Business Technology

Sunday 21 January 2018

Digital Life: You read it here first: buttons on ebook readers are so last century

Ronan Price

Ronan Price

The touchscreen smartphone sounded the death knell for buttons. Why festoon a gadget with knobs and dials when a finger-sensitive display can easily fill their role?

Just ask BlackBerry, whose superb QWERTY keyboards failed to staunch the march of the iPhone et al. It was inevitable that even the Amazon Kindle would one day go touchscreen, eschewing its menagerie of tiny plastic wedges for a sleek fascia begging to be stroked.

The previous and cheapest Kindle did away with most buttons, leaving a highly efficient ebook reader that is nonetheless difficult to browse and buy with. The new Kindle Touch sports just two -- Power and Home -- but of course now touts a multi-touch screen while retaining that easy-to-read e-ink look.

Everything you need to do -- turning the page, typing on the keyboard, selecting menu options, and so on -- is performed with the touchscreen rather than previous Kindles' awkward, misshapen buttons.

This doesn't make it an iPad, of course -- in fairness, Amazon doesn't claim as much. It just makes the Kindle Touch a more natural fit for this age of touchscreen phones -- easier to navigate with, more logical, more now.

It doesn't hurt that Amazon has doubled storage space (thousands of books) and battery life (to a mind-blowing two months -- unless you use wireless features). The transition between pages is also less jarring thanks to reduced "flash" as the pixels are repainted.

It's not all rosy in the garden, though -- the oversensitive power button is daftly positioned on the bottom and the action of tapping or swiping to turn pages can easily overshoot by a page or two.

Like all Kindles, though, the killer feature is Amazon's vast library, which outshines all others for breadth and (mostly) pricing.

At €135, the Kindle Touch commands a noticeable premium over its non-touch, bargain-basement sibling (€110). To my mind, though, it's worth it.

From the market leader to the chasing pack. When you don't have all of Amazon's might behind you, one blunt tool you can use to compete with is price. So the TrekStor Pyrus reader comes in at just €75 even though it resembles the (non-touch) Kindle.

But at that level, compromise is inevitable. No WiFi means buying books requires the tedious old-school method of hooking up to a computer via USB. How last century.

Battery life is rated at just one week and though the Pyrus has wide compatibility with numerous ebook stores, the buying process is anything but the smooth Amazon experience.

The TrekStor software needs polish too, with the reader freezing and crashing on me several times.

Irish Independent

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