Digital Life: The redesigned Kindle is all set to be an (e)page-turner
'You can't outbook the book," Amazon boss Jeff Bezos quipped as he launched the Kindle in 2007. He knew that to compete with the convenience and sturdiness of the paper product, his e-reader had to pull a few rabbits out of the digital hat.
Downloading an e-book anywhere in seconds was one, room for thousands of titles was another. Lengthy battery life and a built-in dictionary helped too.
One thing it didn't do was compete on price. The original Kindle cost a whopping $400, which took the gloss off the discounted pricing on the e-books themselves.
But Mr Bezos is on a mission to steadily reduce the price of the Kindle to zero, based on the razor blades model that customers will buy enough e-books to justify the subsidy.
He's not there yet even though Amazon in the US is reportedly considering giving a free Kindle to its best customers.
However, the newest Kindle, pictured, takes another step down that road, with a good-looking redesign that shaves the price to €110.
That's still not exactly a casual purchase but more importantly the revamp introduces compromises that may be a deal-breaker for some people.
The screen size remains the same as its predecessor at six inches, yet the new Kindle is 30pc lighter and 18pc smaller. The saving was achieved mostly by omitting the QWERTY keyboard.
Searching for and downloading books now requires the clumsy on-screen keyboard coupled with a five-way navigation button.
You will hate it every time you use it. Using your computer to buy books and then sending them to the Kindle is a much better option.
The other buttons (Home, Back, and so on) aren't much friendlier -- a little small and fiddly for their own good.
Note too that this Kindle is WiFi only -- there is no 3G version -- so if you fancy downloading e-books almost anywhere (including on holidays overseas), you'll need the previous model, now renamed the Kindle Keyboard which costs €175.
Despite all its foibles, though, the new Kindle remains the best e-reader on the market, thanks to its massive catalogue and slimmer, lighter design.
Looking a little like an earthquake has erupted beneath its keys, the Microsoft Comfort Curve Keyboard 3000 has been ergonomically engineered to reduce strain on your wrists while typing.
The result certainly looks odd -- a peculiar bulge down the middle -- but it feels a lot more comfortable than the bog-standard keyboard bundled with almost every computer.
At only €25, it won't break the bank and your wrists will thank you.
Super Mario 3D Land
It's almost impossible to think of a better feeling than tearing open the wrapper on a new Mario game -- the anticipation, the sense of joy ahead. The plucky plumber has starred in some stinkers over the years but his platform adventures have never let us down.
Mario's debut on the 3DS has come a little late but the extra wait has been worth it.
It's not that the 3D effect is particularly noteworthy or even central to the gameplay. Instead, the pleasure in 3D Land comes from the boundless creativity of its levels.
Like Super Mario Galaxy before it, SM3DL recycles a swarm of familiar ideas but many have been gleefully subverted with a twist.
Mario still jumps and smashes blocks, stomps on koopas and battles Bowser.
But the familiarity is swept up in an avalanche of in-jokes, visual inspiration and pure, distilled fun.
Deepak Chopra's Leela
What the actual hell? Deepak Chopra has put his name to a videogame? Yes, the same lifestyle guru who wrote books such as Peace is the Way has dipped his toe into the same maelstrom that hosts Gears of War and Killzone.
Unsurprisingly, Leela is nothing like those violent shooters and its makers are at pains to describe it as "an experience", not a game.
Yet for all its mellow, hippie vibes about chakras and meditation, it boils down to seven mini-games controlled by different parts of your body via the Kinect camera.
Some are fun -- such as the opener in which you get trees to grow by moving your hips (don't ask). Others are tediously exacting -- such as the head-tilting one set in a tunnel.
It's relaxing in a novel kind of way but Leela works best in its meditation mode, which teaches you how to unwind with soothing tones and breathing exercises.
Assassin's Creed Recollection
A collectible-card game with a loose connection to the world of Assassin's Creed, Recollection appears baffling on first glance.
But if you stick with the tutorials and ignore the shameless encouragement to buy power-ups from the App Store, you'll find a deep multiplayer card game behind it all.
The latest round of wrestlemania inches the annual series forward.
Animations are more polished, the TV-style presentation adds drama and controls have, mercifully, been simplified.
But it's tough to fathom the counter-move system and the story mode is a poorly acted trudge through scripted matches.
Bits and Bytes
- If you've ever had a camera stolen, you pretty much give up hope straight away of ever getting it back. But a little-known feature of modern digital cameras could help you recover it.
Each camera has its own ID number that is included in every photo taken. If the thief snaps a picture and posts it online, there's a good chance you can track him down.
The Stolen Camera Finder can use that ID to search sites such as Facebook and Flickr to see if any photos have been taken with your camera. After that, it's up to you to do a little detective work to hunt the offender.
- In the never-ending battle for online eyeballs, YouTube has introduced a competition to find the best viral videos.
YouTube Slam highlights funny/bizarre/musical clips and asks visitors to pick the best one. You might have to choose between a little kid falling over or a dog looking cute. Yes, it's that exciting.