The technology industry loves early adopters and without them there is no doubt the sector would not move at the same jet propelled pace it does. That said sometimes the waiting game does pay off and there are few better examples of this than Amazon's latest Kindle.
The web giant doesn't ascribe version numbers to its famous line of eBook readers, but what we have in front of us is the brand new third generation Kindle which is not only the best Kindle to date - but also by far the most important.
Superficially little seems to have changed: there is a tasteful switch from white to graphite and the clunky five way rocker of the second generation Kindle has been better integrated to the right of the keyboard, but it all looks rather familiar. In hand, however, the subtle differences become more apparent. At 190 x 213 x 8.5mm and 247g, the Kindle 3 is both 21 per cent smaller and 15 per cent lighter than its predecessor, the 6in 800 x 600 pixel e-ink display also has a 50 per cent better contrast ratio with crisper fonts while page turns are 20 per cent faster. Amazon doesn't supply specific figures to back-up these claims, but in direct comparison to the Kindle 2 they are apparent.
What this adds up to is the best eBook reader display we've seen. Its 16 shades of grey make it adept at displaying images where necessary and sunlight poses no problems whatsoever. In fact the Kindle is easier to read in bright sunlight than a book since white pages can be prone to glare. Yes there is still a slight delay when changing pages, but the transition is now no more distracting than turning a physical page. The other obvious benefit to e-ink is the battery life with the Kindle able to last up to one month with WiFi turned off - though 10 days seems more accurate with it switched on. Charging takes just three hours.
The changes don't stop there. The keyboard, while still not perfect, has a pleasing texture to the keys which stops fingers slipping and internal storage has been doubled to 4GB leaving space enough for a whopping 3,500 books.
Where things are less rosy are in terms of navigation. It must be stressed: the Kindle is not a difficult device to navigate, there are dedicated menu, home and back buttons and the menus themselves are simple and clearly labelled, but they are also a little convoluted. It would be easy to point the finger here at a lack of touchscreen controls and while they would undoubtedly add a level of simplicity, it would also make users more skittish about accidentally touching the screen. As it stands you'll find your way around the Kindle 3 without major obstacles, but it is perfunctory rather than enjoyable.