“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
That appears to be Amazon’s design philosophy with the 2012 version of its entry-level Kindle e-book reader. If you’re familiar with the 2011 Kindle, you’ll find very little changed on the new version. The body is now available in black as well as gray; the screen has slightly higher contrast and some additional fonts; the page-turns on the e-ink screen are 15 percent faster; and Amazon’s added support for children’s books (and parental controls).
Otherwise, this is pretty much the same as the previous Kindle. But that’s a smart move, since the earlier Kindle was -- and is -- a great no-frills e-book reader.
In lieu of a big design overhaul, the entry-level Kindle has two main selling points. The first is price: just $69 for the ad-supported “Special Offers” version, or $89 to go ad-free. That’s $10 less than last year, for a product that’s a tad better. The second is Amazon’s best-in-class e-book “ecosystem” -- which offers a total of 1.8 million titles, including more than 180,000 exclusives (and the ability to borrow thousands of titles at no additional charge if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber).
Amazon has reserved the real innovation for the step-up model, the Kindle Paperwhite. That device offers an impressive self-illuminating touch-screen, but it costs $50 more. If you don’t need the touch screen and built-in lighting of the Paperwhite and other pricier models, the baseline Kindle is still the best no-frills e-reader option out there.
Except for the aforementioned color change and small hardware tweaks, the 2012 Kindle is identical to its predecessor. The 6-inch Pearl E Ink display is housed in a 6.5-inch-by-4.5-inch body that’s just one-third of an inch thick.
One of the biggest “features” of the Kindle is its weight. At just under 6 ounces, it’s notably lighter than its touch-screen brethren. (The one exception is the
The other big advantage of the Kindle is its battery life. Amazon says the Kindle should last up to a month “with wireless off based upon a half-hour of daily reading time.” After a few weeks of use, we can confirm that estimate is pretty much on the money. (You only need to toggle the wireless on when and if you’re downloading new books or other content.)
To be clear, that sort of long battery life is par for the course for e-ink readers. In fact, the $99
Another point in favor of the Kindle versus reading on LCD phones or tablets is the lack of glare. Unlike the reflective screens on those devices, a Kindle (and all other e-ink readers) allows you to read in bright environments, up to and including direct sunlight.
Those moving to a Kindle from “real” books will appreciate two big features not found in paper books: font sizes and line spacing are completely adjustable to your preference. Likewise, the screen can be toggled from portrait (vertical) to landscape (horizontal) mode.
The Kindle screen is flanked by a few buttons. Page-forward and page-back buttons are on both sides of the screen, giving equal access to left-handed and right-handed readers. While the buttons are bit old-fashioned in the touch-screen age, many readers will find their responsiveness and location more convenient than tapping on a screen. The other controls are below the screen: a four-way directional pad for navigating menus; home and back buttons; a toggle for the onscreen keyboard; and a menu button.
The Amazon Kindle ecosystem
The Kindle is a one-stop shopping gateway to Amazon’s best-in-class Web store, which arguably offers the largest array of books, newspapers, and magazines on the Web.
Amazon offers more than 1.8 million e-book titles, including more than 180,000 exclusives. The Web retailer also tends to offer discounts more frequently than many of its competitors. While many have differing opinions on whether some of these practices are fair to competitors -- or good for the long-term health of the publishing industry -- they are certainly consumer-friendly, at least in the short-term.