When Apple launched the first iPad in 2010, I was of the opinion that it mared the end of stand-alone ebook readers, just like smartphones did to portable music players and handheld gaming consoles. Why should I buy the Kindle, a dedicated ebook reader, when I could get the Kindle app on my iPad and my smartphones for free and get the same books on it? Why should I carry two separate devices when I can do with one? Even though I bought Kindles during my trips abroad for my friends and family, I always resisted the urge to pick one for myself. I didn’t need one. Or so I thought till I started using the Kindle Paperwhite.
The Kindle Paperwhite is the ebook reader that Amazon always wanted to build. It has combines the best components that include an e-ink display, which is considered to be the best for a reading device; a capacitive touchscreen that keeps up with the touchscreen UI users are used to on their smartphones and tablets; and a unique LED lighting array that illuminates the display evenly from the top rather than underneath the display, which results in less eye strain and better power management. Amazon has also managed to cram in 62 percent more pixels and increased the contrast over the previous generation Kindle.
The improvements make a huge difference. Thanks to the new illuminated display, one can read on the Kindle Paperwhite irrespective of the ambient lighting conditions, which mean one would no longer have to buy and lug around the external “reading light” contraption for reading in the dark. The frontlit illumination is evenly distributed by a handful of low-power LEDs. I could notice some patchy spots at the bottom edge where the LEDs are housed in the beginning and it bugged me to no end. But after a while I got used to it and did not even notice it. Barring the lower edge, the display is evenly lit and makes for a great reading experience. Users can change the brightness depending on the ambient light conditions. In certain conditions, especially outdoors under sunlight, I could power down the brightness to zero and still read comfortably – a benefit of using e-ink displays. Another advantage of the Kindle Paperwhite’s display is its matte finish that doesn’t reflect any glare even under direct light and feels just like one is reading a paper book, which is a big problem with most tablets.
Another big advantage of the Paperwhite is it weighs just 222 grams and is just 9.1 mm thick, which means it is a lighter and considerably thinner than most paperbacks. Plus it is easy to use with one hand and you won’t even feel the difference in your bag even if you are carrying a notebook and a tablet. While travelling I always think twice whether I should carry both my iPad and my notebook, but the Kindle Paperwhite’s footprint ensures it always stays with me. It could even fit into my denim’s rear pocket, though it isn’t advisable to carry it there, lest the display gets damaged. The back has a nice grippy feel to it while the front is made of high quality moulded plastic that feels good to hold.
Hardware aside, even the software is optimized for reading. Once registered to your Amazon account, the Kindle Paperwhite would automatically display all your purchased books and offer you the option to go directly to Amazon’s Kindle store to buy more books. Buying books with Amazon’s patented ‘One Click’ service is a breeze and they usually get downloaded in under a minute.
But the Kindle Paperwhite is much more than a simple reading device. There are a few software tricks it has hidden under its sleeve that makes it the ultimate ebook reader. While reading a book, one can tap the top part of the display to reveal some additional options. My favorite is the X-Ray feature that shows the people and terms mentioned in the book and the reader can directly navigate to that particular section of the book. Another setting lets readers change the font, font size and even line spacing and margins in text. This comes in super handy especially for those with eyesight problems and have difficulty reading small font sizes. Another setting lets one control the brightness levels.
While reading one can even highlight portions of the text and revisit them at a later time. One can even take down notes, highlight a word or a phrase and look it up in a dictionary or even search Wikipedia or translate it into other languages, including Hindi! These features really take the reading experience to an altogether different level, which no one else can match. The Paperwhite also has what Amazon calls an experimental browser, which can be used for basic web browsing. However, it is barely usable and is meant for emergency situations only.
But there’s more to the Kindle Paperwhite than just ebook reading. With a simple ‘Send to Kindle’ plugin that is available for browsers (Chrome and Firefox), desktops (PC and Mac), email and Android, users can easily send web pages, emails, documents and much more that will be delivered directly to the Kindle for reading when one’s offline. It comes in very handy especially for long articles and features online, which is displayed in a reader friendly Kindle format on the device.
Then there is the thing about battery life. Amazon claims that one can get as much as eight weeks on a single charge with 30 minutes of reading daily and Wi-Fi turned off and the brightness set to 10. Even if you have the brightness turned up a notch higher and use it for more than 30 minutes, you should still be able to get a few weeks of juice out of it. The rule of thumb is to keep the device in offline mode as you won’t be needing Internet connectivity on it unless you plan to buy or download any content.
The Kindle Paperwhite comes in two variants – Wi-Fi only that is priced at Rs 10,999 and Wi-Fi + 3G priced at Rs 13,999 and provides free 3G connectivity in most countries globally that can be used for downloading new books from Amazon’s store or looking up Wikipedia. It has tied up with Vodafone in India to provide 3G services. But unlike earlier, when one could do basic web surfing on 3G, Amazon has curtailed the feature and limited it to just Amazon’s Kindle store and Wikipedia. This limits the worthiness of spending the extra Rs 3,000 considering it is very unlikely that one would find oneself in a situation that requires downloading a book when there is no Wi-Fi connectivity. I’d recommend picking up the Wi-Fi only variant.
In less than a week, the Kindle Paperwhite has converted me from a non-believer into a believer in stand-alone ebook readers. If you are a voracious reader, nothing comes closer to the Kindle Paperwhite in terms of features, value and functionality.