in most of the country. The cost is built into the device’s purchase price so there’s no charge after that, and you can use it to buy books from the Amazon store and read Wikipedia pages.
That’s a great bonus – instead of having to buy books on a computer and transfer them you can simply tap a few keystrokes and instantly pay for and download titles. It can be dangerous, though – leave the Kindle with someone unsupervised and you might find you’ve paid for several books by the time you get back (it’s linked to your Amazon account).
Although it’s available to UK users, the Kindle isn’t actually available from amazon.co.uk – instead you must buy it from amazon.com, which means there’s a slight wait for delivery, and you must pay UK duty and customs charges. Amazon will pay these up-front (and charge you for them) so there’s no nasty surprise but it’s still a pain. The price in dollars at the time of writing is $259, which works out at £178. Buyers outside America pay £15 in postage costs as well as £34 for what Amazon calls the Import Fees Deposit, which it uses to pay those taxes on your behalf.
Of course if you’re travelling to the USA you could pick one up there by having it delivered to your hotel, which would mean a £50 saving. It comes with a one-year warranty (US users can buy another year but the rest of us can’t). Annoyingly, the Kindle comes with an American mains plug, although this is attached to a micro-USB lead so you can connect it to a PC or buy an adapter for a few pounds.
An expensive but hugely impressive ebook reader – the only real annoyance is the American-centric buying hassle Good points Looks great and easy to use; can buy books from the device; impressive screen quality Bad points Must be imported from the USA; screen is fairly small; battery life lowered by wireless connection
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