Amazon is at the top of the tree in terms of e-ink based readers. With the Kindle devices now in their sixth generation, how does the 2013 version of the Kindle Paperwhite measure up to the task of on-the-go reading of digital texts?
This year’s Kindle Paperwhite is an iterative improvement on the 2012 edition. In broad strokes the 3G option has been dropped, leaving this as a Wi-Fi only reader; the processor has been updated to run slightly faster; the white screen is a touch brighter with more contrast, and the Amazon logo is sprawled over the back cover as opposed to the Kindle logo.
If you picked up the 2012 edition of the Kindle Paperwhite there’s no pressing need to update to this year’s model, the changes are not the sort that change either the DNA or the workflow on the device. If your Kindle is of an older variety and you’re looking to move up, then the Paperwhite is the one to go for.
It really is all about the screen. Although Amazon is using a new e-ink screen with a touch more contrast and brightness in this Kindle, it’s the improved frontlight that makes the Paperwhite such a great machine for reading. The lighting is uniform across the six inch screen with no dead areas, and not only does the white color contribute to the naming of the device, it also makes for a natural reading experience.
I really liked the ‘throttleable’ nature of the light allowed me to set just how bright the Paperwhite screen would be. The light controls are quickly accessed with a tap at the top of the touch screen to bring up the menu, and another on the light bulb icon. Then just slide up and down until the intensity feels right. Setting up the Kindle so the text looks like worn down paper, relatively new, or fresh off the printers with no dirt makes for a great experience.
Yes there is a hit on the battery life, but Amazon still quotes 28 hours of use with the light on. Given their ‘thirty minutes a day’ measurement and they can spin that to two months. That might be the case if I’m reading a newspaper but If I’m with a great series of novels that twenty eight hours could be done in three or four nights of reading. So I do take these measurements of weeks of battery life with a pinch of salt, but in general they are realistic.
The user interface on the Kindle Paperwhite remains broadly similar to previous devices. With a touch screen interface the awkward cursor based navigation of earlier Kindles has been banished – apart from the power on/off button on the base of the machine (which is next to the USB port used for charging and connectivity to a deskbound computer) there are no physical buttons on the Kindle Paperwhite. Turning pages, opening menus, navigating index pages, and selecting menu options are all done through on-screen controls.
This leads to one of two small issues that I have with the Kindle Paperwhite. On other e-book readers with physical buttons to turn the pages, I can rest my thumb on that button without activating it, and then press down with a touch more pressure without changing my grip on the device. With this Kindle, I have to physically move onto the touch screen to turn the page, and then off again so I don’t ‘double-tap’. It stops the seamless reading experience that previous Kindles and other e-readers provide.
The second issue is in the presentation of the e-books. Again, Amazon forces a fully justified view of your e-book unless it is specifically set in the formatting of the e-book. I really wish the Kindle app on (both on the e-ink and the LCD tablet devices) would allow the user to over-ride the defaults in each e-book and offer full control over formatting, from font size and choice to justification or ragged edge text layouts.
Naturally the Kindle is backed up with Amazon’s digital bookstore, and will happily sync over Wi-Fi with the books you have already purchased. You can also search and buy books and periodicals directly from the device. Because it is tied into your Amazon account you have the ability to do a one-click purchase when you find a book to read (using your card details previously stored on your Amazon account). It’s fast and simple, and you can be reading the new title in less than a minute. Generally e-books are under 1 MB in size, and after being switched on the Kindle Paperwhite has around 1.25 GB of storage available for use.
Your reading position along with any notes, highlights, or annotations that you make, are stored ‘in the cloud’ so you can pick up reading the same book on another device, in a Kindle app on your smartphone, or using the HTML5 cloud reader in your computer’s web browser.
And you have your own cloud of personal documents that you can upload to Amazon or email direct to a Kindle from your computer. The Kindle does have a limited range of file formats it can read (it eschews the popular ePub format), so you may need to convert your files before sending them to your Kindle. Luckily enough third-party managers such as Calibre will handle the conversion process for you on your own texts, web pages, and other e-books.
The two major competitors to the Kindle e-ink devices are by Nook and Kobo. The Kindle Paperwhite retails at £109 in the UK, so the Kobo Aura is at a disadvantage both in terms of the size of the library of e-books on sale, but also on price. It costs £119, but does have twice the storage capacity at 4 GB. The Nook Simple Touch Glowlight is much cheaper, retailing at £49, but this has to be balanced out with a frontlight that has a blue tinge to an uneven frontlight.
The 2013 edition of the Kindle Paperwhite is, hands down, the best dedicated e-book reader out there. The display is clear and bright, the available content library covers all the bases, the battery life remains high, and the user interface is easy to use and doesn’t get in the way once you start reading.
There are other options available, but if you are looking for an e-book reader and are happy to spend the money, it would be hard to fault the decision to buy the Kindle Paperwhite.
Disclosure: Amazon (UK) provided a Kindle Paperwhite for review purposes.