Other Gadgets

Kindling a very basic kind of fire

R Dinakaran | Updated on October 29, 2014 Published on October 29, 2014


Amazon now offers a very affordable e-reader. But what are the compromises?

If you have used an Amazon Kindle before, the first thing that strikes you in the new basic Kindle is the lack of buttons, except for the power button at the bottom. It is because the new Kindle - even though it is the basic version - has a touchscreen. To put it in perspective, the older versions of the Kindle even had a full physical QWERTY keyboard.

What’s good

Yes, there are touchscreen versions, but only in the advanced, pricier model and that’s the main USP of the new Kindle launched earlier this month. This makes reading a breeze as there is no need to keep pressing the right and left page turn buttons. A tap on the screen - on the right or left - is enough.

The touchscreen functionality also brings several other advantages, like the ability to highlight words and passages. Though the Kindle has the X-ray function (which allows you to see similar characters and passages across the book), the website still mentions it as ‘coming soon’. If there are kids in your house, features such as vocabulary builder, Wikipedia integration and Kindle Freetime can make reading more interesting for them.

The irritating lag when the page opens and refreshes when it is turned is almost gone with better specifications, and the touchscreen is also very responsive.

The edges are flat and does not taper as in the older version and gives the impression that it is thicker. The storage has been doubled and helps you store ‘thousands of books’ as Kindle claims. Though 4 GB looks puny when compared to smartphones and tablets that come with even 64 GB storage, it is really huge for the Kindle as it uses Carta e-paper technology to render pages and stores the books in its own lightweight format.

The new version is slightly heavier - at 191 grams - against the older version that weighed 170 grams, but considering the ease of use, the 20 grams extra weight does not matter much.

What’s not

When you realise the touchscreen - available so far only in the higher-end versions - is available even in the most basic version, you may feel like immediately ordering one, but before you click on the buy link, consider these:

You can’t read on it without ambient light either natural or electrical since this Kindle does not have backlighting. Yes, backlight is available on higher-end Kindles like Paperwhite, but if you want to read in the night without disturbing your friends and family, choose the higher-end Kindles.

One thing that could have been (we hope is) included is brightness control. Even during daytime, it is not possible to adjust the brightness if the lighting is not enough.

And Amazon still continues with its policy of not bundling in a charger. The datacable that comes with the Kindle can also be used to charge through a computer. If you want a charger, you will have to buy it separately.

The Amazon.com (US) website has two versions of the Kindle - with offers and without offers. The ‘without offers’ just means that you won’t get advertisements for Kindle books - as screensaver and at the bottom of the home page. But this version is costlier.

The Indian (Amazon.in) website does not mention these versions, and the one we got was the one ‘with offers’. We are not sure whether the more-expensive ‘without offers’ version is available in India.


The new Kindle is a great buy, especially if you want to gift one to your kids. But if you prefer options such as brightness control and backlight for night reading, this is not for you.


Love – Price; Ease of use

Hate – No backlight controls

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Published on October 29, 2014
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