Amazon KindleWith tablets and smartphones blurring the lines of what it means to be an e-reader, the Amazon Kindle still stands strong against the competition.
The Kindle is the e-reader that launched the category but will it get buried in an avalanche of tablets? Hi, I'm Molly Wood from CNET and I'm putting the product spotlight on the Amazon Kindle 3. These days, the Kindle is starting to feel like the last man standing in the e-reader department. Barnes and Noble revamped its Nook to add a color LCD screen, newspaper and magazine subscriptions, and the Android operating system. People are using their iPads as readers in bigger numbers than ever expected, and a new generation of tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab are similarly sized but offer a lot more features. So can the Kindle still compete? Well, in a word, yes. There's a lot to be said for a gadget that does one thing and does it well and the Kindle 3 is still the best at what it does. The latest version of the Kindle improved the already good 6-inch e-INK display which looks incredibly like text on a page. It's also easier on your eyes than a backlit LCD, at least for many people, and it's certainly the only thing that's readable in direct sunlight, so the Kindle still wins for best beach book. This third generation is also smaller and lighter than the previous models. It's probably lighter than a paperback, in fact. It's so "holdable." Amazon also improved the speed of the page turns with this model and it made the page turn buttons a lot smaller and less intrusive, giving the whole thing a much more sleek appearance. The Kindle 3 also has a better browser, although it's still rudimentary at best. It has Wikipedia access and a new built-in PDF reader that supports password protected PDFs, and Amazon has added the ability to share books, if the publisher will allow it. You can lend someone a book from your shelf for up to 14 days. now, that was a big feature on the Nook and it's a great thing for the Kindle to have. Plus you're not gonna find this battery life on a tablet--any tablet. With the wireless turned off, you get up to a month of battery time. The Kindle still has built-in 3G. Amazon calls it the Whispernet for downloading books on the fly, but they've also built-in Wi-Fi now and you can buy a cheaper Wi-Fi only version of the Kindle if you think you'll mainly shop for books at home or at public hotspots. Now, the Wi-Fi-only model is nice because Wi-Fi is often faster than cellular access, but also, because that model is extremely affordable. It's just $140, and the Wi-Fi plus 3G model is $190. Those are good prices but, as the e-reader wars keep on raging, you can expect even those to get lower over time. And Amazon's book selection, still the best in the game. There are almost 700,000 titles available, and even though you'll still find some books that are dead tree only, almost all the new books and best sellers are right there in the Kindle Store, and your purchases are portable because Amazon has made the Kindle software available on almost every other platform. You can download it for free on Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7, and on and on and on. Now, you can argue that the standalone e-reader is a dying breed, but we think there's still a place for a single purpose device like the Kindle as long as its affordable, portable, and flexible. And the Kindle 3, still pretty much meets all those requirements if you're a digital era bookworm. To read our full review of the Amazon Kindle 3, go to CNET.com and search for Kindle. For CNET.com, I'm Molly Wood.