I bought the Kindle Keyboard when Amazon released it over two years ago and, for the most part, I consider the gadget a pleasing blend of old and new technology.
You read on it, it’s in black and white and yet it’s unlike a book. When the Amazon released the Kindle Touch last year, I didn’t consider it enough of an upgrade to justify a new purchase. Then, Amazon released the Paperwhite.
The WiFi only Kindle Paperwhite costs just EUR130. I didn’t opt for the 3G version as it’s more expensive and I rarely used 3G on my Kindle Keyboard.
The Paperwhite is blacker and lighter than the Kindle Keyboard, and it looks and feel more streamlined. The device is physically smaller, although the six-inch screen size is the same as the Keyboard.
The Paperwhite has 2GB of memory compared to the Keyboard, which has 4GB. That’s still space for more than enough books until you next access WiFi.
The Paperwhite weighs 7.8 ounces while the Keyboard weighs 8.7 ounces. It doesn’t feature text to speech and, unlike the Keyboard, it comes with a USB charger rather than a plug and charger.
It’s Not All About Touch
I’ve owned three Kindle Keyboards in two years. The back screen on each of my Kindle Keyboards cracked, even though I used a case and was at pains to look after the devices. To be fair to Amazon they replaced the device each time quickly and without issue, although it was a hassle to post back the faulty Kindle each time.
The build quality of the Paperwhite feels more sturdy and secure. In particular, the back of the device doesn’t have as much give, compared to the Kindle Keyboard. I still bought a case, and it remains to be seen if the device will last. That said, the low price and Amazon’s twelve month warranty are reassuring.
The Paperwhite lacks any physical buttons apart from the on/off bottom at the bottom of the device. The onscreen touchscreen keyboard is almost as responsive as the physical keyboard on the Kindle Keyboard.
The touchscreen is great for looking up words: all you have to do is press the word for a few seconds and a definition will appear on screen. You can zoom in and out by making a pinching gesture and you can access the menu by tapping the top of the screen.
Disappointingly, there’s no physical button to navigate to the next page. Although the touchscreen works fine, Kindle e-readers are purpose-built for reading.
This means people press one button more than any other: the next page button.
It feels more natural to change pages on the Kindle Keyboard. On that device, you can rest your thumb on either the left- or right-hand side of the device, on the next page button.
On the Paperwhite you have to move your finger onto the screen and tap the left- or right-hand side to move forwards or backwards.
This gesture may only takes a fraction a second longer, but it doesn’t feel as fluid as simply pressing a button. I can’t see anything wrong with including a physical button on the side to change the page; does everything have take place on a touchscreen?
The back-lighting is the main reason I bought this device. I like to read in bed late at night, a bad habit that keeps my partner awake.
The phone was too bright, my kids kept taking the Mighty Bright light and the official Amazon case for the Keyboard was expensive and uneven.
The Paperwhite is by the far the most comfortable late night reading experience. The light itself doesn’t shine in my eyes like a iPad and it’s great to be able to hold a device in one hand without worry about glare or a battery.
There’s some evidence of uneven lighting at the bottom of the screen and in the middle of the page, particularly before the e-ink refreshes.
This doesn’t take away from the reading experience and I had to look for these imperfections. That said, you shouldn’t expect the same quality and consistency of lighting that’s common on much more expensive tablets (i.e. an iPad).
The brightness on the Paperwhite can be easily adjusted, and it doesn’t impact too profoundly on the battery. The page turns are also quicker than on the Keyboard and the e-ink only refreshes every five-six pages rather than after every page.
I’m sure Amazon will iron on this flaw in future versions of the Paperwhite but it’s still and impressive and cheap piece of gear.
Best in Class
The Paperwhite feature a number of other improvements. It handles pictures better than the Keyboard – I found images on the Keyboard grainy and hard to see – but Paperwhite images are hardly high-definition.
It also includes X-Ray, which is Amazon’s attempt to make the Paperwhite more useful as a reference device. Frankly, both features are still lacking when compared to the iPad (better) or a physical book (best). If you want to look at pictures or need a reference book, it’s far more convenient to use a physical book, although it’s good to see Amazon is making strides in this area.
Then again, a friend of mine is an engineer and he regularly uses reference books; he swears by the speed and convenience of an iPad. I don’t recommend web browsing on the Paperwhite, unless you’re really stuck. The e-ink experience might be perfect for novels but it’s too slow and frustrating for the internet.
The Kindle Paperwhite is genuine treat for any reader. It offers more convenience and portability than most books and the current version is faster, lighter and more useful than any e-reader I’ve used. Before I was cynical about the e-reading experience; now I am a convert. I still can’t imagine living in a house without a bookshelf though.
The Kindle will never completely replace physical text. As convenient as shopping on Amazon is, the store lacks the musty mystique of second-hand bookshops. Opening a new download isn’t the same as thumbing through a new hardback either.
There’s something magical about a book, in that it doesn’t need to be charged or updated. It doesn’t distract you with samples of other books or WiFi. All it asks is that you sit quietly and read.
Did you find this post helpful? Please let me know in the comments section below.
You can also reach me on Twitter.