/ Technology

Why buy a 3G version of the Amazon Kindle?

Brits read more books on holiday than their European counterparts, or so says a lastminute.com survey. It’s still only an average of 2.6 books over two weeks – why would you need a 3G e-reader to download more?

This question has bugged me for a while and, at first, I thought I might be missing something. But, after a bit of head scratching, I still can’t understand why anyone would need to download a book in such a hurry. Why couldn’t they just wait until they got back home to use their Wi-Fi?

Bank holiday ebook reading

If you’re off on a trip this bank holiday being able to access emails or check directions when you’re out and about is one of the great benefits of owning a smartphone. But being able to download a book to a 3G Kindle while lying on a beach? That doesn’t tally.

Books take quite some time to read and you can easily download a library of ebooks at home before you head off. It doesn’t take much planning. If I was off on holiday for a month with my Kindle, then I’d stock up on more books than I could possibly read in a month. There wouldn’t be that “OMG! I’ve run out of books” emergency moment that only a 3G Kindle could resolve. Those moments simply don’t happen.

And even if they did, are you ever really that far from a Wi-Fi connection? For a while I thought this was the one flaw in my argument – my city-living lifestyle might have caused an bias towards widely available Wi-Fi. Still, Wi-Fi is becoming more prevalent. Tesco, after all, is thinking of rolling out Wi-Fi across its stores and there’s basically a Tesco in every postcode, even in rural areas.

It’s not worth the extra cost

Accessing Wi-Fi to download books while grocery shopping, or while sipping coffee in Starbucks, might not sound terribly appealing. But you’re welcome to download your ebooks at home – my argument still stands.

The only remaining counter argument I can think of is those who want to have a digital newspaper delivered to their Kindle every morning. Still, is this a compelling enough reason to fork out an extra £41 on the hardware?

For me it’s a bit of a no brainer. The Kindle is a superb device and I’d recommend the £111 Wi-Fi version to anyone looking to buy an e-reader. However, if somebody told me they were thinking of spending £152 on the 3G model, I’d sit them down and ask them whether they really needed web access on-the-go. And I should imagine that, in most cases, their answer would be a resounding “no”.

Andrew F Smith says:
26 August 2011

Nope, for me, the 3G is definitely worth the extra.

I don’t always plan what I read. I download a book that someone has recommended and, if it appeals, then i want the author’s other stuff – fast, wherever i am – and I’m often out of WiFi range.

Anyway, what with all-I-can-eat 3G on my smartphone, i don’t actually need WiFi at home, so, for me, the extra cost for wireless access at home is something I can cheerfully live with out (I’m a chap on his own – i can see, for many, the money-saving boot would be on the other foot).

But there is other stuff too. I have Kindle on my smartphone, my laptop and my, err… Kindle. I like the fact that, even if i close my kindle when it’s well out of Wi-Fi range and open the app on my phone, hey presto, I’m at the last page I read without skipping a beat.

Glad I paid the extra.

HarryMonmouth says:
26 August 2011

Surely only an idiot wouldn’t want a free connection wherever they are. Can you imagine spending a couple of weeks abroad paying over the odds to read day old newspapers all the time. That is the sort of thing I dislike about holidays. The extra for 3G is negligible for what it gives you, even if they have stopped the web browsing abilities, which so far I hadn’t heard they had done.


I don’t follow – you have a laptop but don’t have wifi at home? Do you use your smartphone tethered to your laptop then… Isn’t that a bit slow?

Mike K says:
30 August 2011

What a patronising article. “…. I’d sit them down and ask them whether they really needed web access on-the-go ….” I HAVE bought a 3G Kindle, and if you did that to me, I would tell you to ‘go forth and multiply’. I am an adult and think for myself, and can do research myself before I buy something. I do not need some self-styled protector to make sure I make the right decisions. Newspapers delivered abroad, access to web email and the internet free (no data plan) whilst abroad (some of us go abroad ….) are just two reasons for making it worthwhile – for me. Admittedly the web access is ‘experimental’ and not as swish as on a laptop or smartphone, but it works fine, and costs nothing. I would hesitate to pontificate by suggesting that others should follow my lead – what is right for me is not necessarily right for others.


I do have the 3G Kindle, so I’m probably a touch biased.

I work away from home a lot and the 3G is a terrific asset. Wifi might be available in hotels BUT you’ve generally to pay extra for it. Admittedly the internet access on the Kindle is a bit ‘clunky’ but remember it is only experimental – and free. Coverage is extremely good as well.

I emphatically disagree with Ben Stevens’ article and would always advise the extra amount is money well spent for the 3G version.

Philip King says:
1 September 2011

I can wait to download books but I work away from home regularly and get The Times and the FT straight to the 3G Kindle every morning and the Economist every Thursday evening – wouldn’t be without it!

silverthread says:
2 September 2011

I have no issue with having bought a 3G Kindle and it is up to me how to spend my money. If anyone was so patronising in telling me that my decision was unnecessary and a waste of my money, I would soon send the arrogant know-all packing. Did I really need a 3G? May be not but so far it has served me well.Not everyone has access to the internet, particularly when out on holiday miles away from civilisation. My rucksack was light, I had some books on my Kindle but knew that if I felt like something different or try out a book or two, my 3G would come in handy and it did.


How about a colour screen and a few more features? Perhaps a Kindle tablet is the next step. The evolution of the smartphone has demonstrated the demand for multi-function devices.

Bob le Chien says:
22 September 2011

I think one or two on here are missing the point of the article. It is not whether or not one should buy a 3G or not but whether the 3G offers good value for money. Or is a non-3G better vaslue than a 3G …. Nothing about telling you how to spend money. As for sitting down and asking you “if you really need 3G” is really only a small extension of the Which? remit!

Personally, if I’d bought the non 3G item, I know there would be a time when I wished I had and at an extra 40-odd quid, I would have regreted it.

If you can afford it and if you would like it …. I’d have it!