As stated in Part 1 of the review, the Kindle is a slick portable device, easy to use, and capable of delivering reading content in a satisfying book-like reading experience. Most potential users will benefit from the lightweight, portable format, easy-on-the-eyes paper-like display, and the access to an ever-growing library of reading content. Many of the important features to consider when looking at eBook Readers were described in Part 1 but there are key capabilities that may be of use to those with reading and learning disabilities:
Read-to-Me, which was described in Part I, provides support for those who benefit from text-to-speech (TTS) as a reading aid. The Kindle also includes a couple of features that serve as useful study aids. The device includes The New Oxford American Dictionary with over 250,000 entries and definitions. You can look up the definitions of English words without interrupting reading by using the joystick controller to move the cursor to the front of the word and if an extract of the definition is available it will display at the bottom of the screen. Kindle also allows you to add highlights, notes, and bookmarks. By using the keyboard, you can literally “write in the margins of a book.” The notes can be edited, deleted, and exported. You can also highlight and bookmark pages for future reference. Kindle also “remembers” where you stopped reading and will open to the last page read.
The Kindle Software for PC/ Windows has much of the functionality of the Kindle device with regards to reading books and other content. However, some books are not available for the Kindle Software, and periodicals including newspapers, magazines, blogs, and personal documents cannot be read using the software. The software lacks the ability to make notes, highlight or clip text, and lacks the dictionary function. However, you can bookmark and view highlights and annotations made through the Kindle device. Lastly, the Kindle Software is closed to any external TTS programs and lacks a TTS of its own. There are also Kindle versions for various phone/ PDA platforms but as of July 2010, all of these platforms lack any TTS support.
How do other popular eBook Readers compare? Although we have not made a thorough review of other Readers, we can make some observations. No other current eBook Reader has TTS capabilities and many have limited ability for re-sizing text. The Barnes and Noble Nook, although similar to the Kindle in several ways, differs in having a color display with touch interface, an expansion slot for extra storage, and a user replaceable battery. The Sony Reader series includes versions featuring a touch screen and a built in reading light, with all versions having an expansion slot for extra storage and gray-scale display.
Overall, the Kindle is a nice device successfully designed for replicating the book reading experience. The Kindle is the only eBook Reader currently available with TTS capabilities and would appeal to those who benefit from this support for reading.
- Alan J. Knue , Manager of Program Operations, WATP