This morning I took (early) delivery of Amazon’s new Kindle 3 – I opted for the WiFi only version – a device that claims 50% better contrast than any other e-reader, a 21% smaller body while keeping the same 6″ size reading area, and a 20% increase in the speed of page turns. These are, of course, all very welcome improvements but specs alone don’t tell the real story of Kindle’s appeal and why it sets the benchmark for an e-reading experience. Instead, it’s Amazon’s decision to adopt a vertical model: controlling the hardware, software and, most controversially, content of the Kindle, that define the user experience. But first, let’s dive into the device itself.
The two most noticeable aspects of the Kindle’s hardware design are its size – it’s a lot smaller (and lighter) than pictures do it justice – and the print-like contrast levels of the latest iteration of E Ink, the technology that powers the device’s screen. In fact, upon unboxing the Kindle 3, a colleague attempted to peel off a second non-existent screen protector that housed instructions on how to charge the device. Only it was actually the screen itself, set to standby. E Ink, though gray scale only, is that good for what it’s designed for: reading the written word.