Software Engineer
Google Chrome

Kindle Paperwhite

I've loved reading for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are going grocery shopping with my mother every week, and each time getting to buy a new Little Golden Book - short picture books about nursery rhymes, nature, science, and fairy tales. I built up a huge collection of them, before they were given away to cousins as I grew older.

As I grew older I moved into more weighty tomes. Nowadays I own many, many books, and have borrowed many more from friends and libraries. I love the feel of books and the stories they contain within. Yet books are somewhat inconvenient. Tomes such as George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones or Douglas Hofstadter's_ Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid_ are very chunky, and don't lend themselves well to being carted around. Sometimes I'll be reading several things at once, but be restricted in how many of those things I can take with me wherever I go.

Enter an e-reader. A couple of weeks ago, I purchased a Kindle Paperwhite - the newest model in the Amazon line of e-readers. This slim little device has a 6-inch screen, and 2GB of memory that can hold close to a thousand books at a time. It has wireless, so you can connect to your Amazon account and download new books on the fly. You can email your own files (like PDFs) to a special email address, and they'll be forwarded to the device. All this in a package that's actually smaller than most paperback books.

I picked up the official Amazon onyx black leather case for the Kindle as well to give it some extra protection. The case has a beautiful, upmarket feel to it, yet adds little to their Kindle's size. There are magnets in the case which automatically wake the Kindle up when you open the case, and put it to sleep when you close it, saving a press on the tiny on/off button hidden at the bottom of the device. I highly recommend the extra protection, as it really gives me the confidence to treat the Kindle as a go-anywhere device.

Impressively, the Paperwhite also has LED backlighting. Instead of pointing up out of the screen, as with LCD screens, the lights in the Paperwhite are reflected downwards, towards the words on the display. This makes the screen very comfortable to look at - I inevitably find that the LCDs in computers and smartphones tire my eyes out and prompt headaches after prolonged use. I haven't really found a use for a tablet in my life - the combination of a smartphone and a MacBook Air easily handles all of my computing needs - but the Kindle definitely fills a niche and a need.

Same settings as the picture above, just with the room light off

The backlight is capable of dialing up to a very high brightness - perfect for reading outdoors in strong sunlight. I haven't yet needed the backlight on, but the screen is very nice even without the backlight - it has a very high resolution for an e-reader, leading to extremely crisp text. Reading on the Kindle is easy, comfortable, and convenient - with most of my library with me at all times, I can read whatever I like, whenever it strikes my fancy. I can search through all of the books, look up word definitions on the fly, and fiddle extensively with the font, margins, and spacings. On top of all that, after two weeks of relatively heavy usage, the battery isn't even below halfway yet. The Kindle is advertised as lasting for up to two months for the average reader, and I definitely believe that.

The Paperwhite is solely controlled by a touchscreen. Page turns are a tap of the screen away, with a menu rolling into view with a tap at the top of the screen. Unfortunately, having gotten used to the ultra-response iPhone touchscreen, the e-reader feels glacially slow. Some touches take nearly a second for a response. The e-ink technology also requires an unsightly full refresh every few touches (where the screen essentially wipes itself clean), further slowing response time. Sadly, this is necessary given the current limits of e-ink technology. But, given how long e-ink devices last on a battery charge, and how comfortable they are to read books on, the lack of responsiveness is more than an acceptable compromise.

Damn ads

One thing that does aggravate me is that the Kindle displays ads by default, and Amazon charges you $20 for the privilege of removing those ads. While the ads never display when you're actually reading, they occasionally pop up as you're navigating your library, and display permanently as a screensaver when the Kindle is locked and asleep. Thankfully, the screensaver uses no power (hooray e-ink!), but it's still odious to open my Kindle and be greeted by paid advertising. Still, it's not odious enough to convince me to part with an additional $20.

The one feature of a book that I truly miss is ease of navigation. I miss being able to simply open a book to a random page. Often I'll be looking for a specific passage that I know is in a certain section of the book. The chapter navigation offered in the Kindle is very good, but doesn't quite replicate that ability to flick quickly through a book, peeking at pages every now and again. You also can't skip past five or ten pages at a time - the only available options are jumping to a linked chapter, or turning the page. I'd even settle for a function that jumps to a random page in a specified section of a book. But I guess you can't have everything.

All in all, the Kindle Paperwhite is quickly becoming one of my favourite gadgets. I take it almost everywhere with me, and it has drastically cut down on my dead time - I can simply read for a while if I'm ever caught in a waiting situation. Hats off to Amazon for crafting an excellent e-reader, and my new best friend.

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