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back to article Amazon: 'iPad LCD tablets no threat to Kindle'

Mega-retailer Amazon announced on Monday that holiday sales of its third-generation Kindle boosted that e-reader past Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in total sales, making it the best-selling product in the company's history – despite the popularity of Apple's "magical and revolutionary" iPad. "We're seeing that many of …

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It's all very well being able to read in sunlight

(which we get so little of in this country when we do get we don't sit around reading) the problem with eink readers is they're not backlit.. reading in a dimly lit bedroom - which is 90% of the time I'll read a book - it's unusable.

I'm told the kindle has more contrast than the sony reader that I had (which was basically dark grey on slightly lighter grey, and reflective on top of that) but unless the kindle has a backlight it's no sale for me sorry.

I've got quite used to reading with the ipad and wouldn't want to go back to the eink 'experience'.

Can this be charged from a standard USB port? The ereader had to be connected to a PC to charge so was out of commission about 1 day in 3 as it kept going flat.. horrible design flaw.

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Orv

Probably a matter of personal preference.

I don't like reading long texts on backlit screens, especially in an otherwise dark room...it's too much like staring at a light bulb. I find e-ink much easier on the eyes.

I have a Nook and it came with a plug-in USB adapter for charging, so that hasn't been a problem for me.

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Anonymous Coward

Of course it can be charged from a standard USB port

Using the standard micro-USB connector. Where's this sudden requirement to read in bed without a light come from? Have you never used a book before? I guess if I really wanted to read in bed without using a lamp I could just read the book on my phone, but tbh I mainly use my bed for sleeping, and occasionally building a fort.

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works for me

Can be charged from a standard USB port, yes. Battery genuinely lasts for weeks. £40 extra buys the cover with LED light, well worth it IMHO. The two combined work very well.

Have only seen one naked Kindle, on the tube, all the rest seem to be with the burgundy cover, although not many with the LED light. Go figure.

Horses for courses, I'd say. Would like an iPad equivalent, but saving up for an Android first.

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FAIL

fail.

everyone who sells e-readers also sells a case for their e-reader with a built-in light. incredibly intractable problem apparently not so intractable after all! (and no, you can't argue that this would disturb whoever else is in your bed, because if a small light to illuminate an e-ink screen sufficiently would disturb them, the backlight of an LCD screen definitely would).

I've had two generations of the Sony readers and neither needs to be plugged into a computer to charge; the second-gen would charge fine from a wall mini-USB charger for me but charged better from a PSP charger (it charged faster and you could read while it was charging). I know the third-gen Kindle doesn't either as my mother has one of those (it charges fine from - and is provided with - a wall micro-USB charger).

There's no significant difference in the display quality of Kindle and Sony as they both use the same screens. The quality of a first gen Sony is the same as a first gen Kindle, ditto second and third gens. The only exception are the second-gen Sony touch models, which used a rather reflective touch overlay, so had much more trouble with reflections than non-touch Sony models or Kindles. Third-gen touch Sonys fixed this issue.

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A backlight would be a very bad idea

E Ink screens are completely opaque. They don't let any light through. The complete effect of a back light would be some light seepage around the edges and no change to the page. It's like asking for a backlight on a book, if the pages were made of cardboard. What you want is a front light, and it's substantially easier to get close-to-constant lighting across the page if you don't attach that to the device. In summary: with a Kindle you're in exactly the same position as you are with a real book.

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Buy can buy a case with a fold out light

I have my new kindle in a special leather case with integrated fold out white LED light to use in low light. Light is powered by the kindle, doesn't use much power and makes the kindle very readable in total darkness. Together they make the perfect reading combination. I'm very pleased with my new Xmas toy.

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Happy

Reading on the iPad

I've not really considered a Kindle for similar reasons. I don't want to carry two devices when the Kindle app on the iPad is perfectly good. Maybe it's because I'm on SSH all day but I like to run the app with white text on a black background, which also means it's not blinding to look at in darkened rooms. I've not had problems seeing the pages outdoors on the iPad or the iPhone either.

Whatever device is being used, iPhone, iPad or an actual Kindle, I'm absolutely delighted with the service. I've not read so many books since I was (forced to read) in school. I think the convenience of auto-syncing your position in the book, plus the ability to have your favourite books with you all the time without having to carry loads of bulky novels has made reading an effortless joy.

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Charging fine, backlighting not an issue IMO

Yes, the third generation Kindle will charge just fine from a standard USB port. Like the iPad or Galaxy Tab it probably charges a lot faster on a high-voltage USB port, but I run my Kindle for several weeks, then recharge it for a few hours (or overnight if charging from a non-mac laptop).

Unlike your experience with the Sony, it will run weeks without a recharge (assuming you aren't constantly listening to music through the surprisingly good (considering the thickness and purpose of the device) stereo speakers.

The contrast is quite good compared to the Sony, yes, and a notable improvement on the Gen 2 Kindle.

Respectfully, I think you're dead wrong on backlighting. Most of the time it's not needed; when it is, why not use front lighting which is much more natural for the eye? The $139 kindle has a $40 or so accessory -- a nice leather 'book' style cover with an integrated pop out LCD light powered off the Kindle's own internal battery.

I have used tablets for years (and currently have a Dell (don't like), Meego (beta) and Galaxy Tab. None of these touch the Kindle in terms of being easy on the eyes. (The Galaxy Tab is pretty similar technologically to the Gen1 Ipad -- higher pixel density, slightly lower resolution, and somewhat smaller display, but both IPS). I wouldn't spend 8-10 hours reading a Galaxy Tab/Ipad; I would and have done so with the Kindle.

Overall I agree with Bezos; I've been using tablets and PDAs for years; none of them touch the Kindle at what the Kindle is best at.

If you are a bibliophile, the 3G wifi Kindle is close to a no-brainer. If you don't spend 8+ hours a week reading books then it's probably not for you; you're better off with a good backlit device that does fantastic video (e.g. Tab, IPad).

[I have no connection with Amazon, Apple, Samsung, Google, Nokia or Intel. I do have a very tenuous connection with RIM [as someone affiliated with a partner company] who will be producing the QNX/Neutrino-based Playbook, but I deliberately offer no opinion on that device]

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@HomesIV

<pedant>"high-voltage USB port"?</pedant>

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Pint

Connected to a PC to charge - what century are you in?

Lots of options including

usb to mains

usb to car

usb to battery pack

usb to anything else with usb

All for very few squids

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Backlighting

Can't backlight e-ink. All the black particles are in the screen, they're just held to the rear of the screen where there's a white spot. Where there's a black spot, the white particles are held to the rear.

Which means the screen is full of opaque particles that won't let light through.

Try a case with a light. I don't happen to like those, because the illumination isn't even. If you're the same, you could try something like the dorky flashlight glasses Orbital wears in concert, or something like this: http://www.amazon.com/Twist-Hands-Flexible-Light-Green/dp/B003QSIIAC/ref=pd_cp_hi_1

It's a bendable tube with three LEDs in each end. The idea being you wear it around your neck, and bend it so the ends point at, and illuminate, your book.

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Paris Hilton

Why no sales figures?

If they're that proud you'd think they'd be trumpeting their sales figures.

Paris, cos she's shy about her figure too.

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Silver badge
FAIL

RTFA...

and FTFL. The article gives a direct comparison and a link to the original press release, which includes sales figures in paragraph one.

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word on the street..

is that they have sold about 8 mill of the things so far in 2010, but they haven't confirmed any figures yet.

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Anonymous Coward

Harry potter?

Now just think how many eBook versions of Harry Potter they would sell if JK's legal department would pull their figure out and get it published!

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Happy

Kindle on Android is very nice and I always have my Phone

The best reader is the one you have with you :-)

HTC Desire FTW

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Anonymous Coward

Agreed.

I use my phone. Smaller still, and one less box to carry around.

I use my iPhone, but in this case don't think that's the important thing.

Also, when will Amazon's marketing drones get it through their heads - iPads and similar tablets are a different class of device to Kindle and the other essentially one-trick-pony ereaders. You can't watch films, use a wide array of applications or view high resolution photos on a Kindle. It's for a different market ffs!

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Linux

Even musicians see the downside...

...it's funny you mention "high resolution photos" since just a couple of days ago I heard a tech discussion on the radio from "creative" types about how things like iPad and smart phones really destroy the full potential of film and video. They lamented this fact while still being fascinated by the idea of squeezing a tiny picture onto a small screen.

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Pearl

The latest screens - Pearl - have contrast similar to a paperback. That means I can use my Reader 650 anywhere that I could read a paperback book. The previous model, the 600, had both a reflective touch screen and a display with less contrast, now that they've fixed both of those it really is just as easy to read as a paper book. I did have a light for my ebook, but I rarely use it now, unless I'm in bed last thing at night the ambient light in the room is enough, if I'm in bed then I have a bedside lamp which I aim in the general direction of me and that suffices. Reading a backlit screen isn't pleasant for any length of time.

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Flame

Kindle

The current Kindle uses a standard micro USB connector for data Xfer and charging, it can be charged with a USB port, the included charger, or 'most any recent cell phone charger.

A kindle can be used for up to a month between recharges.

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the other good thing about a reader...

...is it's a book. just a book. there's something wonderful about that, for me; it's a bit hard to describe as by simple logical reasoning it ought to be a drawback, but it really doesn't work that way. Sure, on an iPad you can read books AND play games AND read websites AND spin little skeletons around AND a zillion other things. My poor Sony reader just...reads books.

But the thing is, it's really really good at reading books. It weighs just about nothing, fits in a pocket, and can have several thousand books on it - *and nothing else* (okay, okay, it can act as an MP3 player, but I have a phone for that). The screen is, well, much more like a book than just about anything else besides a book could be. It doesn't have any extraneous interface widgets or bits of hardware for any purpose beyond the reading of books. When I have it around I tend to read books, which I find is a rather valuable consequence of its design, and to really enjoy reading them, which is likewise. Hard to describe, as I said, but there's just something indefinably brilliant about a good book reader as a device.

The other advantage of this, of course, is that it makes a good reader - a Kindle or a Sony - attractive to someone who really wouldn't have any reason to buy an iPad. My mother uses a computer maybe once a day to check her email. She's not on Facebook. She doesn't tweet. She doesn't play computer games or read almost any websites or spin little skeleton things around. She does, however, read a lot of books. The value proposition of an e-reader is incredibly obvious to her. The value proposition of an iPad, not so much. There are hundreds of millions of people like my mother (of various ages and genders); they're generally happy to buy anything of obvious value to them and a lot of them have sufficient resources that a couple of hundred quid is a very easy barrier to entry for them to clear. They may not be as 'cool' as Apple's audience but their money's worth just as much.

I bought my mum a Kindle for Christmas, she's already using it and happy as a clam with it; if I'd bought her an iPad I doubt that'd be the case. I'd not be at all surprised if the sales for readers go stratospheric in short order. Just wait for Oprah (or, in the UK, Richard and Judy) to start hawking one. I'd have a significant chunk of my life savings in the company that makes e-Ink screens if I could just find a bloody online broker for the Taiwanese stock exchange...

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Thumb Up

I agree with every golden word.

Got a third gen Kindle myself and I have to say that it is within in its price point and use context an absolutely brilliant piece of kit. I am not at all surprised that they are "storming off the shelves" at Amazon. I will probably be in the market for a tablet towards the back half of next year, but that will be for other reasons. Kindle et al have their place.

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Hear hear.

There's something brilliant about having an entire bookcase-worth of capacity in something the size of a DVD case, lighter than a paperback, which you only have to think about charging once every three-to-four weeks.

That's weeks, Tony. Not days. Don't know what you were doing with yours; possibly listening to a lot of audiobooks or something, but in normal operations mine will last up to a month on a charge, and that's reading a fair bit, on a daily basis...

Finished your book on the train in to work? No problem; start the next one. These e-readers all come with a bunch of free classics, so if you haven't bought the latest Twilight yet you can always catch up on a Sherlock Holmes or Northanger Abbey or something. Only downside: I quite like the look of a well-stocked bookcase, but this thing has helped me keep a curb on my second-hand-book habit...

Oh, and if you can't stretch to a "proper" illuminated cover (or find the edge-lit effect a little odd) then a clip-on reading light from the local 99p shop will work just as well, same as on a traditional book, if you at least have some form of cover (and you really ought.)

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Agreed

I received a Kindle for Christmas like a few other people but it's not my first encounter with ebooks. A few years back I had a Tungsten T5 floating around and found an ebook program for it and a few ebooks. I found that due to the screen I found it hard to concentrate on what I was reading due to the small screen size and the backlight seemed to wear on my eyes after a while. It's only been a little while but I've worked my way through The Picture of Dorian Gray and Dracula and found them to be a lot more "comfortable" to read than on my Palm.

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Happy

Efficiency

Purchased a Kindle wifi from Amazon online at 1838hrs December 23rd - wait for it - it was delivered at1035hrs December 24th by UPS!

I missed what I thought was the deadline the Sunday before Christmas and had been reduced to searching local places. Had given up when I checked Amazon for grins and the damn thing (going to have to seriously consider the implications of) displayed a timer with an hour left, claiming to be the deadline for shipping. Click go! ok, figure $40-$50 shipping overnight. Full Stop. $4. Sure wrap that puppy for $5 more! Still don't believe it, been here before I_have_the_Microsoft_Internet Explorer_3_Midnight_Madness_t-shirt, ain't gonna happen. Lies, all lies.

And then it showed up less than 18 hours later. Mind you, it would take longer than that for me to drive to where it came from.

$4 delivered on Christmas Eve.

Little wife loves her present.

:)

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Kindle and DRM?

So these Kindle thingies -- do they implement DRM or am I free to do what I want with one? My view is they are designed to lock you into an ebook reader where the content is all protected by DRM. So once you've bought one you can only use paid-for content.

If that's the case I'll definitely not get one. But if I can simply copy plain PDFs across (such as those I download online for free, with no DRM) and can then use those, then it may be a different thing.

My bottom line -- I don't trust these Apple/Google/Amazon types who are trying to give me a walled garden where I can only enjoy the view as long as I pay. So I won't pay and have no concern about what I'm missing.

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DRM Optional

Kindle does have DRM, and paid-for books from Amazon require it, but it also supports unencrypted MOBI format books. There are many sources for thousands of free (public domain) books that are formatted for the Kindle.

The downside is that it is not compatible with other DRM systems, so books using Adobe DRM (most public library e-books) are not compatible, nor are paid books from other vendors.

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Kindle formats

The Kindle will happily display DRM-free ebooks - eg from Project Gutenberg, or ones you've converted yourself. PDFs and TXT files are both acceptable formats, though your mileage may vary with PDFs depending on how they've been formatted; probably best to convert them first.

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Anonymous Coward

DRM can be multiple - just not on ereaders

Amazon Kindle by design prohibits Adobe DRM-ebooks - required for most of the public library ebooks. What's paid for as mine is theirs, rather like Apple products.

Compare that with Sony and B&N Nook readers that also have their own proprietary DRM ebooks but do enable public library Adobe DRM-ebooks.

But contrast that with my Android phone that can be used to borrow public library Adobe-DRM ebooks, using Overdrive Media Console. The other proprietary format readers, such as Kindle and Nook are small enough that I could almost install all the reader programs needed on my phone.

You can't do that on an out of the box Kindle or any other e-ink reader, and your choice will be limited.

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Anonymous Coward

Nook vs Kindle

The Kindle does have DRM, but it also supports "free" books from Project Gutenberg, etc.

The problem that I have with the Kindle is that it only supports Amazon's DRM, so if you're buying books, you have to buy them from Amazon, and if your local library provides "e-lending", it probably won't work with your Kindle. The other players in the e-reader field are a bit more open in that regard, even the Sony readers allow you to get your e-books from a range of retailers, and it and the B&N Nook and many of the other devices in this category also support the type of DRM that libraries (have to) use for e-lending. The Nook even allows you to "loan" your purchased books to another Nook user for 2 weeks.

Personally, if I was buying an e-reader today, I'd be inclined to buy the Nook rather than the Kindle.

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Bronze badge

It's format war all over again

It's not "walled garden"; it's more like Blu-Ray vs HD-DVD again, except that we are still far from the conclusion.

So there is Amazon with its proprietary DRM, based on MOBI format. And there is another camp (Sony, B&N Nook etc.) with Adobe DRM which is based on EPUB. Devices sold by both camps also support non-DRM content in the format they are based on, i.e. Kindle supports non-DRM MOBI publications and the other camp supports non-DRM EPUB. The thing about non-DRM content is that it can be easily converted in either direction and displayed by any reader. There is also non-DRM PDF, but it's not really that good on ebook reader since it's non-flowing and thus doesn't work with scalable fonts.

The point about DRM is that, if customer owns reader supporting just one DRM format, he will have little choice buying DRM content, even if still able to access non-DRM content. This means customers buying copyrighted books (i.e. new releases) either from Amazon or Barnes & Noble but unable to pick & choose from both. I don't like it and I don't think anyone likes it, but we are stuck until large bookshops come to their senses. Also libraries have taken side of Adobe DRM. Some shops like oreilly.com or www.baen.com are much more reasonable in this respect .

Right now, if you want e-paper reader you just have choose which DRM (and content) you like better, or buy two readers. If you don't care about e-paper, then you can have both on one LCD device like Android or iPad, using appropriate apps. It just isn't this nice to read as e-paper is.

Hopefully at some point there will be relatively cheap Android device with e-paper-like screen, at which point sales of e-paper readers bound to one DRM schema should tumble, forcing bookshops to rethink their strategy. There is hoping.

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158 items per second

Of course, those weren't all Kindles. To be fair, it seems that they did sell a lot of those but we don't know 'cos they won't tell us.

I suppose some of them might be, er ... well ... um ... books.

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Anonymous Coward

Kindlebois out in force

Snag of the kindle as I see it is, when you get bored of the book you're reading, it just becomes a paperweight at that point and something to clutter up the bag.

Your usage may vary of course, but I also find that email and skype connectivity are still required even I'm reading. Also, if some sociopath boss wants to book a meeting at hideous-o-clock, I can swap to my calendar and book that in. Or perhaps I want to google some terms I've just read in my book? All possible on my ipad/droidpad...

Frankly, I've yet to encounter the direct-sunlight issue, but I've encountered the above scenarios numerous times. So that's a win for "Fat tablets" in my eyes.

As I said - your usage will vary. If you're lucky enough to be able to single-task and read un-interupted, lucky you - enjoy your Kindle. Can I have your un-cluttered life please?

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Bronze badge

Howto: Unclutter your life

Disconnect for a few hours - I promise it will not kill you. Done.

Your snag: 2500 books on a wifi edition. If you get bored with that, the above cannot help you. Sorry.

Sociopath Boss: The_laptop_is+right_over_there_if_needed.

Unfamiliar Words: Built-in Dictionary/Thesaurus

Single Tasking: A choice, your mileage will vary lol.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

Addendum:

My purchase was made because it pained me to see my wife read a book on her BB Storm2 or on her laptop. The BB is too small for realistic reading and the laptop is/was heavy with the attending eyestrain. I did look at the Nook, Sony's ebook reader, and some off-brand tablets - not impressed due to cost/useability factors... and the fact the little wife has already downloaded 250+ books to her BB from Amazon.

Plus it uses illustrations from your book selection for a screensaver-type-thing that is just cool. We tend to collect real old hardbound books and it's nice to read them without the wear and tear that ordinarily occurs from handling them. Hehe, my downloaded books backup my hardcopies.

Conspiracy: Amazon is positioning the Kindle to compete somehow in the tablet market, thus the 3g version. No reason for 3g if you think about the fact it's really hard not to have a nearby wifi ap and the 2500+/- books it can carry. The Kindle will become more multifunctioning tablet-like thing in the future, I betcha.

As it is, I have a Kindle jealousy thing going on over her Christmas present. She won't let me mess with it.

:)

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Anonymous Coward

@ 68 SK LFG

Disconnect for a few hours:

With a 1yr old and 3yr to look after, this is not as easy as you make out.

Bored with reading:

...reading more books won't help, which was exactly my point. Especially when it's boring stuff like a MCSE revision aid.

Boss:

Again another of my points - why carry another device, when one serves perfectly?

Terms:

I doubt a dictionary will assist me look up a specs or prices for a router or switch somehow

Sorry, but I can't stand one-trick ponies in my current life - yes, kindles are good readers - no debate there, (the fanboi following can just calm down now) but I need efficiency and integration of functions - the tablets can do this just now - the kindle can't. However, i do agree with your point - we'll see convergence soon - tablets with better displays and batteries, and the kindle gaining extra functions (especially with the wifi + 3G).

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Preaching to the choir

I/we have a total of seven kids - six boys, one girl - three already moved out and we're considering one more. I really, seriously, know of what you speak.

However, you MUST take the time for yourself. Period. No negotiation. Every Day. If not for yourself, do it for the kids, they need someone who won't snap their heads off during the mundane 'don't touch him!' episodes that occur. (not saying you do, but it happens sometimes)

I learned the hard way and almost lost everything because I_did_not_know(!) how much that little bit of time really meant and running myself into the ground. Stop and smell the roses, life is too screwed up not to take advantage of the small perks it sometimes provides.

Off topic: Are there any soapboxes left in Hyde Park? Somebody left one here on a visit or something lol.

:)

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adam android tablet

Dual mode screen. Best of both?

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Remarkable figures.

World population a touch under 7 billion, world illiteracy rate at 18% (decreasing, but not enough by Boxing day 2011) to justify those figures. But, if that helps the rate come down, I'm all for meaningless numbers, just wonder if it'll help many maths departments.

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Kindle 3gen is as good as a book

Title says it all. You can read it anywhere you can read a book, and you don't get eyestrain.

After spending 10 hours behind a PC/laptop a day I find it nice to look at something which isn't burning your eyes :-)

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Doh: there is no fooling consumers?

Anybody that has ever read a book using e-ink technology knows there is no substitute (other than a paper book).

I went on Holiday a few years back, to lie on the beach (mostly). Brought my B-Book, had lots of fun with it. Its as easy on the eyes as paper, gets better with more sunlight (and there was lots). It doesnt try to radiate your eyes.

So people trying to fool consumers saying that you can use an lcd device to read books will only catch the unaware. It is not very well suited for that purpose (same as e-ink is not suited for any other purpose than reading static content, its just to slow for dynamic content).

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Happy

@TonyHoyle

I take it you didn't read much before the advent of the iPad? ;)

Last time I read a paper book, I needed to use a light if it was dark out dimly lit, and the Kindle was designed to replace a book. That simple fact makes the whole backlighting argument a non-starter for me.

Personally, I think the Kindle is a fantastic book replacement - I find it far superior than my Galaxy Tab for reading, which in turn is better than the iPad for reading due to it's smaller size and weight. That's not to denigrate the iPad, which is a great device but IMO it is far to big and heavy for comfortable reading.

E-ink screens are just better for longer reading sessions.

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Anonymous Coward

Is there a future for...

Illustrated audio books? Kind of like a comic book being read to you, but with sound effects, more dialog and more pictures. And in color of course. School books would be easier to carry around too. It could save a few trees too.

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Happy

I like my Kindle *it just works*

It works and comparing it with an iPad is silly, it costs less than a quarter of the price. I was interested in an iPad for reading stuff (have actually read a ton of things on my old iPhone) and the Kindle made economic sense.

Kindle will also do a Steven Hawking reading thing, which I plug into the car. Not brilliant, but means I'm still doing useful stuff when commuting.

Also switched to an HTC Desire, because *it just works* and has buttons with labels on that say things like "back" and "menu" instead of having to guess where the app has buried them in the user interface. Plus I can check my diary, twitter and email from the desktop without starting an app. When the new Android 3 devices come down the pipe, costing around £200, I'll probably get one and be able to do about 10x more than the folk with iPads. Then I will give the Kindle to my other half.

Grateful to Apple for breaking the network's monopoly and assumption that their users are stupid, but moved on. Also moved on from O2's non-3G 3G and 500MB tariff to T-Mobile 3GB standard package. Plus the hassle free MiFi that's built in, so I could use the phone with the Kindle ... hmmm.

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Silver badge

I look forward to e-ink on my netbookpadpodphone

Pixel Qi perhaps - but I don't want a different device for every function a computer can carry out.

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Go

E-Ink Phone, please

+1. The devices we use every day, often out in direct sunlight, need to start using e-ink. Or a similar, better technology. It seems *perfectly* suited to entry-level mobile phones. Why is this not being done?

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Bronze badge

RE: E-Ink Phone, please

Motorola F3 . The screen is slow to refresh, though.

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My Christmas Kindle

I got a wi-fi Kindle 3 for Christmas and I'm loving it. I've read more in the last couple of days than anytime in the previous years (excluding the annual reading fest that is the time spend lying by a pool somewhere hot for a couple of weeks). As people have said, the beauty of the Kindle is it's simplicity. I have the Kindle app on my iPhone but I don't want my reading device to vibrate, beep, or have a pop up when an email/call/text arrives.

I'd like to mention also how much value the software package called Calibre adds to the Kindle experience. It's free to download on Mac and PC and on a daily basis pulls down The Independent, Telegraph and Guardian (and many others should you be interested) and automatically emails them to my Kindle meaning they download when I turn my Kindle on.

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Kindles

As somebody who reads a lot of books and spends a lot of time away from home, the Kindle was a no-brainer purchase for me. I love it.

Would I like an iPad? Of course of I would. But I wouldn't use it as an e-book reader.

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Coat

Thoughts of the Kindle

I played with a first generation Kindle a few years ago, while repairing someone's computer. They offered to let me see it in action, and I took them up on it. I thought it was an interesting device and that I might want one.

Well, let's size up the competition. Barnes and Noble booksellers would LOVE to sell you a nook reader or even their nook color model. There's nothing really wrong with the nook per se, but the color touchscreen seems to me like it's a solution looking for a problem. And the color nook, which they seem to be selling without any trouble at all, seems not much different from an iPad.

Okay...the iPad...or what I believe The Register calls a "fondle slab"...is really not a bad device. There's a lot to like about one, I'd even say that it's been well engineered for the most part. Some of Apple's followers and detractors would probably negate anything negative or positive that I'd say about it, but it might be the right device for some people, with its ability to run a diverse array of applications and also function as an e-reader. I held one, I played with it and ran some apps...and decided that it wasn't really what I wanted. Nice piece of equipment, full color display, but not a solution to any problem I was having.

And then there are the rest...tablets from many no-name Chinese or Taiwanese companies, ones from better known suppliers such as Acer, RIM and Samsung, and yet more than that. I don't know much about these or how much backing they are likely to get in what is fast becoming a crowded market.

Here's the thing. Some might differ with me on this, but reading for a long time, as you would a book or similar media, really doesn't work well on an LCD or CRT screen. I remember reading Bill Gates' book, The Road Ahead (stop that snickering, it was a gift) from the included CD-ROM, on my good old Dell Precision 433Si and a 14" Dell Ultrascan monitor. Despite the surprisingly good quality of the display and the fact that I was using a decent refresh rate, this was one of the most tedious, tiring things I've ever done, and not just because the CD software installed a messed up version of Video for Windows and had all of the stability of a garden trellis in a tornado. I don't recall now why I did it that way, only that I did. To me, it's still tiresome to read on even a modern LCD panel for a long time, just as it was with the CRT.

This December, just before Christmas, I quit goofing/loafing around and ordered a Kindle with 3G wireless and Wi-Fi about a week before Christmas day. It was delivered the night before Christmas. I gave myself an early present after the mail was delivered and the thing had some time to warm up from the frigid outdoors.

I'm still working on a full fledged review (you won't see it here, obviously I don't write for The Register, nor any other publication--it'll be on my personal web server) of the Kindle. While it might not be for everyone, it's a fine device. I think Amazon has a point when they say that devices such as the iPad won't be a real threat to the Kindle. It's a well engineered (though not perfect) device with an excellent display. The display is so good that you really don't miss not having color. Text is just razor sharp, and graphics are handled well, with great clarity in every example that I displayed. You won't believe how light weight it is, either.

Its text-to-speech function isn't bad. It's a computer voice, and yes you can tell because sometimes it flubs the pronunciation of a word or demonstrates an irregular speaking rhythm, but it's not a /bad/ computer voice with muffled clarity, tendency to mispronounce almost everything and monotonous speech. The built in speakers are surprisingly good for what they are and there is a stereo minijack connector on the bottom, for headphones or line out use.

My only complaints? The funny USB connector, DRM on the books (infringing on the rights normally provided with a first sale), inability to buy a "used" book (see DRM), no current support for lending books to/from others, and no ability to control the screens that are displayed when the device is sleeping. (I'd like to pick an "idle" image, or turn them off entirely, so the screen is blank when the Kindle is off.) Privacy and the EULA could be better--Amazon tells you that they may collect statistics on certain aspects of the device's use and where you leave a bookmark, annotation or leave off in your reading. At least some of that has to do with "social networking" aspects of the device, so maybe that's why it is mentioned.

It's also mentioned in the EULA that you are forbidden to disassemble the physical hardware, as well as the software. Software, fine, whatever. The hardware, well, that part I kinda actually OWN. Last I knew, I could do almost anything I wanted to do with a device that I bought. If I weren't such a busy guy, and didn't think I might break it beyond repair, I'd take it apart to prove a point.

Amazon seems to want feedback on the device, mentioning multiple times that there is an e-mail address available to send feedback to the Kindle team. I don't know how seriously they take such feedback, and I'd imagine they get quite a lot of it. Still, it's a nice gesture if nothing else, assuming they mean it.

I've read a few books on the device, one complete commercially published title, the user's guide that Amazon preloaded, and a few short stories that I wrote myself and converted to text-only format for Kindle display and transferred over the USB connection. Not once did it do a bad job, nor did I become tired while reading from it. It was, to put it simply, a very easy device to read from.

Amazon also complies with the GPL, as the Kindle bases on Linux and the 2.6 series kernel. The public parts of the Kindle code base have been released for download, and are available for each major device revision, all the way back to the first-gen model.

In other words, I think the Amazon product is a reasonable choice if what you have in mind is reading. It supposedly also supports some applications, but I don't really have any need or desire to run/buy apps for use on the Kindle, so I can't speak as to how well these work, how many there are or anything else. If you want something else, maybe you would be better served with an iPad, netbook, or another kind of tablet-thing.

Oops. I wrote another book in the comments area. I'll get my coat, and hope that someone found this useful.

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