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Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Review of the Kindle Kids Edition: A worthwhile tool to encourage reading

The Kindle Kids Edition is the entry-level Kindle, plus a case, no ads, one-year subscription to Amazon Kids+ and two-year accidents included warranty. The Kids Edition costs £99.99 - making it £30 more than the regular entry-level Kindle. 

This review considers the extras and asks whether they make the Kindle Kids Edition a worthwhile investment to encourage kids to read. 

As a standalone e-reader 

The entry-level Kindle is a utilitarian device. It is a no-frills e-reader with a relatively low 165 PPI resolution. Released in Spring 2019, it brought a front-light for the first time to the cheapest Kindle. I've reviewed the entry-level Kindle before and wasn't impressed with its screen. 

Considering the £99 price of the Kids Edition, the Kindle Paperwhite is significantly better and costs only £20 more as a standalone Kindle. Paperwhite's 300 PPI resolution make a big difference to the reading experience - the text appears sharper and focused. For adult readers, some bundled extras are attractive but are not enough to sway from the Paperwhite. 

As a kids e-reader 

Of course, the bundled case, two-year accident warranty and one-year Kids+ subscription are targeted at kids. The kids-centric software features themselves are available on all Kindles. Once a child profile is set up, it is possible to access the kid's profile from the top right dropdown menu. Kids+ supports multiple profiles so that a further one can be set up for another child. 

After entering the kid's profile, there is a simplified home screen. The home screen is categorised, e.g., top picks, popular books, characters and themes and newly released books (the categories only appear if WiFi is turned on). Further, there are further sub-categories under character and themes like mysteries and investigations, classic literature, Disney titles, and school and learning. Further, there are some Audible books available too. Overall, the selection is adequate, and there is something for every reader. 

The software has built-in awards to encourage reading. A vocabulary builder archives words looked up while reading (the feature is also available for adult readers). In the awards category, reading activity is tracked, and achievements are registered with badges based on the number of pages and days of reading. 

The child can select any e-book to download and read offline. Due to the small screen size of Kindles, some downloaded storybooks can be challenging to follow and read for a child. Pinch to zoom is possible, but it is not user friendly for younger users to navigate. 

As Kids+ is an Amazon service, it is possible to access content on a Fire, Android or iOS tablet. Further curated multimedia content is available for kids on tablets, e.g., movies, TV, apps, games, web videos, and websites. One helpful aspect of Kids+ on a tablet is the possibility to set the child's age range. On the negative side, it appears that content downloaded on a Kindle doesn't sync to a tablet device or even another Kindle. I don't know why Amazon has neglected the sync feature - it would have been helpful to download pictures or Audible books on a Kindle to access the content on a tablet. 

Above: Kindle Kids Edition home screen

Is it worth it? 

For a child, the Kids Edition is a worthwhile investment. The trappings of the Kindle Paperwhite are not crucial for younger readers - the one-year Kids+ subscription, two-years accident warranty and bundled case are more relevant. Amazon sell kids editions of their Fire tablets that provide access to the same content and more. However, reading on an E Ink screen causes less distraction and is healthier for children. There are already too many distracting light-emitting screens. 

A negative is the Kindle's small screen that is not suitable for picture e-books. It is possible to access the e-book on a tablet, but that beats the purpose of using an e-reader to cut out screen time. Furthermore, if an e-book is downloaded on the Kindle, it is not synced to a cloud library to immediately access on another device. 

While the Kids Edition is a worthwhile investment, there are other Amazon free possibilities too. For example, another option is to co-manage a reading plan with a child. Books can be downloaded from websites and side-loaded or borrowed from a public library using OverDrive. In the case of borrowing e-books, a Kobo e-reader is the better option.

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