Kindle gen 4

For quite some time I had been considering buying a new tablet. My trusty Archos 5 has done me well but it is ageing and I would like a lightweight device which lets me do many basic web tasks without needing to boot a PC and read eBooks. However most reasonable 10″ Android tablets aren’t that light, and they aren’t all that cheap either considering you are paying for a portable low power computer now. So as I read regularly, and indeed have an increasingly large eBook library for web related subjects as well as fiction, I decided to get a  Kindle.

The e-Ink display

This is really the key element of the device as you would expect, and the fourth generation Kindle devices are a marked improvement over the earlier generations.

When I saw a Kindle for the first time, the second generation I believe with the white bezel and rounded corners, the screen refresh really irked me. The entire page seemed to go black briefly before the next page of text was loaded and this was visually jarring to my mind. From what I can tell this was to refresh the e-Ink each time a new page was loaded and not leave a ghost of the last page in place.

Whilst the effect isn’t entirely gone it is substantially reduced because this only occurs, by default, every 5th page transition. Ghosting has been almost eliminated it seems, allowing for this less regular reset of the page. Combined with the near paper appearance of the screen, which it has to be said has been truly effective since the Kindle and other e-Ink devices first came out, the device is easy to read from with just as much light as a book and just as easy to hold and switch pages.

Ease of use

The amazon store can be accessed directly through your Kindle as long as you have wifi on the basic version, or always with the 3G variant, and it is fairly simple to use. As I didn’t expect to use the keyboard much I opted for the version without a hardware keyboard, my desire being for a device which was as simple as possible (with the side benefit of being cheaper, huzzah). This does mean though when typing anything in you have to use the scroller buttons to select individual letters on a virtual keyboard which isn’t terribly fast.

That said I still managed to buy my son a Beast Quest book within a couple of minutes by simply using the website and selecting to deliver direct to device, moments later the book had synced via wifi without any difficulty. He then proceeded to read half of the book merrily, leaving me to do other things whilst he was happily entertained!

Adding your own books is simple if you have mobi files from a publisher who isn’t selling via the Amazon Kindle store for instance, or the Kindle can take PDF and simple text documents. This can be done very simply using USB, or if you know your free Kindle email address you can send to that once you have approved an email address in your Amazon account. Though those using a 3G Kindle should be aware that delivery of documents via 3G is chargeable, so generally it is best to use wifi with your free kindle address to avoid this as I doubt there will be many occassions where you need to receive email attachements and don’t have access to wifi.

Browsing the library of books on the Kindle is actually easier than browsing the Amazon store I think, as long as you know the name of the author or book title you can pull them up with just a few presses of buttons. To date I have about 100 eBooks on my Kindle now and can still hop from a Smashing Magazine title to the latest piece of fiction I’m reading without any difficulty.

The overall reading experience as a result is very pleasant in my opinion. Sure you don’t get that classic book smell, or the feel of a nice cover and some lovely full colour artwork. However the Kindle for me is a device which enables me to read a lot, without filling my flat with large numbers of books which I will probably only read once in the next couple of decades if at all!

I still like to buy books which have particular meaning to me or are very visually appealing, but I prefer to pick and choose them now and build a small eclectic mix of books than a vast swathe of everything I read.

Getting more for your money

What I think many people may be unaware of are the additional tools you can find on the internet to help you get more from your Kindle or ereader device.

Send to Kindle from is a great little bookmarklet for instance. All you have to do is select text from a website, for example a blog post you started to read but can’t finish, and then click the bookmarklet on your browser bar. The service then sends this as a file via email to your Kindle for reading later. Simple and effective allowing you to pick up later and read on something other than your computer screen.

Calibre is a much more powerful piece of software which lets you manage your eBook collection, including importing eBooks which are in ePub format to your Kindle, and frankly is more deserving of a complete blog post on its own. In short it lets you do a wide variety of things including producing a ‘newspaper’ of news from various websites which are automatically emailed to your Kindle. This of course means your computer needs to be active, but there are ways to get around this without leaving your machine on permanently.


Do you use a Kindle? What are your thoughts? Any tips you’d like to leave for other readers or me that I missed? Drop a line in the comments below!