Monday, January 02, 2012

Tech: Kindle Touch review

My Dad was an inveterate consumer of the written word, and he'd take me and my sister to bookstores and libraries when we were young. Most of the time, he let us read as long as we wanted - an intoxicating amount of freedom for a little kid.

As a small way of returning the favor, we got him a Kindle Touch for Christmas. The Touch is the latest of the Kindle e-readers, designed to give bookish adults the ability to read wherever they go. If you're the kind of person who reads bulky hardcovers, big trade paperbacks, or anything of the sort, the Kindle series allows you instant access to an essentially unlimited number of books without having to lug them all around.

This was a novel idea not too long ago, but nowadays, Amazon's e-books can be read on almost any platform you can think of (except for Linux, natch). As such, the Kindle series has become an afterthought for a lot of people; even the latest and greatest of the devices, the Kindle Fire, excited techheads more for its iPad-lite media capabilities than its ability to display the written word.

The Kindle Touch is a throwback to simpler times. Yes, it has a touch screen, but it's still a basic black-and-white e-ink display. Moreover, Amazon didn't do much more than graft the touch screen onto the existing Kindle user interface, so the menus on the Touch are pretty primitive - there aren't any neat touch icons or elaborate multitouch gestures like you get with other e-reader models.

That being said, the the Kindle Touch is a solid reader with some nice features, like mp3/audio book playback (through either built-in speakers or a headphone jack), plenty of memory, and a web browser that works fairly well, given the inherent processor limitations of the device:

I strongly recommend the ad-supported version of the Kindle. The ads only appear when the Kindle Touch is sleeping (in the form of a full screen ad) or on the Home menu (a small, unobtrusive banner at the bottom). Anytime that you're actually using the Kindle, you won't see ads, and they never interrupt you while you're searching or browsing. In return for the miniscule inconvenience of the ads, Amazon knocks the price of the Kindle Touch down from $140 to $100 - enough to buy a bunch of e-books.

In summary, the Kindle Touch is the Kindle to buy if you don't need multimedia features or a full keyboard. It's only a little bit more expensive than a regular Kindle, and gives you a workable touch screen and audio playback. My Dad used to take us to the bookstore, but now he can take the bookstore with him.


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