There are three items I own which I'll always upgrade when a significant upgrade exists: my computer, my camera, and my Kindle. Yesterday I got my new Kindle, the fourth generation one that was just released. Before I talk about this specific Kindle, I want to address some general points about the Kindle.
Some people balk at the $189 price tag of the newest 3G Kindle (which is the only one to buy, by the way). It's expensive, but only if you consider it a drop in replacement for books. I consider it $200 to ensure that I read at least 10X more than I used to.
Last year I didn't count how many books I read, but my guess would be somewhere around 5-8. I can only really think of a couple, but there must have been more. I've had a Kindle for fourteen weeks. On the Kindle I count 24 books that I've read in that time, plus one book which was only available in paper and was loaned to me, which brings me to 1.8 books per week. In a year that's almost 95 books!
This jump is attributable 80% to the Kindle and 20% to the new habit of turning my computer off at 11.
If you don't read as much as you'd like to now, investing $189 on a Kindle will definitely improve that.
Then, of course, there's the book prices. Most of the books I've read since getting the Kindle have been purchased through the Amazon store, despite the fact that I used to mostly pirate books. Why? Because I'm not paying $9.99 for a book, I'm paying $9.99 for a perfect reading experience. I actually started reading a pirated copy of Eat, Pray, Love (don't bother reading it unless you're a girl...), and midway through bought a legitimate copy because the formatting is so perfect. Paid books also sync across your computer, phone, and Kindle, and can be downloaded on demand from Amazon whenever you want.
The other thing to consider is that you can download a substantial free preview of almost any book, usually consisting of a couple chapters. When someone recommends a book to me I download the preview, and then when I've run through all of my books I start reading previews until I find one that I want to finish.
"But I love the feeling of reading a book"
I interpret this as "But I'm used to reading a book". I don't know anyone who has gotten a Kindle and said a word about the pleasures of reading a paper book. Especially people who read big books. I recently finished Good Calories, Bad Calories, which is 640 pages. Not only is it annoying to hold such a big book, especially in bed, but it's a huge pain to bring it with me anywhere.
The Kindle looks like paper, the font size can be adjusted to suit your preferences, and page flips can be done with one hand. I don't like to use the word perfect, but it's pretty darn close. Read one book on the Kindle and tell me you prefer a paperback... I dare you.
The New Kindle and Travel
The new Kindle is tiny. The half inch shaved off the width and height is far more dramatic in person than on the spec sheet. It's now pocketable. Not that you'd throw it in your pocket with your keys and phone, but that you could put it in your pocket while you go grocery shopping and you wouldn't really notice it. It's thinner, too, but you have to really work to notice that difference.
The contrast ratio has been improved by 50%. I found the old one to be totally acceptable, but the new contrast ratio is immediately noticeable. You don't need to hold the Kindles side to side... just reading a page on the new one makes any seasoned Kindle reader say "wow". It looks great.
There are now forward and backward keys on both sides. I'm really happy about this because before you couldn't go back a page if you were holding the Kindle with just your right hand. Now you can. The keyboard DID lose the number keys, though, which I think is a mistake. Accessing the numbers using the SYM button is annoying. The new buttons have a stickier feel to them and I find the narrower keyboard much easier to type on. If I'm typing with my thumbs, narrower is better.
One HUGE improvement is the web browser, which is now based on Webkit. The old browser was usable in a pinch but pretty brutal. Here's a side by side of my site on the new one vs. the old one.
The browser isn't as good as an iPad or laptop or even a phone, but it doesn't require a service plan and it works in many countries. I'm not sure if people understand that-- there's no monthly fee for the 3G on a Kindle, and it works internationally, also for free. I used my Kindle in both Japan and Canada to check my email and to make phone calls through my phone system. Google Maps used to be unusable on it-- now it's good enough to be useful.
Without a Kindle you're just not going to read while you travel, assuming you travel lightly. On Life Nomadic I read Atlas Shrugged on my computer screen and the first few chapters of The Life of Pi on a bootleg copy of the book I bought in Vietnam. That's it, and it's a shame because I had plenty of long plane rides, train trips, and lazy afternoons on the deck of a ship. The size of the Kindle is so negligible that I wouldn't have noticed it, even in my small backpack.
You can buy the new Kindle on Amazon.
I recently got a Nook, and absolutely love it.
For me, the lack of a MicroSD card slot was what made that a better choice than the Kindle, even though the 3G doesn't work for web browsing. I may get a Kindle anyways just to lock in the 3G plan before they change it to a cap (thinking of the Sprint cell phone plans).
Here's a combination some readers might want to try:
+swimming pool/ocean/Guadalupe River
Tynan, do you still recommend the keyboard model?
While this post has been quiet during 2011, I want to say that during Thanksgiving I got a Kindle keyboard 3G for $85 at Target. Two days later it was back to $139.
It's a terrific travel tool. I have travel books, my travel docs in PDF, as well as good fiction. The incredible LONG LIFE battery lets me read for several weeks without recharging. No laptop in the world can do that. (You have to keep 3G/wifi use to a minimum).
With 3g I can get weather at cities I'm traveling to while in a train or car. No looking for a wifi hotspot. Works well on Amtrak train in USA.
@ryan "Got to say, the referral link at the end of the post gives a poor vibe. Would be better if you at least made at note about what you gain from it."
It's Amazon. How many affiliate marketing programs do you think they have?
Thanks for the review Tynan. This is my next buy.
I realize this post is old but thought I'd add a comment. I received the new Kindle (WiFi/3G) for Christmas and am loving it. I highly recommend the leatherbound cover with the built-in LED light. It lights the Kindle evenly and doesn't drain the battery much at all.
I got Kindle after Tynan's recommendation but I got the wifi one. I haven't experienced any situation yet where I needed internet but there wasn't a wifi nearby. But then again I haven't traveled international a whole lot and when I needed internet on the road I used my cell phone.
I got sony reader touch for 2 weeks. I read on that only pirated books, because i don´t have money to buy that much books.
Since 1st september i read like 4-5 books.
I heartily agree with your thoughts about the Kindle. I don't own one, but I do own an iPhone. I use the Kindle app, as well as a couple other ebook apps.
Most folks probably would prefer the kindle to reading on the iPhone's tiny screen, but I'm not bothered by the small screen. What I like about it is that my iPhone is always with me, and so are my books. Also, the screen is bright, so it doesn't depend on ambient light - which is important to me because I like to read when I go to bed.
I too read much more now that I've always got a good book with me.
I'm mentioning this because some readers may already have iPhones or other smartphones with access to the Kindle app (which is free).
Of the top 10 books on my amazon wish list, zero are available on kindle. If you exclusively read non-fiction this thing is useless.
My friend Elisia first showed me an ebook reader, the Kindle she bought as soon as they came out. The quality of the screen was jaw dropping - it wasn't anything like a computer screen, but instead actually looked like paper. As amazed as I was with the device, I had no intention of buying one. The form factor was clunky, it seemed like a superfluous device, and it couldn't natively display PDF files, which is the format I tend to read (and publish) in.
A couple months later I was wandering around in the Sony Store and I saw their ebook reader, the PRS-505. It had the same amazing screen that the kindle had, but was much smaller, less than a third of an inch thick. When I found out that it could also natively read PDF files I was tempted to buy it, but was still concerned that it was just a useless toy.
Six months later my friend Vince brought a Sony PRS-505 on the trip to Morocco that he joined me on. I found myself asking to borrow it constantly, just about any time he wasn't using it. If he fell asleep on the bus I'd carefully slide it away from his grip and read on it.
So I'm a big believer in my Kindle, I love the thing and I think e-ink readers are the future. I read a lot, I like the feel of paper, but the convenience of having 200 books with me on a slim light device is unbeatable.
I also write on here and produce content, and keeping abreast of the various formats that can be published in is a bit of headache. But Alfred Pang does a great job explaining the current formats and tools to convert between them here - http://alfredpang.com/2010/11/minimalist-workday-in-epub-and-kindle-format/ -
What are all the formats for?
E-books can come in many different formats. ePub, Kindle (MOBI), text, HTML, PDF, Word documents, etc.
Independently produced ebooks (such as Minimalist Workday) usually comes as PDFs. The advantage is that PDFs print out onto paper very well and the exact formatting of the document will not change.