One Traveler’s Review Of The Amazon Kindle 3

This is the third in a series of infrequent articles that feature technology reviews for the budget traveler

There are never enough hours in a day, is it?  Between working a full-time job, running three Blogs, traveling whenever I can; there is rarely time to think, much less indulge in things that I desire, but can’t due to time constraints.  Being busy is a good thing, however, when it keeps you from doing some of the simpler things in life, it becomes drudgery.

One of those simple things that I’d begun to miss was reading.  As a writer, reading is fundamental.  I couldn’t recall the last time that I had read anything with more pages than a magazine.  As a traveler, it’s important to have an escape from the real world and there ‘s nothing better at accomplishing that than immersing yourself in a good read.  So, I resolved to take a stand; to get back to the basics.  I had to do something dramatic, something that would force me to follow through on my goal.  My solution was the Amazon Kindle 3!  I had been a fan of the Kindle since its first incarnation as a white, much larger and more expensive electronic reader.

Amazon Kindle 3

Ta Da!! Here’s my Kindle in all of its glory!

I thought it was a cool invention spearheaded by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com.  However, at the time, I couldn’t imagine having to pay $399.00 for the reader and still pay for the books on top of that!  Well, patience truly is a virtue.  With its recent version, Amazon has decided to offer more features at a cheaper price.  The Kindle 3 is smaller (6”), sleeker (weighs less than 9 ozs) and your choice of either a lovely shade of charcoal gray or bright white.  The Kindle 3G Wireless Reading Device, Free 3G + Wi-Fi, 6  allows you to search the net wherever there is a Wi-Fi hotspot to be found and sells for 139.00.  The Kindle 3 with Wi-Fi and global 3G coverage allows you to surf the net whenever the spirit hits you, no hotspots needed and it sells for 189.00.  Each of those features (Wi-Fi and 3G) is free for the life of the reader.

Amazon Kindle 3

When not in use, the Kindle goes to ‘sleep’ and a screen saver shows up on the display.  You must slide the button on the bottom right to ‘wake’ it.

As luck would have it, it took a month to get mine as the sudden drop in price created a frenzy in the book-reading world.  Alas, the wait was worth it.  I am absolutely enamored with my Kindle!!  As of this writing, I have almost 100 books stored on it.  There are so many places to find free books online, that is probably where you should start.  Amazon offers various genres that can be purchased through their one-click ordering system.  It literally takes two seconds to buy a Kindle title on Amazon.  And literally 60 seconds later, that title is transported wirelessly to your own personal Kindle.  Be sure to do a search on free Kindle books in their Kindle store before you begin to pay hard cash for a book.

You can organize your books into collections. My collections are divided into author’s names mostly, but some are based on subject matter.

 

If you don’t create collections, you will have to scroll through pages of this…depending on how many authors you have downloaded. Yuck!

 

To group an author’s work together into a collection, click on Home, then Menu.  Scroll down to Create new collection.  A dialog box will pop up to allow you to name the collection.  Once you name it, you can click on the pages and select books to add to said collection.

While you can manage your Kindle library on your local hard drive, I prefer to use the freeware, Calibre E-Book management to organize, track and maintain my Kindle books.  It’s a quick download and very user-friendly.  Simply attach your Kindle to a USB port on your computer and as soon as it is recognized, you can transfer books that you have saved on your hard drive or a flash drive to your reader.  I like the way that it can usually locate and download book cover artwork that you may be missing or how it can convert incompatible formats like E-Pub to a more usable format like MOBI so that you will be able to read it easily on the Kindle.  Additionally, you will be to edit author and title information if necessary.

Click on Menu and you will see where you can turn the Wi-Fi on/off, purchase more books, search or add bookmarks and/or notes.

It’s a good idea to pass on their offer to sell you a warranty from their warranty provider, Service Net, which warranties your reader for two years at 49.00.  You can get a better deal from Square Trade Warranties (search for them on the Amazon site) which protects you for three years for 39.00!  I’m not usually a fan of warranties, but the e-ink screen on the Kindle is thin and that warranty protects you if you drop it or if it gets wet….something that warranties do not typically cover.  Therefore, as a budgeter, I can justify this cost.

Ok, now here’s a tip that could very well void your warranty ( that includes the following: Amazon, Service Net, Square Trade, all warranties on the planet earth)….if you do this you do so at your own risk.  I will not be responsible should something happen to your Kindle as a result of your trying this tip.   PERIOD!

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I found out that you can upload your own screen savers (assuming you are tired of the ones that have people who died centuries ago on it).

First, you will have to hack your kindle.  Once the deed is done, you can visit a site created by a really cool dude named Jason.  His screensavers are fantabulous!  Check it out here.  I now have about 30 screensavers on my kindle.  Woot, Woot!

If you want to use your own personal pics….of your baby, husband, wife….you get the idea….you can use any black and white picture that is 600×800 pixels.

Click on the Home button, then Menu and you will be able to access this screen when you click on Experimental from the menu list. You can launch a browser to surf the net, listen to your book being read to you or simply listen to some nice tunes that you’ve uploaded to the kindle.

To locate free books online check out:

Project Gutenberg

Feedbooks

Many Books

Free Kindle books on Amazon

Free E-Books

Aside from the Wi-Fi, 3G features, what makes the Amazon Kindle 3 so gosh darn special?

  • it can store up to 3,500 books
  • has a battery life of one month with a single charge when Wi-Fi is off; 3 weeks with wireless on
  • can be read in bright sunlight with no glare to have to contend with
  • has better contrast resulting in clearer text
  • has text to speech capabilities which can read English-language content out loud to you
  • you can adjust the text size for easier reading
  • using the five- way controller button, you can place a cursor next to any word that you need to look up in their built- in dictionary
  • supports Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, Audible (Audible Enhanced (AA, AAX)), MP3, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; HTML, DOC, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion.
  • changes page orientation to allow easier viewing of graphics and maps
  • stays cool and never overheats while you are reading
  • ready to use right out the box, no computer necessary
  • if you choose the Wi-Fi only version, you can get free access at any AT&T hotspot
  • has QWERTY keyboard that allows you to efficiently write and save notes
  • has password protection that allows you to safely lock your Kindle when not in use
  • has a 3 gig capacity for user content, so if you happen to have any room left over you can listen to MP3s as you read….just be sure to use headphones, otherwise it will sound like you are reading from a jukebox!

Be sure to buy a cover to protect your valuable investment.  I found mine on Ebay that was half the price that Amazon offered.  (UPDATE: I just saw my cover being sold on Ebay for four bucks and change with free shipping….Gah!!)  You will find that it’s handy to purchase a light to attach to the cover so that you can read at night, or on a plane or any public place without disturbing anyone.  I purchased this flex neck reading light from Amazon for 2.99.

Surprisingly, my flex light emits a lot of light, this time of year it’s dark during my commute to work, so this helps out a lot!

 

The dictionary feature is launched when you place your cursor next to a word and the definition will pop up either at the top or bottom of the page.

Hey, what are you waiting for? Go check it out!

Comments

comments

Renee King
aviewtoathrill@gmail.com
23 Comments
  • Jeremy B
    Posted at 00:26h, 15 October Reply

    Renne, you and I have similar lives. I work full time, manage 3 blogs, and am married with 2 kids 2 and under. Yes, I know what you mean when you say you need more hours in a day and don’t have time to think.

    I was convinced I would never get a Kindle. You make some pretty good arguments for it and I am more interested now than I was before. However, I spend enough time on the computer each day and if I am going to read, there is nothing like having a good book or magazine in my hand to do so.
    I just commented about this on travel rant’s blog but I think there is a deeper connection made when the book is in your hand as both physically holding the book, reading the words on a page, and processing the information is a more total experience. I relate it to how we can connect with people but nothing replaces a real human relationship. There is touch, body language, connection and chemistry, and so much more that goes into a 1 on 1 relationship than just the exchange of information.

    While it may be hard to explain, I guess that is how I relate the Kindle to actually reading a book. There is something really comforting and relaxing about sitting down to read with the book in your hand that I will never find with another piece of technology – even if it gives me the same information.
    Jeremy B recently posted…Halloween family fun at the Amador Flower Farm and Pumpkin PatchMy Profile

    • Renee
      Posted at 05:32h, 15 October Reply

      Jeremy, two kids under 2? You win, sir!! lol Seriously, no….I have heard the same argument from several friends. It’s not that they fear technology, they simply prefer a more tactile experience when it comes to reading. There is no doubt that there is a lot of truth to that. I believe that I’m on board for a more practical reason. One, I have no room left on my bookshelf, and while most were old books collecting dust, they took up a lot of room and will be donated to others who love to read. However, I just love the EXPERIENCE of reading. I usually get too lost in the plot to worry about paper (the physical book) or plastic (the Kindle). This is definitely a personal choice that everyone must make for themselves, but I certainly understand and respect those who share your position.

  • Michael
    Posted at 07:02h, 15 October Reply

    Like Jeremy, I love my books. I want to have them on my bedside, on my bookcase where I can browse them because I re-read at some point the ones I really liked. I also love going to a book shop and looking around and discovering other books aside from what I was looking for. But having said that, I like shopping via Amazon from time to time too 😉 All in all, I’m the old-fashioned kind of guy when it comes to books.
    Michael recently posted…Wild West Tamed – Easy Hikes In US Southwest National ParksMy Profile

    • Renee
      Posted at 08:40h, 15 October Reply

      Hey Mike,
      I hear you. Like most things, not everyone is going to think this is a good fit for them. To be honest, when Kindle was first introduced, the concept was so foreign to me that you would no longer have to physically hold a book. It bordered on blasphemy! lol But after thinking about the practicality of it, I was won over.

      I guess the article is for people who may have been thinking about investing in a Kindle, but wanted a first-hand account before making a decision. Thanks for stopping by to add your point of view. I really appreciate it!

    • Jeremy B
      Posted at 14:43h, 15 October Reply

      Another point that Michael makes – bookstores. I love going to them and just browsing. There is something about that I can’t explain that technology will never replace.

      I still think the review that Renee did is outstanding and makes some really good points about why a Kindle is great to have. I am not against technology at all. I’ve got laptops, iPods, cell phones, blackberries, and I work in IT. However, some things need to remain the same and technology can’t improve the experience (even if it does improve the access) 🙂
      Jeremy B recently posted…Halloween family fun at the Amador Flower Farm and Pumpkin PatchMy Profile

      • Renee
        Posted at 23:09h, 16 October Reply

        Thanks, Jeremy. I agree, it is definitely a matter of preference and everyone should follow their own heart when it comes to making decisions like this.

  • Tandem World
    Posted at 09:33h, 15 October Reply

    We loved our Kindle 2, but ended up selling it when the iPad came out. I appreciate the Kindle, but we simply have found the iPad to be immeasurably more useful.

    We are currently reading Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom,” which is definitely worth picking up.

    • Renee
      Posted at 23:07h, 16 October Reply

      Yes….I’ve downloaded Franzen too…but have to finish the Corrections first. One day, I’d like to get an Ipad….can’t afford it now. You should do a review and post it on your site. I’d be interested to get a first hand account of your opinion of it.

  • Michael Hodson
    Posted at 10:03h, 15 October Reply

    I love my Kindle 2 — some great tips in here. Need to bookmark it. Thanks!
    Michael Hodson recently posted…Powerless to my AddictionsMy Profile

    • Renee
      Posted at 23:11h, 16 October Reply

      Yeah! Another Kindle fan….cool!

  • Nancie
    Posted at 03:34h, 22 October Reply

    Wonderful review Renee. I received my Kindle a couple of weeks ago. I love it, although I haven’t used mine nearly as much as you have used yours. That will definitely change with my upcoming winter travels.
    Nancie recently posted…Ten Sunrise and Sunset Photos that Scream &8220I Want to be There NOW&8221My Profile

    • Renee
      Posted at 14:41h, 22 October Reply

      Thanks, Nancie! I’m glad to find another devotee….it really is such a wonderful thing to have…especially in winter!

  • David
    Posted at 08:34h, 04 March Reply

    I have thought about a Kindle a couple of times, but never read anything that tipped me towards getting one half as much as your article does.

    Do you have experience of Lonely Planet Guides on the Kindle? I was thinking that alone might be a reason to get one….

    • Renee
      Posted at 09:19h, 04 March Reply

      Hi David,

      Thanks for the thumbs up….I do not have the Lonely Planet guides on my kindle yet, I do have them on my iPod. I got them when Gizmodo had several of them on iTunes for free. However, I do have a couple of Frommer’s guides. Visually, the kindle version of the Frommer’s guide is exactly the same as opening one of their paperbacks. There is absolutely no difference in the print quality nor in the enjoyability of reading it.

  • Kirk
    Posted at 08:56h, 17 March Reply

    Between work, the wife, kids, and blogs I never seem to have time for anything else but walking my dog and even she seems to be upset with me from time to time. The kindle does seem quite nice. Glad you’ve been able to fit reading back into your busy schedule.
    Kirk recently posted…A Snorkeling Vacation In Dry Tortugas Offers Reefs Of Fun And AdventureMy Profile

    • Renee
      Posted at 10:30h, 17 March Reply

      Hi Kirk!
      It seems that you are just as busy as I am. Do try to carve out some quiet time for yourself. I’ve always said that your family appreciates a well-rested, happy parent or to use another vernacular: “If mama (daddy) ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” lol Thanks for coming by!

  • Catarina Alexon
    Posted at 10:55h, 01 May Reply

    Really interesting post Renee.

    Love reading and have always read a lot.

    Read news online but when it comes to fiction, I much prefer to read a book that I hold in my hand. Having said that I’m sure that in the future books will be read online. At least more than today.

  • ElleX
    Posted at 14:13h, 08 August Reply

    Renee,

    I’m a new reader to your blog (found you via Kiratiana’s blog listing). I have been thinking about getting a Kindle (two of my co-workers have been raving about Kindles for months) but didn’t want to spend the funds. Your post has motivated me to add the cost of one into my budget.

    Thanks for great review.

    • Renee
      Posted at 14:31h, 08 August Reply

      Hi Elle,

      Thanks for coming by and don’t be a stranger! Yes, I am thrifty, but the kindle is one of the best purchases that I’ve made to date. It more than pays for itself!

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