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Video: Amazon Kindle Touch Hands-On – Not So Different From The Nook?

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It’s hard not to compare the new Kindle Touch introduced today to Barnes & Noble’s Nook Touch or even the Kobo Touch, both of which came out this spring. Amazon’s offering doesn’t bring much that’s new to the table except the Kindle experience in a sleeker package. However, Kindle fans will probably like this just fine. And even if they’re not excited about the Touch functionality, they can still go old school if they like.

The comparisons between the Kindle Touch and the Nook will abound because on the surface they look pretty similar. The dark gray coloring, the soft-touch back, the Pearl eInk display sitting in a shallow well so the infrared touch technology can sense the fingers, it’s pretty much the same on both. The Kobo has some design similarities as well. And for some reason the Kindle Touch went with a Home button that’s reminiscent of the Kobo’s, which isn’t all that pretty to begin with.

Kindle Touch

However, this doesn’t signify much except that once you go with this form factor, pioneered by Sony, there isn’t a lot you can do to differentiate without looking like you’re trying too hard. Best to keep it simple and elegant.

This Kindle is very thin and light — under 6 ounces — and could fit in a pocket. It appears to be just as easy to tote and hold as the Nook, which is a definite plus. This will make for comfortable long reading sessions.

Kindle Touch and Kindle thickness

One big different between the Nook and the Kindle Touch is that there are no page turn buttons here. All page turning happens on the screen. With the Kobo this proved to be a problem because if you switched from the right to the left hand (or started on the left) you can’t tap to turn forward. Amazon solved this problem nicely by changing the tapping zones.

Kindle Touch screen tapping zones

Now users can tap with either the right or left thumb to turn because the majority of the screen is set to go forward when tapped. To go back a page, tap in a narrow area on the left side of the screen. You can also swipe to turn pages.

While I like the idea here, I still like physical page turn buttons. But I hope other eReader and eBook app makers pay attention to this arrangement and implement it — it’s much needed on tablets, for sure.

The only thing new about the display is the touch functionality since the underlying eInk screen is about the same. You can still read in the sunlight since Amazon implemented the same infrared touchscreen as you’ll find on the Sony Reader, Nook, and Kobo Touch.

Performance-wise, the Kindle Touch seemed very responsive in the demos we saw. It turned pages fast and moved between screens quickly. The scrolling function, while not as smooth as you’d see on an LCD display, works well for an eInk screen. There’s no physical keyboard; the on-screen keyboard proved responsive and relatively fast.

Kindle Touch Wi-Fi and 3G Version together

Kindle Touch Wi-Fi and 3G Version together - note that they are identical except the 3G is slightly heavier

There are two versions of the Kindle Touch: a Wi-Fi only model and one that connects via 3G. 3G service continues to be free and available world wide. Inside, there’s 4GB of internal memory.

Software-wise, the Kindle still has most of the same functionality as before (I didn’t see the browser demoed and don’t know if it still exists) with some new additions. I was particularly impressed with the new X-Ray function Amazon introduced. Including metadata that provides greater context in the books you read is a great feature. Plus, it’s available offline, so you don’t have to wait until you’re connected to see the summary, at least. There are links to even more detailed information once you’re online.

Kindle Touch X-Ray

The book they demoed is a classic, so I wonder what a new book’s X-Ray will look like. And what will a science fiction or fantasy book look like? The possibilities for publishers and authors are huge with this. Let’s hope they don’t go overboard.

A word on pricing: Jeff Bezos touted the Touch’s $99 price for Wi-Fi and $149 price for the 3G version but didn’t really dwell the fact that these prices are for the ad-supported models. Amazon Offers, which now includes local offers, is supposed to be unobtrusive. They show up as the screen saver once you put the device to sleep instead of the pictures of famous authors. Otherwise, you don’t see them inside of books or in the menus.

However, if you do not want to see these ads at all, you’ll pay $139 for the Touch (same price as the Nook) and $189 for the Touch 3G. That’s a significant price hike.

I’m on the fence about the special offers version. A $99 price point is great, but I get enough ads shoved at me all the time. I don’t really want more.

The retail partners haven’t yet decided which versions they’re going to sell. It’s possible they’ll only sell the Special Offers models because they’re less expensive. A Kindle rep told us the packaging would make this aspect clear. We’ll see. He also said that users could opt out of the ads even if they buy the special offers version. He didn’t elaborate on how that would work — will you have to pay Amazon $40 to get the ads turned off?

That issue aside, it looks like the Kindle Touch is a worthy successor to the Kindle 3 (now dubbed the Kindle Keyboard and also $99 with special offers). Definitely check it out if you’re looking to upgrade. Hopefully we’ll get the chance to do a full review before the holiday shopping season ends. In the mean time, check out our hands-on video and gallery below.

K. T. is a lover of technology, gadgets, and all things geek. She has the enviable job of playing with evaluating mobile tech and apps all day. Follow K. T. on Twitter @KTBradford, on Google+ and Tumblr or email her via her website, KTBradford.com.

31 Comments

  1. Lou diamond

    09/28/2011 at 1:59 pm

    No sd card= epic fail

    • Anonymous

      09/28/2011 at 4:10 pm

      Because the previous two Kindle models were horrible failures without an SD card?

  2. Vaxholm2000

    09/28/2011 at 2:23 pm

    Now all 4 big ereader makers are using the same Zforce infrared tech from Neonode. Seems like the big winner is Neonode,,,

  3. Vanessa

    09/28/2011 at 3:26 pm

    Any sense of whether the new Kindle Touch will handle PDFs better than previous editions? I’ve been wishing that I could store and read scientific journal articles on an e-ink screen. But the kindle 3 did not make that an enjoyable experience.

    • K. T. Bradford

      09/28/2011 at 4:16 pm

      they did not show us that at the event, but when we get a review unit in I will check that. What about the experience didn’t you like?

  4. Yogh

    09/28/2011 at 6:58 pm

    Amazon’s Kindle page lists the Touches as having 4GB of memory like the Kindle Keyboard.  However, the OS of the Touch takes up more space so you can only store 3000 books as opposed to 3500 on the Keyboard.  The new bottom of the line Kindle only has 2GB with space for 1400 books.

    • Mspbluedevil33

      11/13/2011 at 1:14 pm

      are you really going to store 3000 books on there anyway?… besides, you can use the cloud to archive the stuff you already read

  5. Dedy

    09/29/2011 at 12:11 am

    nice info, thanks…

    gadget device

  6. Thechronicletterwriter

    09/29/2011 at 12:22 pm

    Woo hoo. Kobo Touch was there six months ago including having the “most advanced e-ink” (as Kindle falsely claims) is smaller and lighter than the Kindle Touch, has expandable memory, has a much broader e-book format range, can purchase books on sites other than its own and for Canadians the good news is the Kobo Touch has OverDrive access to public libraries in Canada which no Kindle has, period.

    • K. T. Bradford

      09/29/2011 at 2:37 pm

      actually, you can get library books on the Kindle now and through OverDrive to boot. But the other things you mentioned are true.

      • Yogh

        09/29/2011 at 2:52 pm

        OverDrive doesn’t support Kindle in New Zealand yet, possibly not outside the US at all, but it’ll come.

      • Thechronicletterwriter

        09/29/2011 at 2:53 pm

        Actually, you can, if you are an American with your Kindle registered to a USA address through OverDrive have access to 11,000 public libraries, otherwise, No. So, you are wrong. 

        OverDrive is on record as stating that they have no immediate plan to service Kindles outside the USA. So, actually, everything I mentioned is true. What I said was “ Kobo Touch has OverDrive access to public libraries in Canada which no Kindle has, period.” – emphasis on “in Canada” 

        So, actually all of what I said is accurate and you are wrong. I wish you were right but you are wrong.

        • K. T. Bradford

          10/03/2011 at 9:20 am

          Um, calm down.

          Also, I’m sad to hear that isn’t supported outside the US yet. Though OverDrive stated they have no plans, that doesn’t always mean they have no plans, just that they aren’t ready to talk about their plans. Here’s hoping something is in the works.

        • Brad Swanson

          11/15/2011 at 8:53 am

          Thechronicleetterwriter,

          No need to be a douchebag about it, K.T. was clarifying that the OverDrive feature is available in the U.S.  She understood that it wasn’t available in Canada but wanted to give the other readers the information in case of confusion.  You may also want to tone down the Canada rhetoric slightly as you are the only one trying to start that fight here.  It’s called decorum, you may want to try it or as I learned from a Russian friend “Quick to hear, slow to speak”.

    • Yogh

      09/29/2011 at 3:00 pm

      As far as I can tell the Kobo, Kindle, Nook, and Sony Reader all use E Ink® Pearl screens.  As I understand it, this is the state of the art for e-ink so it is accurate for Amazon to say that the Kindle includes the “most advanced e-ink”.  There are no claims of exclusivity in that regard.

      • Thechronicletterwriter

        09/29/2011 at 4:07 pm

        Nice nuance and technically true. I took the same factual information and saw it differently than you but indeed you are technically correct.

  7. Anonymous

    09/29/2011 at 6:43 pm

    Your article lists the internal memory as 2GB but your video (and other sources I’ve seen) state is as 4GB.
    Also – the guy giving the demo in the video mentions that if online the X-Ray feature does often link to further info through the browser.
    So – the browser is there somewhere.

    I think I like the Nook Touch having the buttons still on the side bezel as well as the touch capability.
    I might eat that though for the X-Ray feature which looks pretty stand out to me.
    I wonder what percentage of books will have that added in – especially the older free classics, which I would make ample use of.

    • K. T. Bradford

      10/03/2011 at 9:23 am

      Will fix internal memory, you’re correct.

      And they’ve since confirmed that the browser is there. However, early days of the Kindle you could access Wikipedia but couldn’t access the broser itself to go wherever you wanted. There are many eReader devices that do something similar. They technically use a browser to show you the web storefront, but don’t let you just use the browser.

  8. R. Scot Johns

    10/01/2011 at 2:00 pm

    Is anybody else bothered by the new “EasyReach” touch zones? I think this is an epic disaster for the vast majority of us right-handed readers. How on earth are we supposed to page backwards with one hand? As far as I can stretch, my thumb still comes up a full inch short.

    This is all the more annoying since there is a far better solution to the problem, which is to change the standard three vertical zones to three horitontal ones. That way either thumb can reach all three zones from either side and have ample room for error without having to accurately strike a small strip or reach all the way over it to turn the page, which is awkward at best as far as I can see.

    I made a graphic to show what I mean, which you can view here: http://authoradventures.blogspot.com/2011/10/stupidest-kindle-touch-feature.html

    • Jasper Janssen

      10/02/2011 at 4:49 am

      Horizontal zones is not remotely intuitive. Now that would be an epic fail.

      Paging backwards is something you do a few percent of total pageturns, particularly when in books. (this is why Kindle has smaller backward buttons than forwards). You can use the right thumb to swipe back for those few percent of times.

      In the menus, where you do it more frequently, you won’t be holding it one-handed, since you need to do more than just page forward and back.

    • Sangreal213

      10/02/2011 at 10:06 pm

      That is why with the Kindle Touch all you have to do is swipe
      left and right to get the desired page turn.

    • K. T. Bradford

      10/03/2011 at 9:24 am

      just swipe with your right hand. you still have the ability to swipe to turn pages, the touch zones are only for taps.

  9. Britain Demmick

    10/15/2011 at 6:01 pm

    I think this article needs some corrections…

    First, I may be mistaken, but I am quite sure that the Kindle Touch has no home button.  That is a speaker at the bottom, not a button.

    Second, it is plainly stated on Amazon’s product page that the experimental browser is still being included.  What is not clearly stated but still true is that even on the 3g touch model, the browser will require a wifi connection to work. The Kindle Keyboard 3g experimental browser will continue to work on 3g, as it always has. This just means that Amazon is not giving out free, unlimited 3g web browsing bandwidth with the new product, which is entirely understandable.

    Third, ads are not just displayed as screensavers. There are also small ads on your home screen (list of books) at the very bottom of the screen. BUT as you say, the ads are designed to be unobtrusive, and even personalized. The screensaver ads are reportedly very artful and pleasing to look at.

    And last, Amazon has also stated that you can upgrade your ad-supported Kindle to remove the ads. This is an option in the menus, and is non-reversible. So it makes complete sense for retail stores to sell the ad supported version, since both options are included.

    • Britain Demmick

      10/15/2011 at 6:02 pm

      Realize that this article was written some weeks ago, but the inaccuracies could still be corrected.

    • Person

      12/26/2011 at 8:35 am

      The Kindle Touch does, indeed have a Home Button.
      I thought the same thing when I first got my Kindle, but it turned out to be a Home Button.

    • Miss M

      08/20/2012 at 3:24 pm

      I thought that was a speaker too. It isn’t. It is the home button. The speakers are on the back. If you rub your finger over what looks like a speaker at the bottom on the front, you feel four bumps rather than four holes. Those bumps are the home button. Strange and confusing design, but if you press it, it takes you to the home page.

  10. Random Guy

    10/17/2011 at 7:53 pm

    Well my K3′s screen now has unremoval noise all over the top half.  I might get this instead of paying $200 to get the screen replaced.

    • Luvshihtzu

      10/19/2011 at 11:32 pm

       If you bought your K3 within the last year, Amazon has been replacing Kindles with broken screens.  Also from what others have said on the Kindle Boards forums, some owners with broken screens outside of warranty period have been offered decent discounts on buying new Kindles.  You might call Kindle Customer Service 1-866-321-8851

  11. kindle touch nz

    02/05/2012 at 11:23 pm

    kindle touch now available to ship to New zealand at http://ereadernz.com/

  12. Confused

    02/18/2012 at 11:34 pm

    Hey, how can you watch videos on your kindle touch? Can you even? HELP!

  13. Confused

    02/18/2012 at 11:40 pm

    OH. and also how do you download music and listen to it?

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