New Additions To The Amazon Kindle Range

When Amazon unveiled their new additions to the Kindle range - the Kindle 4, Kindle Touch and KindKindle 4 DimensionsCredit: Fire tablet computer - at the end of September 2011, it was hardly surprising that the Touch and the Fire got the lion's share of the publicity. They were Amazon's first touch screen ebook reader and tablet computer respectively.

It would be wrong to suggest that the new entry level Kindle - strictly it's just the Kindle, but everyone except Amazon seems to refer to it as the Kindle 4 - went unnoticed, but considering that it was being made available at the low price of  just $ 79, it may not have generated the buzz that it deserved.

However, do not be fooled by either the low price or the "entry level" tag. The Kindle 4 is a fully fledged ebook reader which has the same great e-ink technology display as the other readers in the range. If you haven't used an ebook reader before, prepare to be astonished at just how similar using one is to reading text printed on paper. It really is very much easier on the eye than reading on a back-lit computer display.

The Kindle 4 also allows you full access to Amazon's huge collection of ebooks. There are over 1,000,000 to choose from, 800,000 of which cost less than $ 9.99. There are also a further 1.8 million out-of-copyright books which can be downloaded right from the Amazon Kindle store free of charge.

It could be that the entry level Kindle is all the reader that you need. It does lack some features of other readers in the range - but that might not be such a big deal if all that you want to do is read books.

How Can Amazon Sell The Kindle 4 At Such A Low Price?

Amazon has clearly taken some steps to keep the price of the Kindle 4 down. Even so, you may not find these to be too much of an inconvenience. Let's take a quick look at the "design to cost" aspects of the entry level Kindle:

  1. Special offers (adverts) are displayed on both the home page menu (near the bottom) and the screen saver pages.
  2. There is no physical QWERTY keyboard or touch screen controls.
  3. Internal memory is 2GB (compared to 4GB on the Kindle Touch and Kindle Keyboard).
  4. There is no audio playback.
  5. Battery life is "only" 1 month (compared to 2 months for other Kindles)

Let's have a quick look at these so that you can decide whether or not any of them are important to you.

Special OffersAdverts On The Kindle 4 Home Page

This may well be the most controversial cost cutting measure made by Amazon. Some people seem to be opposed to the idea of advertising being associated with books or ebooks, pretty much on a point of principle it seems. On the other hand, some Kindle owners are happy to report that they have made their reader pay for itself simply by taking advantage of the special deals on offer.

The adverts only appear on the home page menu screen and the screen saver pages - so they will not interfere with your enjoyment whilst you are actually reading. But if your Kindle is idle for long enough for the screen saver to kick in, the first thing that you will see when you pick it up will be an advert.

If you're uncertain as to whether or not the special offers would annoy you, just go ahead and get the Kindle with Special Offers anyway. If you really dislike the ads, you can turn them off by visiting the "Manage My Kindle" page on the Amazon website. This will cost you a further $ 30 - but you will then have an ad free reader.

Note that this isn't possible to do in the opposite direction. If you buy a Kindle with no special offers you can't activate them later using the Manage My Kindle page.

Lack Of Keyboard - No Touch ScreenKindle 4 Virtual Keyboard

Before I got my Kindle 4, I had a Kindle 2.0 for a couple of years. I can advise that I hardly ever used the keyboard - and I definitely don't miss it on the Kindle 4. Most of the time, I am reading a book, in which case the page forward and page back buttons are really all that I need.

On those rare occasions when text input is required, you can call up a virtual keyboard by pressing one of the buttons (the second from the left in fact) near the bottom of the reader's face. You then use the central 5-way toggle switch to enter text. Amazon has now enabled predictive text, so if you're searching for a well known title or author's name, there's a good chance that you won't need to input all of the characters anyway.

So, if you will be spending most of your time reading, the lack of a keyboard, or touch screen controls, probably won't be a huge inconvenience for you.

2GB Internal Memory

The Kindle 4 has 2GB of memory available. That's half that of the other readers in the range. Of this 2GB, 1.25GB is available to the user. On the face of it, that doesn't sound great - but the fact is that you can store up to 1,400 Kindle books on your reader. That should be plenty for even the keenest book lover.

In the unlikely event that you do run out of onboard memory, Amazon provides free cloud storage for all of your Amazon content, so you do have options.

No Audio Playback

Unlike other readers in the series, the entry level Kindle has no audio capability. That means that you won't be able to take advantage of the "read-to-me" facility, play mp3 files or listen to audio books.

Whether or not that is something that is important to you is a question that only you can answer. All that I can say is that I never used any of these features during the two years that I used my Kindle 2.0.

One Month Battery Life

Based on an average of thirty minutes reading a day, Amazon claim that the Kindle 4 will go for roughly one month between battery charges. That seems like a reasonably accurate claim to me based upon my own usage.

That's about half the time for the other readers in the family, which can go for two months between charges (again based upon an average of half an hour's reading each day).

It's something that you will need to evaluate on a personal basis. However, it seems improbable that you will be unable to charge your reader for more than four weeks at a time. It's also more than enough to see you through a long haul flight, a short business trip or a weekend away.

Is The Kindle 4 Right For You?

Now that you've had time to consider the various cost cutting measures employed in the design of the new entry level Kindle you're probably in a good position to decide whether or not it's a good option for you.

It's probably worth pointing out that many of these measures haven't just cut the cost - they have also helped Amazon to make the Kindle 4 the smallest, lightest Kindle ever. It really is very portable.

If you're looking for a straightforward, but fully functional, ebook reader, which you intend to use mainly for reading, then the Kindle 4 might be a good choice.

kindle 4 ebook reader