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Hands on: Kids Edition Kindle review

Get the younglings excited about reading

What is a hands on review?
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Early Verdict

That same great Kindle experience, but with parents given complete control, the Kindle Kids Edition is a smart and overdue addition to Amazon’s family line-up.

For

  • That same great Kindle e-reading screen
  • Kids protected from adult content
  • A year’s worth of free books

Against

  • Not great for colored picture books
  • Locked into Amazon’s ecosystem

It’s been hard to find fault with the Amazon Kindle e-reader for years now. Though there’s an annual refinement to the backlight, battery and the odd change to the casing, it’s been a great digital reading experience for the best part of a decade now.

A Kids Edition Kindle is a long-overdue easy sell then. Without the distractions of a regular tablet and the focus on books, it’s a great educational tool – with some software specific tweaks that seal the deal.

Price and availability

The Kids Edition Kindle is priced at $109 / £99, and is available for pre-order now, shipping on October 30th. It’ll be available complete with a pink or blue case (no gender norms challenged here), while in the US there will also be covers with images of space stations or birds on front.

That price also includes a two-year, no-questions-asked guarantee should the e-reader be broken, as well as a year’s worth of Amazon Freetime Unlimited, Amazon subscription service to books, apps and TV shows. Only the books part of that package will be accessible from the Kids Edition Kindle however – you’ll need an Amazon Fire Tablet to tap into the rest.

With that guarantee and curated library access it’s a great deal then, and with the ability to unlock the full adult Kindle experience for those with the device pin code, potentially even a good deal for grown ups, too. 

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Design

Familiar with the standard Kindle? Then you’ll know what to expect from the Kids Edition Kindle – on the outside, they’re identical.

Packing a superb e-ink backlit screen that’s very readable even in direct sunlight, the 6-inch display has a pixel density of 167ppi. It’s clear and sharp, with that front light manually adjustable as well as being capable of automatically tinting to be comfortable for your eyes.

If you’ve never used an e-ink screen, it’s quite different to the sort of display you’d find on a regular tablet or smartphone. Paper-like to the touch (and yes, this is a responsive touchscreen in play here, too), reflection and glare is no problem at all as it’s matte with its finish.  

However, it’s also less versatile – being a greyscale display rather than full color, it’s ill-suited to vibrant picture books or comics, which may be an issue for younger readers still finding their feet in the wide world of literature.

With a battery life that lasts weeks rather than days, you’ll hardly need the charger, but note that it’s a micro-USB rather than USB-C connection. And while to our adult hands the reader was perfectly sized, younger bookworms may need to stretch around the screen a bit more.

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Features

Here’s where the Kids Edition Kindle gets interesting – the UI has been gently tweaked to make reading more accessible for children. From clearly themed categorization to putting age-appropriate (and ONLY age-appropriate) books front and center, the interface is designed to be as friendly as possible.

On top of that, the Kids Edition Kindle comes with a year’s free subscription to Amazon FreeTime Unlimited (or Fire for Kids Unlimited, if you live in the UK – exact same service, just a different name across the pond).

It gives your child access to more than 1,000 editorially-picked and curated books that they can freely download without worry about the nature of its content. And while it’s not accessible on the Kids Edition Kindle, if you’ve one of Amazon’s Fire Tablets for Kids, it also unlocks gaming apps and video content suitable for you too. You’re looking at content aimed at an age range of roughly four through 12 here.

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The Kindle interface already has some useful educational features in it – there’s a built in dictionary of course, as well as a ‘flashcards’ system for memorizing the definition of words you’ve looked up. 

There’s also ‘Wordwise’, which optionally puts short definitions of a rare or difficult word in the margins between lines. The Kids Edition Kindle also adds something we’d happily see in an adult e-reader – achievements, ticking off badges for reading a set number of pages in a day, books in a month, or consecutive days reading. It’s a great way to encourage people young and old to push on for an extra page here and there.

In terms of adding things outside of the FreeTime Unlimited package, it’s the parent, not the child, who is in charge of what goes on it. Free from monetary transactions and advertising, parents must use Amazon’s Parent Dashboard (parents.amazon.com) to add other content to the device. 

From there, they can add any book they see fit to the kids’ Kindle – adult or anything that may be missing from the included library.

Finally, should an adult want to get right in and tweak all the age-based restrictions, a pin-system as part of the setup process will allow you to set up profiles (including unlocked adult ones) that can be customized at will – providing the user knows the security pin, that is.

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Early verdict

The Amazon Kids Edition Kindle ticks all the boxes you could want from an e-reader aimed at kids. It’s parental controls give mum and dad the peace of mind that their children are reading age-appropriate material, while the achievements system will encourage even less-bookish children to read just that bit more. 

From a hardware standpoint, it’s every bit as good as the adult e-reader too, with a comfortable e-ink screen and intuitive software. It’s just picture books that are left lacking on the greyscale screen.

Perhaps the only real worry here is, should we be rearing our younglings on the idea of a multinational as the gatekeepers of their reading habits? How young is too young kids to be enveloped into the system of tracked online accounts? They’re questions only a parent can answer.

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.