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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To locate free books online check out:
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.
Hey, what are you waiting for? Go check it out!