What Is a Kindle?

Your guide to Amazon's popular ebook reader

A Kindle is a digital reading device from Amazon. There have been several different types and models of Kindle devices produced and sold by the retail giant since 2007.

Kindle Development

The first Kindle came out back in 2007 with one main goal: to make ebooks mainstream. It sold out in just about five hours and couldn't be restocked until the spring of 2008.

The earliest Kindle devices didn't feature touch control, but they did include keyboards (similar to BlackBerry devices). Amazon's launch of its fourth generation Kindle device in 2011 was the first to swap the keyboard out for touch control.

A Kindle device.
Pixabay

As the Kindle has evolved over the years, more impressive features have been rolled into its design—including a front-lit display for reading in the dark, better page turning functionality, a higher-density E ink display for a clean and crisp reading experience (close to a real book) and increased storage.

How Kindle Devices Work

Kindle devices have been designed to work seamlessly with Amazon's extensive Kindle Store library, including the Kindle Unlimited program. To start using a Kindle, all you have to do is power it on and connect to Wi-Fi.

Once you've connected to Wi-Fi and signed into your Amazon account, you can browse the Kindle Store for books, purchase them, and have them instantly delivered to your device. The digital formats of any books, magazines or newspapers you purchase and download to your Kindle device are stored locally on the device as well as in the cloud via your Amazon account. If your local library supports ebooks, you can borrow books using the Libby app and have the books sent right to your Kindle.

Kindle Features

The most recent Amazon Kindle models include the following features:

  • 2 to 4 gigabytes of storage (up to nearly 1,400 books)
  • 6 to 7-inch screen display
  • Built-in adjustable front LED lighting
  • Resolution of 167 to 300 ppi
  • Glare-free touchscreen display
  • Wi-Fi or 3G connectivity
  • Weeks of battery life
  • Screen rotate detection for better viewing in landscape or portrait mode
  • At-a-tap controls to highlight text, translate words, look up in the dictionary, add annotations and adjust the text size
  • Page bookmarking
  • Smooth page turning functionality
  • Samples to read before you buy
  • Archiving function
  • Organization by creating collections
  • Facebook and Twitter integration

The latest high-end Kindle model, the Oasis, comes with additional features including more lighting adjustments, ergonomic design, automatic rotating page orientation and page turn buttons.

How the Kindle Differs from Other Tablets and E-Readers

A Kindle looks like and works very similar to any other tablet or e-reader device. It's flat, compact, and works by using the touchscreen to navigate.

However, Kindle devices are specifically made for browsing, purchasing, downloading and reading Kindle ebooks. That's its main purpose.

Tablets are a general purpose type of device meant for enjoying a range of technology activities like internet browsing, multimedia consumption, software usage and more. All Kindle devices, with the exception of the Fire model, include an operating system and display that limit it only to accessing the Kindle Store and reading the books you purchase/download from it.

Amazon came out with a more multi-purpose Kindle model called Fire (previously Kindle Fire) in 2011, which could be used as an Amazon Kindle Store e-reader in addition to a tablet computer for browsing the internet, listening to music, watching videos and playing games. Amazon also offers its own range of apps that can be downloaded to the Fire (and other app-enabled Amazon products like the Fire TV).

Using the Kindle App on Your Tablet or Smartphone

Amazon offers a free Kindle app for both iOS and Android platforms. The app essentially allows you to enjoy a similar experience on your existing tablet or smartphone without having to purchase a Kindle device.

Android users can purchase books through the Kindle app, but iOS users can't. iOS users must purchase books at Amazon.com in a web browser, which will then be transferred to their app via their corresponding Amazon account.

Just like using an actual Kindle device, you can use the Kindle iOS or Android device to shop for books, read reviews, get samples to read, turn the pages as you read, bookmark pages, highlight text, add notes, adjust the text size, change the background and more. It's a great, free alternative to get a Kindle-like reading experience from your existing device.