Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Should you get a Kindle?


By Joe Dolittle

We're constantly asked holiday gift recommendations, and one of the most common is whether or not a Kindle is a good holiday choice. As you know, the Kindle is the wildly popular ebook reader sold by Amazon.

To answer this, we need to divide the discussion into two parts: the Kindle format and the Kindle devices.

Amazon did a very brave and very smart move when they decided to make the Kindle book format available on many different devices. Today, you can read Kindle books on your PCs, laptops, and netbooks, on iPads and iPhones, on Android devices, on BlackBerry phones, on Macs, and even on Windows Phone 7.

That means if you buy a Kindle book, you can read it pretty much everywhere.

While there are a ton of books available for the Kindle for purchase, there are also quite a few available for free -- and these, too, can be read on all of the above devices.

So, given that you can read Kindle books on all these devices, why should you buy a Kindle?

That's a good question. Our editor-in-chief has stated he doesn't like the Kindle screen, but has bought and read a whole bunch of Kindle books on his iPhone, and really enjoys the experience.

There are a few advantages to buying the Kindle itself.

Many people like the Kindle's so-called e-ink. This is a display technology that's easy to read in direct sunlight and doesn't take any power to keep on the display, so you can use a Kindle for days and days before needing to recharge.

Although the low-end Kindle can be had for $139, the most popular Kindle variant is the $189 model, which comes with a free, lifetime 3G cellular interface, so you can download (and buy, of course) books from Amazon wherever you happen to be. This is actually a pretty good value, especially if you don't want to add another wireless service to your monthly bill.

Finally, the Kindle itself will often read the book contents to you in a particularly Hal-like computer voice. Early on, there was some fuss over whether or not book publishers would allow "audio rights" for the Kindle, because it was reading the books, but very few publishers seem to have decided to be jerks about it, and having a book read to you is often a nice way to get through material.

So, do we recommend you get a Kindle? We definitely recommend you get Kindle books and read them on any platform you want. If you like to read outside, then the Kindle is our recommendation of choice. If you like a slightly larger device than your phone and you haven't sprung for an iPad, then the Kindle is our recommendation of choice.

Enjoy your reading!