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Monday, 19 May 2014

eBooks Today - The Kindle

"The eBook world is seeing new developments by the second but the biggest concern at the moment is the format wars currently being fought. This can be confusing and leaves people understandably dubious about buying a reader that will be obsolete in a few short months" 

I wrote the above here on this blog back in 2009, and looking back it doesn't seem that I was ahead of the game at all. I warned about buying eReaders that would be obsolete in a short while as the technology moved on at a tremendous rate. I warned against the Kindle, feeling that it was useless because it tied you into the Amazon store and didn't support ePub - then listening to my own advice I went to Borders (remember them) and bought a shiny new Elonex eReader.As it turned out this device would be the Betamax of eReaders - but I didn't know that at the time.

"On 28th of August 2009 I boasted - "I've taken the leap and gone and got myself one of those new fangled e-book readers. I was going to go for the new UK version of The Kindle but it's up in the air as of when it will actually go on sale. And so I've opted for the Elonex which is exclusive to Borders."

And in the review of the now defunct reader I wrote:

"Now when I first started reading on it I found myself unable to get into the story - Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, with the total immersion I manage with printed books but this was to do with having to get used to the way it worked rather than the experience itself. And after a few hours I'd forgotten that I had a piece of cutting edge technology in my hand and I was in a world of white washed fences and wild adventures on the river."

However a few months later I'd grown tired of the Elonex and, still avoiding the Kindle, I'm moved to...well this comes from October 2009 -  

"The basic Elonex eReader was the first device I owned and whilst it did the job it did seem a bit basic and these days my eReader of choice is my Sony PS300 Pocket Reader, which gives a much better reading experience. In fact, to my mind, the Sony trumps the Kindle merely because it uses the ePub format. The Kindle is a mighty fine machine but it ties you down to Amazon's eBook store and whilst I'm a big fan of Amazon's service I don't want to be tied to the one supplier".

The Sony was a fine machine and I used it for a couple of years before finally taking the plunge and getting a Kindle. These days I swear by my Kindle Paperwhite and take it everywhere and in terms of fiction I don't read too many physical books - these days I consume more than 90% of my fiction on my Paperwhite. The Elonex and Sony both went on eBay and I didn't lose any money in the deals and I've gone from one Kindle version to the next. The Paperwhite is actually my fourth Kindle. Yep love them or loathe them Amazon now domnate the eBook market and I don't see that changing for a long long time.

In my initial review of my first Kindle, the Kindle 3, I wrote back in 2011:

"Thanks to Amazon I now have a gleaming new Kindle in my sweaty hands - and after road testing it I can say that it is not for nothing is the Kindle considered the best eReader on the market. It's a pity the device still doesn't support the ePub format, but given the strength of the Amazon store I am willing to overlook this small niggle.
The single most important thing with any eReader is the display screen, and the Kindle's is quite brilliant. The eInk Pearl screen really does look like paper. The background in a nice clean white and the text standing out clearly- you can also increase the size of the text, which makes reading as comfortable as a traditional book.

The controls are quite straight forward, though I did find that having the pages forward and back controls on the same side of the device a little clunky, but when you get used to this it becomes second nature. It is also a nice touch to be able to re-orientate the display to landscape. Pictures are reproduced with clarity, though only, as with most dedicated eReaders, in black and white"

So what was it that finally made me switch to the Kindle? Well the Elonex and Sony were fine machines, the Sony especially, but buying and loading books to the devices was often a pain. And the industry was in a state of flux and eBook stores were closing seeming by the hour, before new stores opened up forcing the user to go through an annoying sequence of button presses to register with new stores. I bought the device to enjoy books not to tap in my email and password every other day. Amazon on the other hand made things simple and once the device was registered with your Amazon account it was easy to buy books. There was also the fact that Amazon's eBook store was second to none in terms of the range of eBook available.

And now we find ourselves in 2014 and the Elonex has been forgotten, become a footnote in eReader history,  while the Sony has lost most of its market share. Devices such as the Kobo came along and for a short period seriously challenged the Kindle's dominance, but Amazon's Kindle remains the market leader - this has been achieved by continuing to improve the device, keeping the price low and building an eBook store that is second to none.

Yep - love Amazon or hate Amazon you can't deny the Kindle is a great device that offers an excellent user experience.

 It was not until  2012 I took the plunge and moved up to the Kindle Paperwhite, this is my current eReader of choice - whilst I may not love it quite as much as my wife and kids and dogs it certainly comes a close second. In my initial review of the Paperwhite I wrote:

"The UK finally got the latest addition to the Kindle family this last month and I've had mine since Christmas day so I've had a chance to fully test the device. I was eager to get the Paperwhite and although I already own a third generation Kindle and a Kindle Fire, it was the Paperwhite I'd been waiting for. Firstly unlike the Kindle Fire which is a tablet device the Paperwhite is a dedicated eInk eReader. And while I love my Kindle Fire I use it for watching movies and reading graphic novels rather than standard novels - eInk is so much easier on the eyes for reading and actually does replicate the reading on paper experience.

The biggest addition to the Paperwhite is of course the front-lit screen but Amazon have also increased the contrast and display itself so  this is the best Kindle eInk screen yet. The touch screen is also more responsive than previous Kindles and the cleaned up interface, there is only one button the the device, is a massive improvement - you can swipe through pages or simply tap the screen. The device also allows the brightness of the light to be customized - a nice touch this and surprisingly having the brightness on full in daylight improves the display no end, whilst dim works best in a dark environment. The device gets closer to the ideal of black ink on white paper than ever before. A good thing since the Paperwhite is designed to have the light on all the time. Amazon says: "a single charge lasts up to eight weeks, based on half an hour of reading per day with wireless off and the light setting at 10. Only time will tell I suppose but I charged my Paperwhite on Christmas Day and have read more than three hours each day since and the power bar of the battery is still close to a full charge."

And now we are in the second half of 2014 and Amazon have already upgraded the Paperwhite to a second generation, but at the moment I see no reason to upgrade from my beloved original Paperwhite. The improvements on the second generation are minimal so I won't be parting with my original for some time yet.

A recent software update to the eReader added some new options that were previously only available on the second gen Paperwhite and although these don't really change the reading experience they are nice additions -especially the vocabulary builder AP which I find incerdibly useful. I also like it that Good Reads is now tied into the Kindle so you can interact via the device with other readers.

The Kindle really has made social reading a reality.


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