The Amazon Kindle 2 is finally available in Europe and the UK, and we thought it would be good to review the product and offering to see how it compares to the leading ebook readers available in the U.K.
The Amazon Kindle 2 is a large improvement from the first generation device released by Amazon, and looks both stylish and usable. The navigation buttons are intuitive, featuring a 5 way rocker switch and various buttons laid around the screen for page flips.
The screen uses the popular Vizplex E-ink display, featuring 16 shades of gray for a clear and crisp letters and graphics. Many ebook readers are limited to 4 or 8 shades, and the 16 levels does give an advantage to the Kindle when it comes to handling graphics, font smoothing and images.
The screen refreshes are fast, and similar to the Sony and Bebook devices – This makes for a pleasurable reading experience without having to wait too long for the next page.
The Kindle 2 comes with 2 GB of internal storage onboard which should be enough for most user’s needs – But it does not come with an SD card slot for additional storage. This will be an important factor to consider when purchasing your ebook reader, as this means once you have filled this up, you will need to delete books…Plus means you can’t load ebooks from the SD card directly.
The device itself is gorgeous, and the ebook reader size is nothing short of amazing considering the features: With a 0.36 inch thick design, this is one of the thinnest ebook readers around.
Software wise, the Amazon Kindle features a well built and intuitive user interface thats been improved since the Kindle 1. Functionality wise, you can save notes, search, access the built in dictionary and it all feels pretty well thought out.
The new feature the Kindle brings to the table is the text to speach function, which means your Kindle can your books to you literally. This is an interesting feature, you get to pick from either a male or female voice, and you can change the reading speed to suit your taste. The Kindle uses the latest generation text to speech engine, which provides a more natural experience than the built in feature your your mac or PC, but lets just say that the audio book industry is not about to go out of business! The reading is robotic, and if you are like me will revert back to audio books or reading after 30 mins.
Another unique feature is the Whispernet 3G connection which comes built into the Kindle, which enables you to access Amazon’s walled garden internet network worldwide (in 100 countries) at no extra cost. This is a bold move by Amazon, and a world first at this scale.
Through Whispernet you get access to Wikipedia,the Amazon ebook store, read the first chapter of any book (try before you buy) and access to paid subscription news feeds. You don’t get access to email or the actual internet in the but considering this comes free and its available worldwide makes it an attractive offer.
You can therefore buy books wirelessly during your travels, research Wikipedia as you are reading, and keep on top of your favourite news at a low cost per feed – Its just like reading the morning paper, without the bulk or wasted paper.
The Amazon is not without its weaknesses though. This is apparent when you take into consideration the compatible ebook formats supported by the Kindle: Kindle (AZW and TOPAZ), PRC, Limited MOBI (non DRM), TXT, MP3, Audible (format 4, Audible Enhanced (AAX)), MP3;
UPDATE: The Kindle now supports PDF format ebooks.
Yes you read this right, there is no PDF support or DRM mobi / epub formats, which means you will need to buy your books from the Amazon ebook store only.
Alternative ebook readers such as the Sony Touch or the BeBook both enable you to load up pretty much any ebook or document format which make them very versatile.
Another think to bear in mind is that at the time of writing, you have to buy your ebooks from the US Amazon Ebook store in US$ – This is not always practical, but can lead to lower ebook prices compared to UK ebooks.
Also the Kindle does not come with expandable memory, this is not a major issue as 2GB is a lot of books, but its nice to know you have room to grow with such a device.
In all this is a great device, its slim, it looks fantastic, and its a breeze to use. If you are keen on reading your own pdf’s or epub / mobi ebooks or god forbid download ebooks from your favourite pirate site then the Kindle might not be for you (Check out the BeBook One or Sony Touch).
For everyone else, the Amazon Kindle is a great device, you get instant access to a wide range of ebooks downloadable without the need for a PC. Plus you can keep in touch with the built in feed reader to read the news as it gets released from participating websites (for a monthly fee per feed).
The Amazon Kindle is available from the Amazon store for $259 / £158 – A bargain considering the quality of the device and the wireless access. Go to Amazon.com for more information.
Also check out our comparison table to see how it compares to other 6 inch ebook readers.