Two years ago, my wife bought me an Amazon Kindle for Christmas. Of all the Christmas gifts I’ve received over the years, this is probably the one that has been used the most.
Now called the “Kindle Keyboard”, the model I had was my first foray into the Kindle world, and I really enjoyed it. Over time, like any piece of technology, it started to show its age.
But I plowed on because I use the Kindle for one thing: reading. And it did that extremely well. I always enjoyed reading on my Kindle, whether it was on a plane, in a hotel room, or just in bed before I drift off to sleep.
When Amazon announced the Kindle Paperwhite last year, I was really intrigued, but I didn’t see the necessity. This year, while I didn’t NEED a new Kindle, I decided I wanted one enough to drop the money on one.
The day after Christmas, while going out to buy my wife a brand new Chromebook, I grabbed a Kindle Paperwhite for myself. After using it for a few days/nights now, here’s what I’m loving…
The not-backlit screen
No review about the Paperwhite can begin without discussing the feature that gives it its name. One of the reasons I love the Kindle so much is that my eyes read it like a real book. When you read on a tablet (or a Kindle Fire, for that matter), you’re reading on a backlit LCD screen – like a computer monitor.
At the end of a long day, I don’t want to be staring at a computer monitor. It tires my eyes and gives me a headache, no matter what the brightness. The Kindle screen, with its e-ink, reads like paper. I can read on the thing for hours.
But with the Paperwhite, you have a light. And yet, while it looks like it is backlit, it’s not. The lights are actually built into the side of the screen and somehow shine down onto the “page” – lighting it up like a book lamp, but more evenly and uniformly (I don’t know how it works. It’s science.). The brightness of the screen is impressively adjustable, so I can account for different experiences and different lighting.
At first, I thought it was just a novelty. I switched it on and thought “Cool!”. When I got to bed that night, I reveled in being able to turn off the lamp and read in total darkness like a little kid.
But I found that reading in this way offered a bunch of benefits. Sure, you save a few pennies in electricity, but I discovered that I drift off to sleep much more quickly, because I’m reading in a completely darkened room. For some reason, that allows my body to shut down more quickly, which is a huge bonus for the occasional insomniac in me. My wife even commented last night that she loves it because she doesn’t have to try to get to sleep while my lamp is on, so there’s that too.
“XX minutes left in this chapter”
One of the struggles I have when reading a good book is trying to put it down. I often tell myself “Just one more chapter…” and then stay up another half hour to 45 minutes, regrettably.
The Paperwhite (like the Kindle app) clocks your page turns to determine your reading speed.
When you bring up the menu, at the bottom of the screen, you’ll see a line that tells you how many minutes are left in the chapter based on that reading speed. It’s not there unless you pull it up. Then it disappears out of your sight.
Now I can look, see I have 20 minutes left in this chapter, check the clock, and make a decision. It’s a feature I never would have thought of, but is the second-most-useful feature in the new Paperwhite.
The touchscreen and the interface
Amazon’s goal with the Kindle has always been to eliminate the idea that it’s a device. They want you to get lost in the book you are reading, so they always have aimed to not make things too distracting.
On my old Kindle, there was the big keyboard (I used to take a lot of notes, but I stick to highlights now). Then there was the progress bar. And the “Location 234 out of 5239” line.
The keyboard is gone, and replaced by a very capable touchscreen. Having to only hold the screen itself with a clean body lets me get deeper into the book and less into the device.
All of the bottom screen is customizable, so I have a percentage on one side and the page number on the other. Everything else is the book itself.
But the touchscreen comes in handy even more when you are highlighting or looking up words. Now I can touch a word and a 3-tabbed window pops up, giving me a definition in the dictionary, the opportunity to look up the word in Wikipedia, and the new X-Ray feature.
X-Ray allows you to touch a name and have that character explained to you in the context of a book. Handy if you are reading a complicated book or you forgot who somebody was!
Footnotes, too, have made a change. Before, clicking on a footnote took you to a footnotes page, and you had to hit “Back” to go back to your location in the book. Now, it just brings a pop-up window within the book – a much more natural progression.
There are others…
Other great bonuses include the magnetic case I bought that unlocks/locks the Kindle just by opening/closing it (makes me feel like I am reading a paper book even more), and the Goodreads integration, since I have become more involved with Goodreads in recent months.
But overall, it’s just really well executed all the way around. But should you buy one?
If you’re new to Kindles but you’re confident you’ll like it, absolutely. It’s the best e-reader on the market.
Not sure if you’ll like it? Grab the cheapest Kindle out there for $69. It’s an incredible value and it’ll give you a good idea of what it’ll be like. You can always sell it
But in my opinion, it doesn’t get better than this. I’m looking forward to spending the next few years with this Kindle and reaping the benefits.