Gear Review: The Kindle Touch

By Beatty Jamieson

I’ve loved Amazon’s Kindle e-reader since it was first announced in 2007 and it has revived (some might say “rekindled”) my love for reading. It has increased the number of books I read each year 5-fold and makes it easier to reference notes and marks in books I’ve read in the past. Kindle has even given e-magazines, such as the one you’re holding now, the means to exist.

Amazon Kindle keyboard

The keyboard-laden predecessor

The device is so small and well designed that I quit using the fancy leather cover, solely for the purpose of being able to enjoy its design and feather-light dimensions in my hand as I read.

My one gripe? That horrendous qwerty keyboard tacked to the bottom of every last generation kindle. So this past September when Amazon announced the new keyboardless Kindle, Kindle Touch, and Kindle Fire, I began looking at my third generation Kindle keyboard as a monstrous, Jay Leno chin – an out-of-date hunk of plastic. I’d played with the Nook Simple Touch a couple times over the past year and loved the keyboard-free design and e-ink touchscreen.

Now, with Amazon offering the same features for the new Kindle, I was ready and waiting to pounce when it officially went up for sale. And, indeed, it is sleeker, more compact, and easier to hold than its keyboard-laden predecessor.

Amazon Kindle Touch Screen Zones

Kindle Touch Zones

What Could Be Wrong With The Kindle Touch?

However, after spending some time with the Kindle Touch, I’ve discovered one peculiar oversight: there are no page turning buttons on the edge of the Kindle Touch. On every other e-ink display Kindle you’ll find forward and back buttons on the left and right edges. This way, no matter which hand you hold the kindle in, you can flip back and forth with one hand.

On the Kindle Touch, the screen is divided into ‘touch zones’. The touch zone on the right of the screen takes up roughly 2/3’s and allows you to go forward a page. The touch zone on the left takes up roughly 1/3 and allows you to go backward. The set up is intuitive, but still a step backwards over the simple buttons featured on every other Kindle version.

Not only will you have trouble flipping pages, but the screen is not capacitive touch, like your smartphone or tablet. Capacitive-type touch screens react to your skin and nothing else, but the Kindle touch’s seems to be pressure – activated, so if anything touches the screen it flips a page. The Kindle Touch seems to cause more problems than it fixes with the touchscreen.

I’ve also put in some quality time with Amazon’s newest base Kindle ($79), which also ditched the full QWERTY experience for a few navigation buttons. Unlike its touchable brethren, this version wisely retained its page-turn buttons.

Amazon Kindle Touch and $ 79 Kindle

Left the $79 Kindle, Right the Kindle Touch

Frankly, this is the superior Kindle. It’s cheaper and has turn page buttons on both left and right edges. Yes, you will be forced to hunt and peck while typing using the 5 way navigation button, but how often do you actually type on your Kindle?

Amazon has done a terrific job with the Kindle line over the last 5 years, but it seems to take them a couple of years to get a new model right. Just look at the first generation Kindle compared to the 3rd generation. The Kindle Touch is an awesome idea, but it will probably be another generation or two until it is an amazing product. For now, I’m going with a base Kindle because the touch interface simply causes more problems that it prevents.

Amazon 1st generation Kindle compared to 3rd generation kindle keyboard

1st generation Kindle on left, 3rd generation Kindle on right

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