Amazon Kindle: Saving trees or wasting money?

E-books have been around for a number of years. However, whether you have been reading them on your laptop or your smartphone, the experience has never been close to reading a real book. The size is wrong, the backlit screens tire your eyes, and eventually everyone ends up going back to a real paper and ink book for a relaxing read. Therefore, when Amazon launched its Kindle e-book reader back in late 2007, the question many had to ask was “Why?”

Was there really a market for a device that had a monochrome screen and no real use other than as an e-book reader?

Reads like a book
The display on the Kindle reads like a page from a book – your eyes don’t tire and you can really enjoy the reading experience. Unlike a laptop (too big) or a smartphone (too small) the Kindle is a great size for reading on as well. You can even adjust the size of the type to make it easier to read. The e-ink technology used on the screen also recreates a look similar to that of the printed word.

Paging through a novel is also easy, with a bar on both sides of the device allowing you to turn a page. It is even possible to make notes on the device through the keyboard located under the screen. The device is light and thin enough that it does not require more effort to hold either.

Downloading content
To download new content, simply go to the Kindle store and select the next novel you want to read. The neat bit is that the Kindle uses the mobile phone networks in more than 100 countries to download purchased content. This means you do not need to be connected to a WiFi hotspot – you just need access to a mobile phone network. You don’t pay for the download either, no matter where you are. You buy the book, and it is sent directly to your Kindle. Magic.

The device allows you to carry an entire library’s worth of novels with you, and has an impressively long battery life, especially if you switch off the mobile network access.

Is it all good?
Of course, the Kindle still has some drawbacks. If you want to pass a book to a friend to read, you will have to let them borrow your Kindle. Reading next to the swimming pool could also be a costly mistake should to fall asleep and drop your Kindle in the water.

Although the books in the Kindle store are quite cheap (and you are saving trees in the process) the device itself is not – the standard version with 3G and wireless will set you back $189, while the cheaper WiFi-only version, at $139, may be quite a bit cheaper, but forsakes one of the greatest features of the Kindle – getting a book any time anywhere – to make it cheaper.

Although Cayman does not have a 3G network in place (yet) the device will download at the fastest speed available, which at the moment is EDGE.

The device allows you to view PDF documents on the screen, and can also do elementary web browsing, although this is best reserved for text heavy sites, as it does not support video or images.

Although the Kindle is generally viewed as the market leader, there are a variety of other e-book readers out there, from the Barnes&Noble Nook to the Sony Reader. However, although the Nook does offer a 3G version, it does not offer an international capable version yet, while the Reader relies on WiFi only, which means no downloading of books while on the move. Some also view the Apple iPad as a competitor, although it is an entirely different device. However, the price difference alone means that the iPad and Kindle should not be viewed as competitors for the same market share.

The verdict, please
The fact that other applications are limited is beside the point – the Kindle does what it was designed to do very, very well. Although the price for the device may still be a bit steep for many, it is certainly a great tech toy for those with a love of books and no more space on their bookshelves.   WH