Amazon Kindle 3 review

After a couple of months of having an Amazon Kindle 3 (purchased mid-2011) and travelling with it, here is my list of good and bad things about it:

PROS

  1. Decent battery life if NOT using wireless. With intensive reading it lasts upto a week.
  2. The display is much easier on the eyes than a traditional computer screen.
  3. You can carry a lot of books and personal documents with you in a single small device
  4. Friends and family can send you books to read in digital form
  5. Project Gutenberg opens thousands of books for immediate download and reading for free
  6. You can buy any book off Amazon and it will be in your hands in minutes
  7. Registering two kindles under the same Amazon account lets you duplicate all your paid content on both devices.
  8. For 10 quid you get the Independent delivered to your device automatically as long as you have GSM coverage every morning for a month… even if you are wild camping in a forest.
  9. You can browse the Internet and do emails from wherever at no additional cost.
  10. You get an English dictionary for free and it is easy to lookup any word in any document while reading in a non distracting way.

Cons

  1. Using the 3G wireless drains the battery in less than 24 hours.
  2. The battery takes approximately 3 hours to fully charge from empty when connected to a wall plug. Upto twice as much when charging from a USB port.
  3. The display is much easier on the eyes than traditional LCDs… but you still get more eye strain than reading on paper.
  4. You end up buying books only from Amazon, killing any competitors or smaller bookshops.
  5. You don´t own the kindle books you buy. Amazon does. They control your device at all times. Amazon can and has deleted books remotely from Kindles, a-la 1984.
  6. Organising your content is very limited and labour intensive.
  7. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy. Amazon can see everything you do with your Kindle.
  8. The pricetag for the 3G keyboard model is quite hefty at more that 150 quid.
  9. A Kindle purchased and registered in the UK is not allowed to buy from amazon.com US site. You are forced to purchase books only from amazon.co.uk which is more expensive.
  10. The keyboard is ergonomically cumbersome and not suited for extensive use.
  11. The web browser is of limited functionality. It doesn´t handle popups gracefully and has problems displaying pages that try to open in a new window.
  12. The display is black and white only.
  13. The refresh rate of the display is very slow. Eg. it´s impossible t scroll through text without it all becoming a blur. Turning pages is slow. Eg. it takes a full minute to turn 30 pages.
  14. You can not do anything with the books you have bought like give them to friends or family or sell them or save them in a less restrictive file format.
  15. To create customer lock in and make a good profit Amazon use their own DRM which imposes a lot of unneccessary restrictions on the content you buy. They make it easy to convert anything you want to their DRM locked down format but very hard to do the reverse and convert Kindle content to less restrictive formats.
  16. There is no international support. Only English. The Kindle can display international non english characters, but thats about it. Impossible to change the interface language, impossible to type in anything other than Latin characters.
Overall, the Kindle 3 + 3G is a good ebook reader with a great global Internet connectivity package, that is almost worth the hassle if you need to travel light and can afford to buy books that will remain locked in to Amazon for good. Perhaps an easy way to unlock Kindle books will become available in the future. Perhaps you won´t mind re-purchasing books that you might want to read on another, better device in a few years´ time.
The choice is yours.

Update March 2012
I dropped my Kindle, breaking its screen. Luckily I had it insured, so I got a replacement within 48 hours with no questions asked. I was very happy with the customer experience, until I tried reading my documents on the new Kindle:

What do you mean licensed to a different user?

Somehow the Kindle has screwed up its elaborate Digital Rights Management (DRM) logic and is therefore refusing me access to material I have paid for! This is negating my right to read by mistake, but certainly demonstrates that buying books on the Kindle 3 only gives you the illusion of ownership – access can be revoked at any time.

The story ended with a long phone conversation with Amazon Kindle support during which I established the following:

  1. Re-sending my books & documents to the new Kindle resolved the problem for all books & personal documents. Annoyingly manual process (have to be done one by one!) but it did the job.
  2. If this happens, and you have archived issues of magazines/newspapers/periodicals to which you have in the meantime cancelled your subscription, you are stuffed.You cannot re-download those issues. From Amazon’s UK “Kindle Subscriptions” page:

    Once you cancel a subscription, you will stop receiving new issues immediately and you will no longer be able to re-download back issues [...]

After having been through this I am convinced any DRM-strangled ebook technology will just not be good enough for me to use. A model like O’Reilly publishing, who sell DRM-free ebooks is the only thing I will consider.

Otherwise, paper books are just fine, thank you very much.

I pay for it, I own it. End of story.

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