Kindle Paperwhite (2013) review: The best e-book reader gets better

How do you make the best product in its category better? Especially when the existing product does not have any real competition and the product is loved globally. Amazon was faced with a similar problem with its Kindle Paperwhite e-book reader, which was by far the only e-book reader one should buy. Yet, Amazon had to come out with a new version in order to keep the sales up and keep people interested in its e-book reader in an era of tablets and phablets. The result is what Amazon calls the All-New Kindle Paperwhite, which should be an indication of the lack of any new groundbreaking feature when compared to the earlier generation Paperwhite.

I have been using the new Paperwhite for over a fortnight and to be honest, initially I could not notice any difference between this and the earlier one. It looks the same and feels the same too. The only subtle difference I could find was it now had the Amazon logo on the rear while the previous generation one had a subtle Kindle logo embossed on it. But that’s just cosmetic and hardly a new feature.

The new Paperwhite has the same battery life that runs for weeks and the same repository of books you can buy from Amazon’s expansive store. The e-ink display along with Kindle’s unique lighting from the sides is still the best when it comes to reading under any kind of lighting condition – good enough to be read in darkness and has the best anti-glare reading experience under sunlight.

These are all the things I had said about the previous generation Paperwhite as well. But that isn’t to say there’s nothing new in the latest generation. The unique display that lends its name to the e-book reader is brighter and the lighting is more uniform. The patchy lighting towards the edges found on the previous generation is now gone. Amazon says that the new display also provides better contrast, but I had no such problems in the previous generation either, so the experience remains top notch.

Amazon has also improved on the processor, which it says decreases time between page flips. During my usage, I found it to be the case as well. However, there is still a lag when you are trying to type something or going from one menu to another, which is expected because of the nature of e-ink displays. There is only so much anyone can improve in them.

The All-New Kindle Paperwhite also has a couple of software additions, which add a lot of value. My favorite is the new Page Flip that enables readers to flip through pages or sections to peek at what’s coming next without losing the current position. Just tap on the top of the display while reading any book followed by a tap on the bottom part of the display to open a window-in-window. You can either flip through by pages or chapters.

The Lookup feature has also been improved and now on selecting a word one does not only get the dictionary but also the X-Ray that shows where else the word has appeared in the book as well as its complementing Wikipedia search result. Another addition is a vocabulary builder that automatically adds all the words you might have looked up in one place and also provides flash cards to help you remember them.

Another new feature that parents would love is FreeTime that lets them create a separate profile for their kids, where they can block access to many features and load it up with books for them. They can even set reading goals for them. FreeTime, in my opinion, is the feature that will bring Kindle to an entirely new audience – school-going children.

The best thing is the new Kindle Paperwhite has been launched at the same price as the older generation – Rs 10,999 for the Wi-Fi only version and Rs 13,999 for the Wi-Fi+3G version. While it is great to have free 3G connectivity globally, Amazon has crippled the “experimental” browser, so there is very little you can do with 3G apart from downloading books on the move. I find the extra Rs 3,000 an overkill for most users, though it might appeal to frequent travelers. In case you really need 3G, the previous generation Kindle Paperwhite 3G is also available for Rs 11,999, which is not a bad deal. We also used the Leather smart cover, which is priced at Rs 2,399 and has a magnetic strip that switches the display on and off.

Impossible as it may sound, the All-New Kindle Paperwhite is indeed better than the best ebook reader – the original Kindle Paperwhite.

Photographs: Paranjay Dutt