Saturday, June 16, 2012

Kindle Touch or Regular Kindle?

Which Kindle should I buy? was a question I was asking myself last week when my old Kindle keyboard broke. My husband had the regular Kindle and I had loved my Kindle keyboard, but I was intrigued by the Kindle Touch. So I went for *** SPOILER ALERT *** the Kindle Touch. Anyway, I thought I might share the pros and cons of each of these e-readers with you.

This post is just about Amazon Kindle e-readers (and not about other e-readers or the Amazon Fire tablet). I know there are people who are philosophically opposed to e-readers and I am sure that there are other great e-readers out there, but this is the one my family uses and the one I know. If you are in the market for a Kindle e-reader, I'm hoping I can narrow down what has become a confusing array of choices at Amazon. I have used all of these devices myself.

Special offers?
This is easy: get the special offers. The price difference is significant, and the offers are unobtrusive and sometimes interesting. The ads will never appear within a book you are reading.

3G or wireless only?
If you travel frequently or you do not have a wireless connection in your house, the 3G is useful. If you do not have access to wireless, you will have to plug the Kindle into your computer which is a hassle. For most people though, who have wireless at home and who keep a good selection of books on their Kindle, the 3G is not necessary and there is a significant price jump to get it. You don't, however, pay monthly fees for the 3G so you'll have free 3G access for the life of the Kindle.

Kindle Keyboard, Kindle Touch, or Kindle?
My old Kindle Keyboard with 3G, no special offers, just broke last week which is why I went shopping. I thought I would miss the keyboard, but I don't. It's nice to just have the printed page in front of me and the reduced size and weight is significant. Don't consider the Keyboard. It's just the older model that Amazon is still selling.

Kindle Touch versus Kindle?
We've narrowed the choices down to the Kindle Touch versus the plain Kindle (both with special offers, probably with wireless only). My husband has the plain Kindle. It is perfect for someone who just reads, and who doesn't look up a lot of words, take notes, or highlight. The buttons to move from page to page are physical buttons on the sides of the device. It's easy to use and the cheapest Kindle you can buy. It is also the lightest and the thinnest.

Kindle Touch adds a bit of cost ($99 versus $79), and a small amount of heft and bulk, but you'll get:
  • a longer battery life. Amazon says the Kindle's battery lasts for one month (with wireless off) while the Kindle Touch lasts for two months. If you are a constant reader, the battery will not last that long but with either Kindle you won't have to worry about the battery after even a few days of constant reading.
  • more storage. The Kindle holds about 1,400 books; the Touch holds about 3,000. With either, you can hold an infinite number of books in your online archive. To me, at these huge storage capacities, this is a not a useful deciding point. Both devices have more than enough storage.
  • text to speech. You can have your Kindle Touch read to you. This is not a bad feature to have (if, for example, you want to get through a book you don't love and you have a long drive). It is not a good way to experience a good book. It is a computer voice, not an audio book and the speakers are not great. 
  • the new x-ray feature. I have not, as yet, found this to be particularly useful. This allows you to see how frequently terms and people are mentioned in the book, where they are mentioned, and sometimes you can get more information on the term. For example, you might see that the city of Amsterdam plays prominently in the book. If you click on it within x-ray, you'll get the Wikipedia post on the city.
  • bookmarks. Both the regular Kindle and the Touch allow you to bookmark pages. But with the Touch, dogearing is as simple as touching the corner of the screen.
  • highlighting and note taking. This is a big benefit of the Touch. While you can also highlight and take notes with the regular Kindle, it's a bit more of a pain because you have to use the little cursor. With the Touch, you simply swipe your finger across the words you want to highlight, press highlight or note (if you want a note attached), and it will be saved for you to go back to later.
  • dictionary look-up. Another great Touch benefit. With the regular Kindle, you have to more the cursor down to the word you want to access the dictionary. With Touch, you simply tap the word and a basic dictionary definition appears. A full definition is just another tap away.
For the minimal added price difference, I think the Kindle Touch is worth it if you like to highlight and look up words. There are reasons to prefer the regular Kindle, however. If you think that touching the screen to turn pages will annoy you, then get the regular Kindle. It is smaller, lighter, and cheaper -- and it works great. You can hold the regular Kindle anywhere you want, without worrying that you'll accidentally turn pages. The regular Kindle has been perfect for my husband who just wants a book substitute for commuting. I, however, love the Touch -- I love easily highlighting passages that I want to read again later and I love easily digging into the dictionary for words I'm not familiar with. My Kindle books are a mess -- with highlights and dogeared pages. That's one of the main benefits of e-reading for me -- I can really tear into a book without fearing that I'm defacing anything.

Bottom line
Get the Kindle Touch (with special offers, wireless only) for $99 if you like to highlight, take notes, and look up words. Get the regular Kindle (with special offers, wireless only) for $79 if you just read and think that touching the screen to turn pages will annoy you or that you will be accidentally touching the screen and flipping through pages. Add 3G to either of these if you don't have wireless at home or you travel frequently.

Please post questions and comments if you are in the market for a Kindle or if you own one and want to share some thoughts. Thanks for reading.

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