Monday, January 7, 2013

The Kindle Paperwhite? It's Pretty Much Awesome

I wasn't the earliest adopter to the Kindle world, but when a friend of mine back in summer 2010 let me play around with her massive Kindle DC with the keyboard and about 8 million books, I knew I needed to have one. I got the Kindle DC (now the Kindle Keyboard) as a gift in 2010, and used it more than I thought I would, but less than I wanted to - the experience was both superior in many ways and lacking in others. Finally, the Paperwhite came out. The consensus seemed to be that it was both the best eInk ereader to hit the market and that it had some flaws as well.

For me, it's a lot simpler. On a functional level, the Kindle Paperwhite is exactly the ereader I hoped the Keyboard/DX would have been. On a personal level, I can now sit in bed with my pregnant wife and read a book without disturbing her at all. It's made my life better in nearly every possible way.

So first things first - I ended up getting the one with special offers and 3G because I'm a sucker for top of the line from time to time and I don't mind the occasional advertisement. The WiFi is strong in this one, and I haven't played around much with the 3G yet, but I like the 3G more because I tend to read in places that I can't always sync my reading. I learned that the hard way with the old WiFi kindle.

The operation is smooth. The device is surprisingly quicker than I thought it would be, and a key benefit to that is the way it doesn't refresh the page every time you move around. If you have an older Kindle version, or perhaps even an older Nook, you may recall that the page has to go black and then load the page you're on. The Paperwhite only does that every 4 or so pages, meaning the pages flip faster and there's no stalling. It's a fairly brilliant maneuver.

It has some features that are new to Kindle - xRay is actually something I may be able to use for my job, which often requires me to read books with a eye for certain language. By giving a quick overview of how often a word pops up, it can also give you an overview of the importance of a word or character in a given book. I don't know how useful it is for a typical reader, but I liked it.

The best new feature, I feel, is the "time left to read" option. It's actually rather evil in a sense - it calculates how much you've read and your pace, and gives you an estimate of how much you have left. Having read two plus books on the Paperwhite so far, it's actually fairly accurate as long as you don't get distracted and stay on the same page for too long...

There's also the light. Its best feature is also its worst, in my mind, as they're no actual way to turn it off while using the Kindle, and the settings are either "more light than I need now" or "more light than I'll ever need." At the lowest setting in a dark room, I'm more than happy. The suggestion is the brightest setting for bright rooms, but I don't really see the point in it. It's a strange thing, and I'd love a setting where I could turn the light off.

The criticisms of the device have mostly had to do with the lights and the "ghosting" effect. The light is an interesting one, as the lights are four LEDs on the bottom of the screen. They thus give a spotlighting-style effect as you can very vaguely see on the right hand side. Many see it as distracting, but I can't say I notice it at all. Besides: it's a light that operates on the bottom of my screen and doesn't wake my wife up. I don't quite know what people are looking for, unless they want to run a lamp at the same time as their Kindle or use one of those unwieldy book lights that attach to the top of the thing. It's fine by me.

What's a little tougher is the "ghosting," which is prevalent among ereaders anyway. With the Paperwhite, it's more pronounced given the page refresh options. Effectively, on the default, you can, if you look closely with the light up, see remnants of previous pages. When the page refreshes, that generally goes away. I have a friend who was extremely bothered by the ghosting and returned her Paperwhite nearly immediately. As for me, it's generally not an impact on me. I notice it, but I'm also kind of used to it. The good news is that you can set the device to refresh every page turn in order to eliminate the ghosting, but that's a speed sacrifice I don't care to make, and I almost wish I could turn that up to every 10th page.

An added bonus for me was the official Kindle Paperwhite case. It treats it like a smartcover, which is great - it turns the Kindle off completely when the magnetic clasp hits the cover, it's a faux-leather design that feels nice and light, and it is among the most well-designed things I've ever seen for a device like this. It's basically perfect, and makes the experience even better. If you're in the market for the Paperwhite, spend the extra cash and get the official case, it's really worth it.

So that's it in a nutshell. I get to spend some time on a plane this week, and I'm very excited to have this on hand for the flight (except during takeoff and landing, when I'll likely be powering through A Memory of Light). If you're in the market for an ereader or ereader upgrade, you really can't go wrong with the Paperwhite.

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