Sunday, October 17, 2010

Experimenting with the Kindle 3

Once I saw that the Kindle 3 with WiFi was launched for $139 dollars I had to get my hands on it to test it out. Early reviews of the Kindle 3 were stellar praising Amazon for the redesign and the feature set in such a  small and lightweight package. Many of the reviewers praised the new high contrast E ink screen as well as the sleek design. At 8.5 ounces the Kindle 3 can hold its charge for a month's time and store over 3,500 ebooks. Since the first Kindle was released I was impressed with the fact that it had built in text to speech capabilities which I thought would be a great reading tool for some of the students that I work with. Early on Amazon was challenged by a union of  professional narrators who felt that having text to speech capabilities in some way interfered with its members livelihood. Amazon did settle and gave publishers the right to have the speech disabled if they so desired. When you download books from Amazon you can see if the speech is enabled or disabled for a specific book title.

The experience of buying the Kindle 3 off of the Amazon website was fast and pleasant and I was offered the opportunity to apply for an Amazon credit card that when approved gave gave me credit to purchase the Kindle case. When my Kindle 3 arrived in the mail it was already registered and the screen prompted me to turn it on how to get started. There was even a personal note from Jeff Bezo's about my purchase and how I could provide feedback to Amazon about the Kindle 3. I used the Kindle for a couple of days and then realized that the power switch was defective. I called Amazon's Customer Service on a Thursday evening and explained what happened and by Saturday afternoon FedEx dropped off a new one. That was impressive service to say the least. Once my new Kindle 3 was turned on  I synced it with the Whispernet service and all of my books were downloaded and I was ready to enjoy reading. It is hard to believe just how thin and light weight the Kindle 3 is when you are holding it. Based on my experience of using the Kindle 2, the Kindle 3 definitely refreshes the pages much faster than the second generatoin Kindle and the screen is much brighter. Having the freedom to change the size of the font and spacing of text is a great feature and one that I have come to rely on. Turning on the text to speech is easy to do and you have access to male and female voice. You can adjust the speed that the text is being read and the page will automatically advance when it is being read. The speech engine is adequate for the job but is by no means a high quality speech engine experience.

The Kindle 3 does have a jack to plug in a headset or ear buds and there is a volume control rocker switch which makes it easy to adjust the volume level. Pausing the text to speech is easy enough by pressing on the Space key. The Kindle 3 is easy and enjoyable to use and for the price it is unmatched in terms of features and functionality. I for one am very impressed with the Kindle 3 and have enjoyed the experience of using it to read ebooks. It certainly gives those of us who work in the field of assistive technology another option when we are looking for tools with text to speech capabilities.

 
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