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This is my fourth Kindle reader, so I’m an old hat by now. Most of the others have gone to family over the years. My most recent Kindle was the Kindle 4, which I sold on Craigslist in a pique of decluttering after spending most of the school year snatching short little reading breaks on my iPad in between classes. And then summer hit.

For the first time, I am not working, and I had a lot more reading time than I was used to. I found that after a couple of weeks, I was starting to develop wrist problems from holding the iPad for longer periods, and I had some birthday money to spend. I played with a few of the Android tablets but ultimately decided I didn’t need another computer. I needed something small and light that I could use for my serious reading!

STEP 1: ASSESSING THE COMPETITION

I had some choices to make before I made my purchase: What other readers did I consider? And why did I choose the Kindle again?

1 | The Kobo Touch

My boyfriend has one, and offered me unlimited (and free) use of it. But it didn’t quite meet my needs. Firstly, it doesn’t have set font sizes like the Kindle does; it uses a slider, which is a bit more finicky. This means that if I open a book of mine on his device and change the font size from the one he’s been using, I won’t have a quick and precise way to restore it to his preferences when I’m done. I didn’t want to face a summer of complaining that I messed with his Kobo! Also, I like to highlight as I read, both to save memorable passages and to mark errors for later correction. The process for retrieving these off the Kobo is less direct for me than doing it on the Kindle. And finally, I really enjoy synchronizing between my devices if I do some reading on my iPad or iPod Touch (which is my preferred commuting/bedtime gadget). Like Kindle, Kobo does have an app for that. But I really dislike the iOS Kobo app and didn’t want to doom myself to using it instead of the Kindle app, which I preferred.

2 | The Aluratek Libre

It was only $50! So cheap! But alas, no syncing among devices. And there are reasons it’s sold at such a bargain price: The battery is short-lasting and the usage gauge is unreliable; it’s bottom-heavy and not as nice to hold; it’s really ugly; and it lacks a dictionary, highlighting and on-board shopping. I was tempted—very tempted—because it’s just so bargain-priced. But I read a lot, and I’m serious about it, so I ultimately decided to spend a little more and get a device I knew would meet my needs. I use the Kindle app already and do much (but not all) of my shopping at the Kindle store. It just seemed to be the way to go here.

STEP 2: PURCHASE & SETTING UP

There were two Kindle models available at the retail level in my area: the Kindle Keyboard and the Kindle Touch. I went with the Touch because it has a smaller form factor and is a little less computer-looking. There are only two buttons on it: a power button in the bottom corner and a home button on the front. Everything else is handled on the touch screen.

Setting up the Kindle was easy. Unlike the Kobo Touch, there is no desktop app required for this. I went straight to the Starbucks in the mall upstairs, turned it on, and found it ready to go with half a charge waiting for me. I touched on the menu button, went into preferences, and after a brief pause to hook into the free WiFi, had it registered to my account. I could go straight into my archived items right from the touch screen and download any of my books. Nice touch!

I stayed to read for an hour or so, and by the time I got home, there was an email waiting for me from Amazon, congratulating me on my new Kindle.

Smooth, Amazon. Very smooth.

STEP 3: DOWNLOADING CONTENT

The Touch was easily recognized by my Calibre software when I plugged it into my computer. It’s easy to load content onto it that way. But my preferred method is to use the Kindle server. Purchases I make from Amazon can easily be downloaded through the archived items, and purchases made elsewhere can be emailed to any of my devices from my computer. This makes them available as personal documents through the archived items, the same as any Amazon purchase, and they can be synchronized among your gadgets just as an Amazon book can.

The archived items makes it very easy to load books at any time; the Kobo Touch requires you to go back to your computer to re-load books, and it won’t let you synchronize non-Kobo purchases across devices the way Amazon does. With Amazon, I only need to go back to the computer if I want to clear a personal document from my archived items when I’m through with it. There is a ceiling to how much you can upload as a personal file, so it makes sense to clear them out when you’re done. But, absent your use of that feature, there is no need to go to the computer at all.

STEP 4: READING BOOKS

Reading books on a touchscreen device came naturally to me after using the Kindle’s iOS app for so long. I could press and hold on a title to get options like deleting a book, or adding it to a collection. (A nice feature to have again after months of collection-free iOS reading!) Within a book, I could press to look up words in the dictionary or on Wikipedia, or press and drag to highlight text. The home button takes you back to your main screen, where you can view your books and collections, search, shop and so on.

There are some advanced features hidden in the menu for those who want them: You can turn on and off some social media features like popular highlights, and set default dictionaries for each language represented in your loaded books. You can also view your notes and highlights, and activate the text-to-speech feature.

The only aspect that was an adjustment for me were the tap commands while reading. On the iOS app, you tap the middle of the screen to bring up the menu. On the Kindle Touch, you tap near the top. I kept mixing them up and tapping in the wrong spot!

Final Impressions … 

The Kindle Touch does not feel like a game-changer in the same way Kindle 1 was, but it’s a solid little device and I think it was the right choice for me. I would have been happier with a more Libre-esque price point; that will come over time, even for the higher-end brands. But I bought now because I only have a few more weeks off and I was wasting precious reading time from lack of proper gear. If you can wait, you might get a deal when the next round of new stuff comes out.

 
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