It's amazing what a little light can do to alter the landscape of an entire market. Here we are thinking, "Ok, the e-reader is on its last legs. Time for the tablets to come in and clean up shop." But these old stalwarts are alive and doing quite well, thank you very much. Amazon's new Kindle Paperwhite is a shining example of why e-readers aren't going extinct anytime soon. It's the best gadget of its kind, bar none, and something you should experience if you're an avid reader.
What is the What?
Much like Barnes & Noble's Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight, the Paperwhite is an e-ink reader with a massively welcome and convenient frontlight. The one major difference, however, is the Paperwhite's high-res display and its impressive capacitive touch capabilities. Tablets may be breathing down the e-reader market's neck, but that doesn't mean a few poached features can't make it over to these One Trick Ponies.
Who Might Buy It?
Night Owls. Late night readers. People with an older e-reader with no lighting mechanism whatsoever. Only kids read under the covers with a flashlight, you guys. If you or someone in your family has a collection of books, get them an e-reader pronto. They're massively convenient, they store entire libraries on one device, and their batteries last for ages. Forever. The model I've been using seems to go on and on. And for those who love checking books out, libraries have systems in place that let folks check out e-books.
Everything. The screen, the light technology, the build and the ecosystem are fantastic. That's all you need. This is the perfect ideal of what an e-reader should be. And it's the easiest thing to use. The chintzy materials of previous Kindles have been replaced with a soft-touch black component that feels excellent. It's comfortable and sleek, minimal.
I've used this for a few weeks now and not once did the frontlight irritate my eyeballs. The distribution is even and delicate without being blinding. You won't wake up your significant other because you can't put down the latest trashy novel. That's a good thing. Controlling the light, too, takes little effort thanks to the Paperwhite's capacitive touchscreen; you can change the brightness by simply touching on a 0-25 scale (or use the onscreen plus and minus buttons).
Now that the screen has been updated to capacitive, interacting with the Paperwhite's three tap zones has never been easier. Overall, capacitive just makes navigating and entering information much more pleasant. Typing is almost what we're used to on smartphones and tablets — it's not quite there, but it doesn't make you want to rip your hair out.
So there's a great frontlight and a pleasant capacitive touchscreen. You'd think Amazon would just be content to call it a day. But the company instead decided it was time to implement a higher resolution screen — a ppi boost from 169 to 212. That doesn't sound all that significant, but it's immediately apparent when you're staring at text. Our eyes have been spoiled by ultra sharp smartphone and tablet screens. It's nice to see the transition trickling down to the e-reader market.
Amazon has done its best to make the experience straightforward — navigating is simple, shopping is even easier, and there are a number of features and settings that allows users to personalize their Paperwhite experience. I've used a few e-readers in the past, but nothing at length. This is a wonderful representation of where the market is headed, and shows that it certainly won't disappear anytime soon.
This isn't a complaint about the Paperwhite per se, but I found myself missing the experience of holding and handling a physical book. The smell, the weight, being able to flip through pages on a whim. I don't think I'll ever completely ditch my book collection and go completely digital, but who knows. The Paperwhite is an argument to make the jump.
The design and build is great, and it's not too wide to hold with one hand when grasped around the back. But I did find it to be a bit on the heavier side. It's not so bad where you need to put it down to take a break, but you're always conscious and a little afraid you might drop it. Chalk this up, maybe, to how comfortable I've gotten with today's latest smartphones. Duh, smartphones are smaller. But I still expected a bit more from the Paperwhite. By no means is it a glaring issue, though.
I also found the Power Button a little annoying, and the fact that it's on the bottom took some getting used to. Others might not see it as a big deal, but I still find myself frustrated by the fact that it's at the bottom, away from my fingers, and the fact that it's so tiny.
Does it Belong in the Herd?
Yes. Of course. Absolutely. Without question. We were pretty sure this was going to become our favorite e-reader when Amazon introduced it over the summer, and it definitely is after extensive use. Barnes & Noble's NOOK Simple Touch with GlowLight was superb and earned our editor's choice award because it was the first e-reader from a major firm with a backlight. But this is excellent. Persistent e-ink issues still exist, like ghosting, but it's minor and hardly noticeable on the Paperwhite. The screen, frontlight, and soft-touch build definitely outweigh the small quibbles, and the $119 price for the Wi-Fi version is a pretty attractive grab. If you read books, this is the e-reader to buy.
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