Review: Kindle 3G

Last week, I finally got the Kindle 3G (Graphite). Finally! My precious.

I’ve had my Kindle 3G for a little over a week, and I’ve logged about 20-25 hours of use. (Total guess.)

The short version: I love the Kindle 3G and highly recommend it.

Why did I purchase a Kindle?

I’m subscribed to a lot of sites in Google Reader.1 Rather than starring items for later in Google Reader, I save lengthy posts in Instapaper.

Since I don’t read books as often as I’d like, I was hoping this would nudge me in that direction.

Why not get an iPad or laptop?

The Kindle does one thing very well: allow you to read comfortably.

While I could read and do much more on an Apple iPad or notebook (the usual comparisons), it wouldn’t be comfortable for long periods of time.

The other day, two and a half hours flew by reading on the Kindle. I stopped to get a drink of water.

I love being able to bring my Kindle everywhere with ease. Before, taking my [now unused] laptop to Panera was a hassle. Most of the time, I’m reading more than typing at length.

How does the free Kindle email address work?

When you send an email attachment to your Kindle free email address, it will only go through to your Kindle once you connect to a WiFi access point. Bypassing the 3G network is how you can transfer documents for free. (See Transferring, Downloading, and Sending Files to Kindle)

Why get the Kindle 3G+WiFi?

I can manually trigger Instapaper downloads from the actual website using the built-in experimental web browser.

If I need turn-by-turn or text directions, I can access Google Maps wherever I have a 3G signal.

Getting content (other than books) on the Kindle

There are three methods you may use to download content on your Kindle:

  • USB cable (free)
  • (free if you’re connected via WiFi)
  • ($0.15/delivery via Amazon’s Whispernet)

I use Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. So far, I’ve used the following software and services:

  • Wordcycler – two-way Instapaper sync for Windows and your e-book reader
  • Calibre – open source e-book management software
  • Instapaper – a simple tool to save web pages for reading later

I’ve used Instapaper since January 2008.2

Since I have over 200 items to read in Instapaper, I’m saving Wordcycler for later.3

Calibre is the Swiss Army knife of e-book management. While the UI isn’t the prettiest, it’s an incredible piece of software.

Unlike Wordcycler, Calibre won’t automatically archive Instapaper items once you’ve read/deleted it on your Kindle. So, I’m manually reading the article listing on the Kindle, and simultaneously archiving them at the Instapaper website (on my computer). It’s a kludge, I know.

You can also schedule Calibre to automatically download items (especially from Instapaper) to your computer, then email them to your Kindle.

At the moment, Instapaper doesn’t support using the free Kindle email address. Calibre does. But, the $0.15/MB fee is cheaper than leaving my computer powered on at home.

By the way, you’ll be surprised at the small filesize of Instapaper deliveries. (20 items seems to be the max, and my latest delivery was 268 KB.)

I’d say the cost of running a dedicated (always on) computer to fetch Instapaper items is more expensive than an automatic daily delivery through Instapaper + Amazon Whispernet. If you transfer 1 MB/day, here’s the math broken down:

  • 1 year: $54.75
  • 1 month: $4.57
  • 1 week: $1.05

And, you can email your Instapaper account!

You can email links or forward long email messages, such as newsletters, directly to your Instapaper account. Each account has its own secret, random email address. Anything sent to that address gets added to Instapaper.

Try forwarding your most recent painfully long email message to it now, or send a link from any computer or iPhone app that can email links. (Instapaper Extras)

Problem: I’m not sure if Instapaper will keep sending items to my Kindle if they haven’t been archived.

For instance, I’m going to Philadelphia and New York next week for one week. If I enable the option to have items sent to me daily, and I don’t have a computer to archive the read items, will I keep getting duplicate content? (Yes, I’ll email Marco.)

Android app: Instafetch

When I get an Android phone4, Instafetch is another option to help save items to Instapaper, mainly because bookmarklets aren’t supported in the Android web browser.

But, it’s too easy to send an email to your own Instapaper email address from an Android phone. Unless you’re saving stuff into your phone, you don’t need an app.

Stop it, Emily Dickinson

Amazon won’t let me remove her photo from the “screensaver” rotation when you put the Kindle in Sleep mode. Earlier today, I faced my fear and took a photo of her. I was going to include it here, but I changed my mind.

Just search for “Emily Dickinson Kindle” with Google Images.

PDF documents?

I haven’t tried any.

Bonus tip: Instapaper + Google Reader

The Instapaper bookmarklet(s) will also function while in Google Reader. It takes the permalink of the item you’ve selected. (Also, see “Can You Read Anything with the Kindle? Almost . . . with Google Reader” by FilterJoe.)

Additional resources

I wrote some of this like a supplement to the following:

Please share your thoughts on the Kindle in the comments. No flame wars, please.

Update: Added Kindle 3 First Impressions written by Marco Arment.

  1. If you don’t know about RSS, see Common Craft’s super simple and informative video, “RSS in Plain English.” Looking to subscribe to someone else? View my Google Reader Shared Items. 
  2.  The oldest item I’ve saved is from January 28, 2008. 
  3.  I had some errors, but rather than trying to troubleshoot, I’ll see if a lower number of items helps. 
  4. Late December 2010 or early January 2011. 

Published by

Bryan Villarin

Bryan works at Automattic. Cat whisperer. Sometimes, a photographer and card magician.

13 thoughts on “Review: Kindle 3G”

  1. Thanks for the rundown. I have a huge Instapaper unread queue (600+) items that I keep telling myself I’ll get to one day, especially on the Kindle.

    Been trying to sort out the best workflow to get this content onto the Kindle and then archive it as I read it – as you’ve found, I’m not sure that Wordcycler (or Ephemera for OS X) play nicely with such a large backlog.

    Curious if you’ve made any further headway…in the interim I’m going to start moving stuff to a “Kindle” folder on Instapaper which I can then select for sync with Wordcycler (and hopefully the new version of Ephemera if/when it eventually comes out..)


    1. Josh: Thanks for reading and the comment.

      I have caught up with my Instapaper reading! I conversed with James Sulak (Wordcycler developer) several times by email, and he fixed the sync problems I was having.

      While I plan to write a follow-up, regarding my Kindle + Instapaper workflow, you basically hit it on the head.

      Keep your main folder for items you can read on the Kindle, then have other folders for non-text stuff. For example, I have folders for photos, videos, audio, and others items that requires a computer.
      Save the bookmarklets for those Instapaper folders in your browser.


  2. Thanks – that’s helpful. I think I’ll have to use that workaround in the interim – I have a feeling Marco has something up his sleeve regarding better native Kindle integration…

    Also, should mention that a nice workaround to email yourself new posts from your Instapaper account FOR FREE is to set your “Personal Document Charge Limit” (via “manage your kindle” on to $0.01.

    That way, anything emailed to your email address (such as your latest Instapaper articles) will automatically redirect to your email address (for syncing over wifi).


    1. Josh: Instapaper archives items after they’re sent, right? I’m partial to Wordcycler at the moment, only because I have the option to create separate items rather than a single MOBI file as a periodical.

      Thanks for the workaround tip to force Instapaper to use my free Kindle email address! That’s a gem.


  3. I don’t believe articles are archived once sent via email from Instapaper – so it is only 1-way sync. That’s why Wordcycler/Ephemera are such killer apps, because they keep your Instapaper account in sync (albeit, requiring usb tethering to do so..)


    1. Josh: Cool. It’s still amazingly useful if you don’t care to keep stuff synchronized, and it’s trivial to go to the website to archive older items. I can see the application for it, mainly if you’re away from a computer and your USB cable.

      (Hmm, that sounds like an idea. An option to archive items older than x days. It’s not a necessary feature, considering that the process to archive items is fast and simple.)


  4. Disagree that it’s trivial to keep track of which articles are read and need to be archived via the website – especially if you are away from the Internet for any extended period of time.

    Would be awesome to see a Kindle browser optimized interface for – it’s a bit sluggish at best right now.

    I’m still hoping to discover an easy way to get my entire unread queue onto the Kindle – perhaps Wordcycler will up it’s limit in the future, and/or Ephemera will get properly updated.

    The truth is that I *think* I’ll actually read my huge queue, when really I should just declare Instapaper bankruptcy and start from scratch 🙂


    1. Josh: Oops, I misspoke. I should’ve added that if you read everything, and you only had a couple dozen items, then it’s not too bad.

      Did you try the Wordcycler 1.2 yet? Email James. He’s pretty helpful.

      I thought I should declare Instapaper bankruptcy, too. Once Wordcycler sync’d everything I had, I cranked through it in several weeks. You can do it, dude. 😉


    1. Rudolph: A little expensive? Although I’m a paid subscriber, Instapaper is free. Marco has included a feature that automatically sends unread articles to your Kindle through 3G or WiFi, and you can use your free Kindle email address.

      Kindlefeeder has a free and premium (paid) service.


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