Amazon is launching three new Kindle-branded products. The Kindle Fire – Amazon’s first ever tablet – is garnering most of the headlines, but reports suggest this won’t go onsale in the UK until early next year. First to launch here is the £89 non-touchscreen Kindle. Like its predecessor, it has a 6in E-Ink Pearl greyscale screen with 16 shades and the ability to reproduce a surprising subtle detail for which is actually only an 800x600-pixel screen.

This Kindle offers Wi-Fi connectivity (there’s also a 3G model with keyboard that costs £149), mainly so you can browse to the book store. Amazon cites a repository of 750,000 titles for purchase by UK customers, with access to a further million free books via sites such as Project Gutenberg and Google Books. The 2GB internal memory is sufficient to store approximately 1,400 books. This model (unlike the 4GB 3G version) also supports several language options. 

Getting around the device is not as straightforward as we’d hoped. To clear the standby screensaver you must press a power button located on the Kindle’s base. The Home button takes you to your account page and list of downloaded publications. Text entry via the onscreen keyboard is very nippy and you can speed across the onscreen keyboard simply by pressing down on one edge of the navipad. Page turns involve pressing a long, slim forward or back button on either side of the Kindle’s frame. Even so, if you’re used to using a touchscreen (as we are), the interface doesn’t feel particularly intuitive. Search isn’t always accurate and the suggestion list that pops up as you type actively interferes with the text entry process. Once you start reading, however, these quibbles are forgotten. 

Publications available on the Kindle are categorised into Books, Newspapers and Magazines. There are sub-categories within each, with bestseller lists that fill a single screen (8 titles or so). Synopses are variable. However, you can download samples of a title, allowing you to get a feel for a publication before purchasing it. Around 40 or 50 screens full of text can be viewed as a sample (fewer page turns but the same amount of content if you select a smaller font size), at the end of which you’ll see a message asking whether you’d like to find out more about the book or Buy Now. Subscriptions are also supported. Buying books requires an Amazon account (free) and a valid card, but you can’t access extracts without needing to enter your card details. 

There’s a built-in dictionary and, once you own a book, you can make margin notes that are automatically stored. Usefully, you can share book extracts with other people.

The Kindle’s non-reflective screen ensures you don’t get eye fatigue, the month-long battery means you don’t really need to worry about that aspect, and the automatic bookmarking makes a refreshing change from losing your place in a ‘real’ book. Amazon says the page refreshes are 10 percent faster, but page redrawing, search and text entry all feel far faster than on earlier Kindles.

The extra speed makes a difference when using the Wi-Fi means to visit other websites, too. Pages load quickly, even if there’s a lot of graphical information to display, but video content shows up as a blank box and the Kindle doesn’t know what to make of non-static content such as banner ads, pop-ups or carousels of stories that periodically change. Sometimes, it gives up completely and the screen is filled with a several conflicting elements; in the past, web browsing was a non-starter. Now, it’s simply a good advert for cleanly-coded web pages and the mobile versions of sites.

£89 Amazon Kindle: Specs

  • 6in E-InK Pearl 600x800-pixel screen, 16 levels of greyscale
  • 2GB internal memory
  • Wi-Fi
  • 1-month battery life WebKit web browser
  • dimensions166x114x8.7mm
  • weight 170g
  • mini-USB charging
  • onscreen keyboard
  • 12-month warranty.
  • 6in E-InK Pearl 600x800-pixel screen, 16 levels of greyscale
  • 2GB internal memory
  • Wi-Fi
  • 1-month battery life WebKit web browser
  • dimensions166x114x8.7mm
  • weight 170g
  • mini-USB charging
  • onscreen keyboard
  • 12-month warranty.

OUR VERDICT

The slicker, faster Amazon Kindle is a real step forward. There are a few navigation kinks, but the addition of subscriptions, extract-sharing, fast searching and the ability to successfully access other parts of the web make this an enjoyable device to use.

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