Let me start by saying that I didn’t anticipate picking up a new e-reader. While my second generation Amazon Kindle has served me relatively well over the last year and a half, it’s yet another device to charge and carry. Plus, e-ink isn’t exactly backlit. My master plan had been to upgrade to a smartphone with a larger screen for more comfortable digital reading… via app. But the iPhone
5 4S arrived with the same display dimensions as my current phone. The 4.7″ HTC Titan also seemed to be an option, but Windows Phone 7 resolution tops out at 480×800. Basically, I haven’t yet been compelled to upgrade. Meanwhile, my current Kindle has forced the issue as it no longer reliably holds a charge or wirelessly syncs.
I called into Amazon to see what sort of repair or replacement options might be available. The one year warranty on my Kindle 2 has expired, but they graciously to offered me (what may have been a refurb) Kindle 3 with WiFi and 3G for $60. As part of that dealio, I’d also have to ship my K2 back to them. Of course, the big advance in e-readers this year has been the implementation of touchscreen technology – which provides a much more natural form of interaction. Sony’s touch-based Reader has dropped in price to $100… and more importantly they’re offering a $50 credit for trading in any brand of ereader. However, I prefer Barnes & Nobles Nook Simple Touch ($99) ergonomics and aesthetics over both Sony and Amazon’s new Kindle Touch ($99). Yet their holiday trade in promotion, for a $50 credit, was limited to Nook 1 hardware and they’ve excised the e-reader’s web browser with a recent software update. But, at the end of the day, the touch technology is still less than perfect and adds bulk to the device. Further, I often grab or hold my Kindle by the screen. So, as you can see from the pics, I went with none of the above.
I tried to work it out with Amazon asking if they could provide me their new keyboardless Kindle 4 as an out-of-warranty option and they responded that mathematically Kindle 3 was a better deal for me – mainly because of its 3G capabilities. I argued that I’d prefer the smaller size and lower weight of the K4 over 3G… to no avail. I could take their original $60 K3 offer or, or for $19 more, buy perhaps a lesser device at full price ($79). Which is exactly what I did at Target on Christmas Eve.
As expected, given prior usage, the side bezel and physical page turn buttons are somewhat too small (but at least present, compared to say the Kindle Touch), but the compact form is great and the Kindle 4 looks much better in person than you might expect given Amazon’s online imagery. Both the K3 and my new Kindle 4 feature the latest gen of e-Ink film (“Pearl”), with noticeably higher contrast over the Kindle 2. And the K4 will presumably receive software updates for some time. At least long enough to get me into a newer, larger smartphone come mid or late 2012.
Incidentally, I saved a few bucks by going with the “Special Offers” version of the Kindle which replaces the dead author screen saver with an advertisement. I often push back against ad intrusion, yet I find the screensaver mostly innocuous and have been looking forward to seeing what they’ll hit me with next. Also, unlike traditional advertising, I knew the deal up front and chose to save a few bucks ($30) on hardware to provide Amazon the right of commercial interruption. But I could definitely do without the banner at the bottom of my Library homescreen.