Amazon has updated the software in its base Kindle device (Wi-Fi only) to version 4.1.0 (up from 4.0), adding a number of useful new features. This is the Kindle I happen to use, and while I wish there was a 3G version, I still love its tiny and light form factor. And it was certainly worth manually installing this update immediately. (It will be auto-delivered to Kindles over Wi-Fi in the weeks ahead.)

According to Amazon, new features in Kindle 4.1.0 include:

Improved reading font that is higher contrast and crisper so that you can enjoy a paper-like reading experience.

Parental Controls that allow you to restrict access to the Experimental Web Browser, Archived Items, and the Kindle Store.

Support for books with complex layouts and formats with Kindle Format 8.

Support for children's books with Kindle Text Pop-Up and comic books with Kindle Panel View (which allows you to read a comic book panel by panel). Books that support these features will be available in the Kindle store over the next few weeks.

Dictionaries grouped into a collection in Home and Archived Items called "Dictionaries" for better organization.

Improved table and image viewing (panning and zooming) on supported titles.

In addition to these changes, a “Your Kindle is updated” document that is added to the device notes a few other updates:

Automatic keyboard: The Kindle will automatically bring up the keyboard when you need to use it.

Airplane Mode: A curious omission on previous Kindle software version, this switch is provided in Menu, Settings, Airplane Mode.

Obviously, the biggest change here is the new reading font.

I’ve always found the Kindle device’s font and overall e-ink-based presentation to be superior to that of any other device, including the new iPad, for reading. So I was curious whether this new font would actually improve things. But sure enough, it’s “better,” with a crisper and better contrast display. These photos don’t do it justice, but here goes:

before2after
Before and after: Kindle 4.0 (left) and 4.1.0 (right)

If you’re using the base Kindle, you’ll want to grab this update.