The $79 Kindle – A first look

Like everyone else, I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of my Kindle Fire. I am also trying to decide which version of the Kindle Touch I want.  In the meantime, however, I have been getting to know the new basic K4, the $79 Kindle with Special Offers. I have to admit, in many ways, I have been pleasantly surprised by the new Kindle. I honestly have to admit, this eReader is just downright cute!

I should probably point out that I was an early adopter of the first Kindle and still have two working K1’s. I also have a K3 (now the Kindle Keyboard 3G). I skipped the K2 because I didn’t like the look of the joystick controller.


The size is smaller than the palm of your hand. And the weight is just 6 ounces. That makes this Kindle just perfect for one-handed reading. The new gray color is absolutely lovely. The device logo now reads just Kindle, rather than Amazon Kindle.

Buttons and Ports:

The new Kindle has 5 buttons: Back, Menu, Home, Keyboard and the now familiar 5-way D-pad from the Kindle Keyboard.

The keyboard button is easier to use than I anticipated it would be. The keyboard is laid out alphabetically, rather than QWERTY.

New side buttons. – There are pros and cons to the new side buttons. They are now hard to accidentally press. You can actually pick up the Kindle by the sides now without accidentally turning the page. The cons are that these new buttons are extremely small and harder to press. You also now must press them dead on in order to turn the pages. The new arrangement takes a little getting used to.

On the bottom of the device is the power button. This button pushes in to wake the Kindle, rather than sliding like the power button on the previous Kindle. The USB port is also on the bottom of the reader. A USB cable is included, but a power adapter is not. You can buy one from Amazon for $9.99. (Unofficially, I used my K3 adapter and it worked just fine.)

There is no headphone jack or speakers. No speakers means no Text-To-Speech, no MP3s and no audio books. Whether this is a pro or con actually depends on how you use your Kindle. I actually prefer my iPod touch or my Sansa Clip+  for audio and mp3s.  Even though I am vision impaired, I personally didn’t care for the Text-To-Speech, so the loss of any of these features was not a problem for me.


Battery Life. This device definitely does not have the battery life of the earlier incarnations. This is especially true when new books are first put on the device. The Kindle must index all that new content and the battery drain is significant during that time. When the Kindle is not indexing, it is much closer to the battery life of the previous Kindles.


The K4 uses the same E ink screen as the K3. I put the two side-by-side and the screens were indistinguishable from each other.

Refresh Rate: This new Kindle deals differently with the “flash” that previous models had when changing pages. Personally, I am not quite sure yet if I like the new text refresh. There is already a firmware update for the K4 for those that prefer the old style refresh.

Special Offers: Most of the ads that I have seen so far are less obtrusive than I would have thought. The ones that aren’t, however,  are kind of glaring.  Amazon now does allow you to buy your way out of the special offers.

Under the Hood

This Kindle has less RAM than previous versions. This means that a lot of Kindle Active Content may not or will not run on the device. There are pros and cons to this – Obviously, it limits content (especially for new users), but I personally find the active content too distracting. I find I get more reading done without the games .

The experimental browser is still there. But, this device is wi-fi only. That means no 3G browsing or downloads of books.


Smaller footprint may mean that it is more difficult to find a third-party light to fit the device. Neither my Mighty Bright or my Kandle lights worked very well.  On my older Kindles, I usually attach the light to the cover and I may be noticing this more as I haven’t gotten a cover for it yet.

When Amazon announced this in September, there were few covers ready for this device – That fact surprised me. There are a few Amazon covers available for pre-order and also third-party covers. However, more covers are appearing on the site every day.

The price of the covers was also surprising to me. Amazon Lighted cover for the new Kindle is $59, a price that I thought was high for an entry-level device. At only $79, this is almost a disposable device and I would expect a cover priced accordingly at probably around the $20 price range. But even the non-lighted Amazon cover is twice that at $39.

Ultimately, I have concluded that this is a device that is truly streamlined for reading. It is an amazing device. It is also attractively priced and really opens up the market to everyone. My first Kindle cost $400. At $79,  I think this one is a great bargain that truly makes eReaders affordable.

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