Kindle Paperwhite - A Review

I normally don't do product reviews on this site, but after buying the Kindle Paperwhite, I loved it so much, I decided to write about it here, and try to explain why its such a great product.

Ebooks vs. paper books

Let's get this out of the way up front-- I love ebooks.  I know some people out there are die-hard fans of traditional paper books.  They like the feel of them, the smell of them, and the satisfaction of collecting them on book shelves like trophies once finished reading.

Believe me, I used to be right there with you.  But after moving twice in the past year, and having to carry around hundreds of pounds of books I will likely never read again, I decided to give ebooks a try.

And I'm glad I did.  I can't get enough of them.  Until recently, I used either my iPad or my Nexus 7 to read on (with the Kindle app).  I love that I could have hundreds of books "in the cloud" that could effortlessly move from device to device.  I love that I can search for keywords or passages in the book just like CTRL-F on a webpage.  And I think most of all I love that I can long-press on a word, and a dictionary definition comes up.  I can't say how often I use this, especially when reading Game of Thrones.  There are so many archaic words that I don't recognize.

But I think the number one feature that made me switch from paper to electrons had to be the fact that I can download a preview of the books for free.  If there's a book I am curious about online, I can just get the first few chapters to see if I like it.  Generally, I know within the first 20 pages if I am "hooked" or not.  And doing that in a book store just isn't practical.


Okay-- ebooks are great-- so why not use an iPad or other Android tablet?

I did actually use my iPad almost exclusively (with the Kindle app) for a long time.  Then I switched to a smaller 7-inch Nexus 7 Android tablet, again, with the Kindle app.

This environment did actually work for a while.  I used my iPad for textbooks and comics, and used the smaller tablet for standard books.  I liked that it was backlit, so I could read it at night.

But the battery life was terrible.  I would get maybe 3 or 4 days of use before having to recharge, and that's even without reading anything.  After a long night of reading, I would have to recharge before going to sleep, or else it would be dead the next time I picked it up.

Also, in my dark bedroom, the screen was actually too bright.  The sudden burst of light as I turned on the screen, even at the lowest level, would sting my eyes.


Enter the Kindle Paperwhite...

At $120 (as of the time of this writing), it isn't exactly cheap.  Not when a much more full featured color tablet could be had for $199.  But for reading, it's the perfect piece of equipment.

The e-ink display is truly amazing and a little uncanny when you first see it.  It's crisp, but it doesn't look like any kind of display you might have seen before.  It doesn't quite fool the eye into thinking it's regular ink on paper, but it gets as close as anything I've ever seen.

Next, the back-light.  Technically, Amazon doesn't like to call it a back-light, because it's using patented technology to shine the light across a layer on top of the e-ink, but we're splitting hairs.

Between the e-ink display and the soft back-light, it's extremely gentle on the eyes.  The brightness control is always available on the top menu, and goes from very bright to very dim.  This makes it easy to read for hours without having sore eyes afterwards.  It also helps to not keep your partner awake if you read in bed like I do.

I think the true hero of the Kindle line, though, is the incredible battery life.  The product description boasts an 8 week battery life.  In practice, I have found that the battery life is more like 3 to 4 weeks, with casual use.

But come on-- 3 to 4 weeks!  That's simply amazing to me.  The secret to its longevity is the fact that it doesn't take any electricity to display a page; only to change the page.  Once the display is rendered, it will happily persist on the screen with an absolute minimum of power.


Nothing's perfect.....

I do find myself wishing for a handful of little extras which would be nice:

There is no audio of any sort on the device.  It would be nice if there was a tiny, weak speaker that could optionally make little beeps when I press on-screen buttons, or long-press to get a dictionary definition of a word.  Something to let me know my command has gone through.  Also, a little sound to let me know when the screen has shut off, when I close the case, the way the iPad does.

I also find myself wishing there were at least a couple hardware buttons, for example, to control the brightness without having to use the on-screen menu.  Instead, this device is entirely touch-screen.

The device will display in small font at the bottom of the screen how many "minutes" you have left in the chapter you are reading.  This is cool, but I would rather it display how many "pages" are left.  This seems like an odd oversight for Amazon, but none of their devices have ever given page numbers to represent your location in the book.

Obviously, these issues are relatively minor.  I wouldn't say any of them seriously detract from my enjoyment of the product.


Okay, so where do I get it?

I got my Kindle Paperwhite at Best Buy, because it's so darn easy to return if you change your mind.

I would also recommend ordering a case off Amazon with a magnetic latch.  The magnet will keep the case closed, and also shut off/turn on the screen when the case is opened or closed.

This is the case I bought myself, for $13 at the time of this writing.  The cases in Best Buy are around $40, which I find mildly ridiculous.


In conclusion

I find the Kindle Paperwhite to be an excellent product.  If you are thinking of making the switch to ebooks, I would say to definitely give it a try!  The way I see it, it's the way of the future.  Ebooks are just too cheap for manufacturers to reproduce (hint: it's basically free to produce an infinite number of copies) and way too convenient for consumers to not eventually make the switch for good.  I think there will always be paper books around, but I suspect that like vinyl records and CDs, they will become more of a novelty as time goes on, and less of a staple.

Thanks for reading!