Which Kindle to Buy for Christmas

Left to right (Kindle Basic, Kindle Touch, Kindle with Keyboard, Kindle Fire)

A friend asked me this morning which Kindle she should buy for Christmas.

Here is my decision tree questions.  I added a flow chart at the bottom of the post.

1) Do you want to read on it or do you want a tablet?  The eink kindles (kindle 4, kindle touch, kindle with keyboard) are much better for reading.  Eink is much closer to reading a paperback.  All eInk devices are only black and white.  There are no color eInk devices available commercially.  If you need color you have to get an LCD screen.  The only advantage for reading on a LCD screen (like on the kindle fire) is if you read a lot at night.  The eink kindles have a nice light option for the kindle case, but that is an extra cost.  In general if you are reading primarily, get an eink.  If you want a tablet to do email, listen to music, watch videos and play games, you should get the Fire or iPad.  A small group of people (around 10%) have sleep problems from LCD screens (it seems to be from the backlight).  If you want a tablet, your only option is a Wifi only Kindle Fire.  If you want an eInk device (which I strongly recommend for anyone reading for long periods), keep reading.

2) You want an eink kindle, so should I buy 3G and Wifi or just Wifi?   I have a wifi only kindle.  When I bought it, the price difference was $50.  The price difference is now $40, but if you read mostly at home and do not travel, then I would recommend saving the $40 for books.  If, however, you travel a lot, then the 3G/Wifi is a very good deal.  My father uses his kindle to check email (because he does not want to pay for a data plan on  his phone).  My sister-in-law used her kindle for twitter when traveling in Africa.  There is no additional charge for the 3G service, it is part of the purchase price.  The 3G Touch is $10 more than the 3G with Keyboard if that makes much of a difference.  Also, if you use Audible.com, you still have to download over Wifi whether you have 3G version or not.

Note: You can only use the browser over 3G if you have a Kindle with Keyboard.  The 3G on the Touch is only for connecting to Amazon and downloading books.  Also if it matters, the 3G uses AT&T in the US and other gsm carriers around the world.

3) Touch screen or Keyboard?  The touch screen kindle is the newest eink release, but the actual screen is the same on all three eink devices.  So there is not a quality difference in the appearance of the screen.  The advantages of the Touch is that it is slightly smaller, does not have a physical keyboard that takes up space and some people feel that the touch screen is more natural interface because so many people have other touch screen devices.  I know I have had many people try to touch my kindle screen when first looking at my kindle.  The advantage of the keyboard kindle is that it is quicker to type if you make lots of notes and that there are more (and cheaper) alternatives for cases.  If the touch screen Kindle also had buttons to change pages, I would recommend it to more people.  Not having page turn buttons seems to be the largest complaint about the Kindle Touch.  Also see above, the Touch screen has restricted access to the web browser over 3G.

4) Price is really important: The price difference between the models is fairly small.  There is very little price between the Kindle Touch and the Kindle with Keyboard when you compare the same features.  The Kindle Basic is $79, $20 cheaper than the Kindle Touch or Kindle with Keyboard.  In spite of the lower price, it is a less impressive device.  It has half as much space for book storage.  It does not have text to speech or any option for audiobooks.  It also does not have a real option for taking notes because it does not have a touch screen or physical keyboard.   So unless you do not like audiobooks, do not want text to speech and do not need as much storage (honestly, very few people really need as much storage as what the kindle offers), then I would not get the Kindle Basic. Also if price is really important, then look at refurbished.

5) Should I consider refurbished? YES! I frequently buy refurbished products.  My wife’s kindle is a refurbished kindle.  But there are currently only refurbished Kindles with Keyboard.  The other kindles have not been out long enough.  The Wifi Only Kindle with Keyboard is $89 (a $10 discount) and the 3G/Wifi Kindle with Keyboard is $124 ($15 discount).  If money is really an issue, I would recommend a refurbished kindle over a Kindle Basic.

6) Should I get Kindle with Special Offers or not? I have a whole blog post about Kindle with Special offers.  I am a fan of the Special Offers.  I have used a lot of them, especially the frequent pick a book for $1 offers.  These are usually a list of 100 books of a specific genre and you choose any book for $1.  Since that original blog post, Amazon now allows you to add special offers if you do not have them.  You can then remove them later if you do not like them.  Or if you get special offers and hate them  you can remove them for a one time $30 charge.  The ads are not in the books, they are only screen savers and a small add at the bottom of the library screen.

7) Buying for yourself or for someone else? I have purchased several kindles for other people.  It is important to think about what the other person would want, not just what you want. For instance, I purchased a 3G Kindle for my Mom and Dad because I did not want to have to remotely help them figure out how to login to Wifi router.  I also can push books to them (because we share an account) and I know that they will get them immediately because they leave their 3G modem on.  You may also not want to get the Special Offers on a kindle for someone else even if you would get it for yourself.  Also think about the other person’s comfort level with technology. My Mother and Dad frequently use their kindles (although not that tech savvy), but my grandmother rarely uses hers because she is afraid she will break it.

8) Any other thoughts? The current rumor is that a larger Kindle Fire (about the size of an iPad) may be released in February or so.  This is a rumor, but likely.  And the price for the larger Kindle Fire will be more.  If you would like a larger tablet you may want to wait.  It is unlikely that new eInk kindle will be out until fall 2012 at the earliest.  Another benefit of eInk over LCD is that there is a larger range of font sizes.  For most people this does not really matter.  But one of the real benefits of ereaders is that you can use it as a large print reader if you have eye problems or just do not want to wear reading glasses.

Final Thoughts: If I were purchasing a Kindle for the first time for myself I would buy a refurbished 3G Kindle Keyboard with Special Offers.  It has unrestricted 3G access, it has physical keyboard and page turn buttons.  I also have a very nice (and pricey) waterproof case that does not work with the Kindle Touch.  But that does not matter for people that are buying new kindles.

Purchase Links: (All prices are with Special Offers. Otherwise $30 more)

Click for a larger view of the Flow Chart


Thanks, Adam. Excellent post. Quick question… how do you check email, tweet, etc w/ the 3g version? Does it come w/ a browser? I thought all versions would only connect to Amazon.com. Is this incorrect? (I’m posting this on your blog, as well)

    Did not realize this until I looked it up. But the Touch 3G only connects to Amazon and downloads books. The Kindle with Keyboard has a browser. It is not a great browser and it is clunky, but it allows for checking email, tweeting, etc. If this is important to you, you want the Keyboard version, not the Touch version of 3G.

Eink or Tablet should be at top.

Fire only comes in wifi version (currently), has color, is touch screen.

Should mention screensaver ads.. all versions except Fire have those, I believe. Ads can be added (to non-ad Kindles) or removed (from ad-Kindles.. pay $30, I believe.)

Ads are on screensavers, not in reading.

Thanks for clarifying the web browser point. I have Kindle 3G/wifi and when electric went out, it was handy to check/send email (we had generator going.)

    Just looked at Amazon. It appears that the Keyboard with Special Offers is not available.

      Yes as I noted next to the purchase links, the wifi only kindle with keyboard is out of stock at Amazon. However, it is available at many retailers and Amazon does have the refurbished version of it for $89.

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