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The Kindle Paperwhite

October 9, 2012

While I’ve owned and used a Kindle Fire regularly for almost a year, I’ve always had a fondness for the e-ink Kindles. I bought a 1st generation e-ink Kindle when Amazon first released them, and I used it regularly for years. I did nearly stop using it when I bought the Kindle Fire, but that was in part because the battery on the Kindle 1 had trouble holding a charge (I was lucky to get a few days of reading time out of it, even with the cellular connection off) and I didn’t see the point in paying for a new battery for it.

However, even though I like reading on the Kindle Fire, there are situations where I still prefer reading off the e-ink screen. Most of those situations are cases where I want to read in the sun: on vacation, when watching our daughter at the playground, etc. Plus the long battery life on the latest models is appealing; I own enough computing devices now that I feel like I spent most of my time making sure they’re charged. But I held off upgrading because reading off an e-ink display in bed after my wife had gone to sleep required an external reading light, which I regard as a hassle. But when Amazon released the Paperwhite, I decided to acquire one.

I’ve had the Paperwhite less than a week, but so far my impression is mostly positive. Illuminated display? Awesome. Lightweight? Check. Long battery lifetime? So far. Works in sunlight? Check. The latter two are definitely an advantage over the Fire. The longer battery lifetime has another bonus: instant on. Since the Fire’s battery is somewhat limited (if I leave it on I have to charge it every few days) I’d generally turn it off when I’m not actively reading. But that means there’d be a delay of a minute or two when I want to read because I’d have to turn it back on. With the Paperwhite I don’t need to bother to turn it all the way off, but means I can start reading right away when I get back to it.

There are some downsides, some old and some new. While the page-turning and reacting-to-the-user latency is much diminished from the days of the Kindle 1, the Paperwhite still isn’t as a responsive as a tablet (even the Kindle Fire, which drew some knocks for being a little laggy). The main effect I’ve noticed compared to my Kindle Fire reading is that I’m less likely to use capabilities like Search that feel less fluid on the Paperwhite. On the Fire I’d often search to check plot points in material I’d read previously. On the Paperwhite I often don’t bother because the interaction feels slow.

I have a few new nits as well. I actually like the way the older e-ink Kindles and the Kindle Fire show you where you are in the book, not just your location number. Showing the estimated time left just doesn’t feel the same to me; I prefer the visual display of progress. And I loathe with a fiery passion (well, ok, maybe not that much) the fact that Amazon steals the lower part of your Home screen to show you different content from their store (and I’m not talking about the sponsored content: I paid to get out of that). I’m sorry, but there’s easy access to a Store button up top and I explicitly paid to get rid of special offers. Don’t be dumping your ads for content in my view of my content.

In order to really kick the tires I’ve switched to using the Paperwhite exclusively for reading since I got it, temporarily relegating my Kindle Fire to a drawer. But I suspect that after awhile I may resume reading regularly off the Fire again and reserve the Paperwhite for the more limited use cases I intended it for. Time will tell.

Update: Franklin Morrison pointed out that you can disable the recommendations by enabling parental controls on the Kindle Store. It’s a little kludgy (you have to then re-enable access if you want to buy something), but it beats having recommendations suck up that home screen space.

Another update: The latest update to the Kindle Paperwhite software (5.3) adds the ability to remove recommended content from the home screen. Color me happy.

From → Hardware, Technology

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