With eBook readers proliferating in schools like blossoms in the spring, these devices not only require light for their screens to work but need to be charged so they have full batteries when the class is ready to read. SolarFocus’s SolarKindle case does both while protecting the device from damage.
The name says it all. SolarKindle has an unobtrusive solar cell on its black leatherette cover that can power the least expensive Kindle eBook reader. It has a gray-and-black solid plastic case that isn’t padded, but can protect the Kindle from accidental damage.
It weighs 8.9-ounces on its own. Together the case and the 6-inch Kindle device weigh in at 14.7-ounces, which should be fine for everyone from the smallest first-grader to the largest high-school senior. The company also sells cases that work with the Kindle Touch model, but not for the color Fire model.
One reason for its bulk is that the case has its own 1,500milli-amp hour battery along with a crude battery gauge. Green translates to between 80- and 100 percent charge, while yellow and red mean it’s getting to be time to charge it.
Open the lid and you’ll see that all the ports and controls are available and accessible. The case has the bonus of the SolarKindle’s fold-out reading light that pops up after pressing a mechanical button. It is essential equipment for using the Kindle’s e-ink screen, which lacks built-in lighting, in the dark.
Rated at capable of putting 800-lux of light on the screen, the actual light level is closer to 250 lux, but is plenty for anything from a darkened room to one that is pitch black. It can mean the difference between reading and squinting at the display in the dark.
The light it delivers is on the blue side, but can be quite effective at illuminating the reflective screen. There’s no way to adjust the light’s brightness level, though.
Although the solar cell can augment the Kindle’s battery, it isn’t quite self-sufficient. It can use a variety of sources to charge its battery. Better yet, the case’s battery can be charged while it’s being used. It works best if it isn’t stacked, which covers the solar cell, and used for several hours a day and left to charge for the rest.
Over the course of several months, I used a Kindle to read several books, while leaving the case in a well-lit room for 8 to 10 hours a day when not in use. On the downside, when it’s time to remove the Kindle from the case for repairs or cleaning, you’ll find that the two don’t want to part. To prevent scratching the case, it takes a plastic stick to pry them apart.
Its price is the SolarKindle’s biggest obstacle to being used in the classroom. At $80, it just about doubles the price of the Kindle eBook reader. There are versions without the solar panel that cost $50, but you need to charge them more often.
+ Fold out light
+ Unobtrusive solar panel
+ Built-in battery
- Doubles the cost of Kindle
- Hard to remove Kindle from case