So what makes the Kindle 3 so important? Funnily enough it isn’t the device itself, but two major changes Amazon has made around it. The first is the long awaited launch of the Kindle UK store in August. When the Kindle 2 was launched internationally last year the most infuriating aspect was the grey import nature of the release. Purchases were through the Kindle US store in dollars, costs were high and there was virtually no European specific content. Leap ahead 12 months and this has been largely resolved. With over 350,000 books available Kindle UK is larger than main UK rivals WHSmiths and Waterstones. Prices tend to be cheaper as well with only three books in the Kindle top 20 Bestsellers costing more than £3.50. Amazon also offers over a million out of copyright books (pre 1923) for free.
Likewise there are now 129 newspapers available for daily subscription (a 14 day trial period is offered) including the Daily Telegraph, Independent, Mail, Financial Times and London Evening Standard. There are 49 magazines from prominent titles such as the Spectator, Economist, New Statesman, BusinessWeek and more than 10,000 free blog feeds.
The real gem for Kindle owners though is Whispersync, Amazon’s integrated Cloud synchronisation software which not only backs-up purchased content but also synchronises your furthest reading position across multiple Kindles or devices using Kindle apps. In reality this means you can purchase an eBook through the Kindle Android, iPhone or BlackBerry apps, read 50 pages on the train then pick up your Kindle and find the book already downloaded and ready at the last page you left off. It is a wonderfully flexible system which is getting better all the time as Amazon expands its Kindle app across ever more devices (most recent is Kindle Web).
The downside for Kindle owners is Amazon’s continued rejection of the EPUB format. This is the most widely sold format by rival eBook stores and hopes are high to turn it into the MP3 of the eBook world – something Amazon’s stance doesn’t help. This can be overcome using the fantastic (and free) Calibre eBook management software which will automatically convert formats and even wirelessly upload content to a Kindle, but it solves a problem which really shouldn’t be there in the first place.
More happily, all Kindles do support MOBI, PDF, TXT, Audible audio books and the rudimentary playback of MP3 files while JPEG, GIF, PNG and BMP, HTML and Word documents are all automatically converted in order to display correctly.