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First Look: Entry-level Kindle is an excellent no-frills e-book reader

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First Look: Entry-level Kindle is an excellent no-frills e-book reader

4:05 /

Amazon's most affordable Kindle lacks the touch-screen and self-illuminating screen found on step-up e-readers, but it costs a mere $69.

No, you don't have to spend a lot of money to get a great e-book reader. I'm John Falcone, and this is the Amazon Kindle. For 2012, the Kindle is now better than ever, but it's also cheaper than ever, starting at just $69 for the ad-supported Special Offers version, or $89 for no ads. It's physically identical to the 2011 model, but page turns are now 15% faster. Unlike colored tablets that costs $159 or more, this entry-level Kindle is an e-ink reader that offers just the basics: Books, magazines, and newspapers on a black and white screen. Unlike the more expensive Kindle Paperwhite and Nook Simple Touch, this Kindle has no touchscreen and no built-in light. There's also no 3G option. This is just a Wi-Fi device. The Kindle doesn't come with an AC charger, just a cable, but the micro-USB port is compatible with most cellphone chargers, so you probably already have one. The Kindle does have a rudimentary web browser, but it's nothing you want to use versus a smartphone or tablet. Because there's no touch screen on the Kindle, everything is controlled with the onscreen buttons. Page forward and back buttons are on both sides of the screen, so they're equally accessible for left-handed and right-handed readers. Controls below the screen include Home, Back, Menu, and a 5-way directional pad. To type notes or search terms, you click the keyboard button and enter letters with the D-pad. It's a pretty clanky way to input text and a reminder that you should not get this model if that's a priority. On the other hand, if you're just inched in reading books, this Kindle has some important distinctions. Unlike a tablet or phone, you'll get very long battery life. You can go up to a month between charging with normal usage. You also get an excellent no-glare screen so you can read it in full sunlight. And this Kindle is less than 6 ounces; so unlike many tablets, it's not difficult to hold even during long reading sessions. The Kindle also gives you access to Amazon's excellent content ecosystem, and only Amazon since it's not compatible with the EPUB file standard. So, while you won't get the ability to buy from non-Amazon stores, you do get Amazon's best in class bookstore with more than 1.8 million titles and almost 200,000 exclusives. And because the Kindle can hold up to 1000 books at a time and offers even more instantly accessible from the Cloud, you'll never run out of things to read. Additionally, Amazon Prime members can get acces to thousands of free loners with the Amazon lending library. And the Kindle can also be used to get free e-books from many local libraries as well. The other advantage of the Amazon ecosystem is that it's compatible with reading apps on almost any other device. So, using the Whispersync feature, you can pick up reading any Kindle book where you left off on an iPhone, iPad, Android tablet, Android phone, Windows phone, Blackberry, pretty much any system with an app store or a web browser. Amazon also offers a Sent to Kindle plug-in for major web browsers so you can send long articles to your Kindle for later reading. It's pretty much a free version of Instapaper. As for the ads and the Special Offers Kindle, they're occasionally annoying, but they only appear on a locked screen and the index page. They never interrupt with what you're reading, and you can always pay a one-time $20 fee to make them go away forever. While this Kindle does come with a basic feature set, it does a fantastic job of delivering a no-frills reading experience. Add in Amazon's best in class e-book selection, and it becomes clearer that the Kindle is the best overall e-book reader available for under $70. I'm John Falcone for CNET, thanks for watching.

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