Filed under Guide , Kindle , Opinion
Once we’re over the differences between prices and models, let’s start with more meaty matters with one of the most impressive points in favor of the Kindle as a reader: its ecosystem.
We understand as Kindle ecosystem all the sorrounding organization Amazon has arranged around, and serving, its hardware reader, in order to make things easier for their customers. Obviously Kindle is the focus of all this concerted effort in the ebook market. But now, when saying Kindle I might refer to the ecosystem instead of the concrete hardware reader.
And that’s because you can use Kindle without buying a Kindle: the software version of the hardware reader is avaliable for free for PC Windows, Mac; and in the respective markets for iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7 mobile OSs.
All this software applications were not designed to substitute the hardware reader (although they could very well do it), instead they’re meant to complement it. Thanks to Whispernet and Whispersync, the circle closes and the ecosystem is complete.
Whispernet is the name given by Amazon to the 3G technology used in Kindles. For the user this means that a reader with Whispernet (that is, with 3G) can work just as soon as we get it out of the box, without needing a computer: we can search, buy and download books from the same device. Besides, we don’t need a Wi-Fi hotspot for this: 3G access is almost as ubiquitous as mobile network coverage.
But the true magic of the system is in Whispersync, Amazon’s technology for automatically synch our libraries, notes and reading marks between different devices. Wehn I buy a book on my Kindle I can download it also for any other hardware or software versions of the Kindle that are registered to my account at Amazon and, thanks to Whispersync, I can carry on reading it between different devices without a hassle. If I stop reading a book on my hardware Kindle say on page 35, I can carry on in that same page on the Kindle app in my iPhone, for example.
As I’ve said earlier, all of this without needing to pay anything, without choosing any mobile carrier or configuring (almost) anything: simply install and go.
This ecosystem and its ease of use is what gives Amazon a huge advantage over its competitors. Let’s see with a little more detail how’s the process of getting Amazon books or our own documents into the reader.
As we’ve said, we can browse Amazon’s Kindle book catalogue from the reader; either by seeing new books avaliable, Amazon suggestions based on our previous purchases (same as their site) or searching by key words. Once located the desired book, we can either download a sample or simply buying it. In both cases we’ll get it (the book or the sample) on our device in less than a minute, usually and we can start reading. If we’ve made our buy from a normal browser on a computer the system is the same, except we’ll logically have to conect the Kindle to the Whispernet to get all our pending downloads. Amazon charges automatically the credit or debit card we’ve got registered as a valid pay method on our account, and it’s able to identify us because we registered our Kindle after buying it, linking the hardware devide or software app to our Amazon account. From the Kindle we don’t need to enter any passwords or login anywhere.
But of course this is not the only option for getting books and documents on the Kindle. We can load it with our own documents, ebooks purchased at other online bookstores, or downloaded from the Gutenberg Project, web pages saved to read later; and yes, also books obtained from the shady side of things. Even though Amazon-bought ebooks have DRM and are in an exclusive Amazon format (AZW, in fact a MOBI with some internal structure changes), the reader is compatible with more formats with the exception of the EPUB format.
Getting those documents into our reader is really easy: simply connect your reader to a computer via USB and pass along the files as with an external hard drive, no need of crappy iTunes, synching or any other hassle. We can also have Amazon sent it to us by mail to the reader’s account. Here there’s a help page detailing all the options avaliable.
And we can also use Calibre. It’s a free (as in beer) software application written by Kovid Goyal which deserves an entry on itself. Suffice to say for now that, among many other things, Calibre allows us to organise our local computer library, convert bvetween different ebook formats and copy books to and from our reader. It comes with Kindle native support and works like a charm. If you get books from the Internet you’ll find the ePUB format a lot, and Kindle can’t read that format. You get the EPUB book into your Calibre library, convert it to MOBI, pass it to your Kindle and you’re ready to go. Of course, you have to take into account that all the advantages mentioned before about syncing and having the book avaliable between different devices and apps are only for books bought in Amazon, they’re not avaliable for documents obtained otherwise.