Kindle Keyboard 3G: first impressions

I have had a Kindle Keyboard 3G for four days now and have read a couple of books and long essays off of it.

The device has a good shape and size, and the screen is pleasant to read from. It doesn’t work terribly well with unconverted PDF files, which is quite a pain since the main reason I got it was to read thesis sources with. That being said, you can use Amazon’s free PDF conversion service for files under 50 megabytes. The converted files get delivered to your Kindle via WiFi. Unconverted PDF files load very slowly and clunkily, and sometimes cause the device to freeze up. All told, the interface of the device tends to be frustratingly slow. Even highlighting a passage of plain text can be a patience-trying task. Often, interacting with the Kindle consists of pressing a button and then waiting 5-15 seconds for it to have an effect.

The built-in web browser is poor, but good enough to let you use the free WiFi at Starbucks by clicking the button to accept the terms and conditions. One nice connectivity feature is that you can select a passage, write a short comment on it, and post the whole thing to Twitter. This is available by WiFi only, not over the 3G connection. I also like how the Kindle automatically collects all the passages you highlight in all documents into a single ‘clippings’ file.

The keyboard is tolerable for writing short notes, but you certainly wouldn’t want to write an essay or email on it.

All told, the Kindle is a pleasant and effective way to read plain text files and other properly-formatted documents. It isn’t great as a PDF reader, though perhaps future versions will be better in that way. One thing to be aware of is that – in my experience – the claimed battery life of the Kindle is a vast distortion. Amazon says that it will be good for 1-2 months, based on 30 minutes of reading per day and no wireless connectivity. I have found that I use about 1/3 of the battery every day. Admittedly, I have been using it for a lot more than half an hour. Still, my own use suggests that the battery lasts for about 10-15 hours with wireless turned off, which is better than a laptop or iPad but not sufficient to let you travel without worrying about finding places to charge.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

9 thoughts on “Kindle Keyboard 3G: first impressions”

  1. Have you tried converting your pdfs with Calibre?

    It’s a great piece of shareware. I use if for my Sony eReader. I’ve had mixed results with pdfs but it does very well with other formats.

  2. If you’re using a Kindle for PDFs, you’re going to have a bad experience for sure. If you’re using it as a replacement for paperback books, you will find it to be much better.

    I’m surprised at the poor battery life yours is getting. In my experience using one to read ebooks, the claimed battery life is believable.

  3. I’ve had a wifi Kindle keyboard for over a year and am thrilled with it. It has led to me spending more money on books, but it’s also led to more time spent reading, so I think that’s a fair trade. I agree it’s useless for PDFs and I too was disappointed with this, given how common PDF is for academic articles. I guess I’ll have to buy an iPad or a Kindle DX – or hope that we’ll see a move back to .DOC as the common currency?

  4. Despite the PDF disappointment, I’ve been impressed with using the Kindle for long web articles – I recommend the Readability “send to Kindle” feature.

  5. “Amazon says that it will be good for 1-2 months, based on 30 minutes of reading per day and no wireless connectivity. I have found that I use about 1/3 of the battery every day. Admittedly, I have been using it for a lot more than half an hour.”

    Two months at about 1/2 hour per day adds up to about 30 hours of use.

    So, if we go with the low end of their estimate (1 month = 15 hours), it is the same as the experience you are having.

  6. Ive had my Kindle for about a year. I can go about a month, but I have the 3rd gen wifi only model.

    Some PDFs are worse than others, but Calibre is pretty good at converting them.

    Also, for some reason, if you are exclusively viewing PDF on the Kindle it kills the battery. If you use .azw or .mobi format the majority of the time, I find you get better battery life.

    Also if you use the Kindle cover with built in light, it goes without saying you will also drain your battery faster.

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