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Interface, Eink Screen and Format Support

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams



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The Kindle interface hasn't changed much in this 2011 edition. It's still blissfully simple - simpler than most rival ebook readers. The home screen is a list of books and documents, arranged by date of last use by default. It can also be ordered by title or author, or changed into a list of Collections.

Collections are how Amazon lets you order larger libraries with a Kindle - but that's about as complicated as it gets. However, there's also a search function, which makes it possible to shove a gigantic library onto the device without watching 90 per cent of it fall into a headache-inducing organisational vortex.

Kindle shots 8

Having used a great many ebook readers, including the Kindle 3, we can safely say this is the fastest yet. It's significantly quicker than the previous-gen Kindle, making the speed issue of eink all-but disappear.

Eink displays are a lot slower to refresh than LCD screens because each time the screen refreshes, there's a movement of microcapsules within the screen to form the image. This extra physicality of eink makes it slow, but is also what helps it appear so book-like - because the process is so much closer to the printing of "real" words.

The 2011 Kindle uses a new eink strategy to speed-up its operation. While reading, a full-screen refresh only takes place after every five page turns. A full refresh causes the screen to go black for a split second as the display is effectively reset. Turns between this refresh leave a slight residue on the screen, but it's much less jarring than a full refresh every page.


Here's what residue looks like, at its worst

Using intermittent refreshing, the Kindle lets you flick through pages faster than you could with a real book page-by-page. The lack of a physical keyboard does slow down other elements of navigation, though. When surfing the web using the "experimental" browser, using the search function or searching for a particular book in the Kindle Store, you have to use the D-pad to manually tap characters into a virtual keyboard.

Wise to how laborious this can become, Amazon has implemented extremely aggressive predictive searching in the dictionary and Store, offering up potential search terms as soon as you start typing. If you're looking for something popular, you should find it in the list of best-guesses within a few taps. You don't get such help when browsing the web, but then Amazon calls it an "experimental" feature for a reason.


Unless you're buying the Kindle to browse the web - and why would you - the loss of the keyboard is not a huge one. It makes rifling through the Kindle Store slightly slower, but when you factor in how little time you do this compared with time spent reading, it's barely a sacrifice at all.

As well as being faster than any other reader out there, the 2011 Kindle also offers the highest contrast we've seen in a device like this. Put up against the Kindle 3, the new model clearly offers better contrast, with visibly darker text. Like its predecessor, you can select from eight font sizes, and three styles - regular, condensed and sans serif.

Kindle shots 5

There's still room for improvement. The screen resolution isn't quite high enough to make text pin-sharp, and as it uses the same 600x800 pixel resolution as most previous Kindles, this is no surprise. The iRiver Story HD, the first ereader set for Google branding, is likely to be the first eink reader of a similar size to offer significantly higher pixel density. For now, this is still the best 6in model, although the Sony PRS-350 offers sharper text thanks to its 5in 800x600 display.


The small Sony also arguably beats Amazon's Kindles' format support. ePub is not supported by the Kindle, although as conversion to a compatible format is quick, free and painless - and drag and drop file transfer works without a hitch - it is once again no reason to opt for a rival. There's 1.3GB of user-accessible memory built-in, which is enough for tonnes of books and newspapers. The Kindle 3 offers 4GB of memory, but most people simply won't need the extra.


October 13, 2011, 12:02 am

Great review, and thanks for the helpful graphics.

I think I'll keep my Kindle 3 for now though, at least until the Touch becomes available here...


October 13, 2011, 11:57 am

Yet more evidence of US companies ripping off British consumers. In the US this costs $79 (using an ex-rate of 1.57) so that should be a UK price of around £50!!!! And the touch screen version costs $99 (not sold in the UK!) that's around £58. Avoid until they lower the price.


October 13, 2011, 1:20 pm

There are two versions of this I believe in the US, ad-supported and ad free (ad supported being the cheaper of the two). We only get the ad free version which costs $109 US, so ours is around around the same price.


October 13, 2011, 2:05 pm

dlano's right on this one. We're not particularly getting done over on price but we certainly are on choice. Hopefully they'll sort it out within the next few months - although I imagine we might continue to miss out on ad-supported editions.


October 13, 2011, 4:26 pm

I really wanted to like this Kindle, but (a) the D-Pad based keyboard makes even annotation impossible (b) their PDF reader remains poor (when compared to the Sony).

I guess this device makes sense if you principally want to buy into the Amazon ecosystem and read the books they sell. If you want a device where you can store and read other content (e.g. technical papers), shelling out the additional £50 for the Sony Touch Wi-Fi still seems the way to go.

Brian ONeill

October 13, 2011, 7:30 pm


The $79 one is ad supported, the one without ads is $109:

This works out at £70. Factor in the VAT and you will see that the price is fair enough.


October 18, 2011, 7:00 pm

My wish list. Improve the pdf reader, better handling of footnotes, add in folders in the file system for books/paper and for music (or playlists). Removing the keyboard - not so much though I don't use it.

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