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Reaction: The Kindle Paperwhite (WiFi)

When I first heard about the Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight (NSTG), I thought "Finally! An e-ink device that doesn't require an additional light source in the dark". I was tempted to buy one, despite the fact that I already own a Kobo Touch, a Kindle Touch, and a Nook Simple Touch (sans Glowlight). I also read on my Nexus phone and my Nexus 7 tablet. I obviously don't need another reading device, but I can't help myself...I'm a gadget freak. I was tempted several times to try a NSTG, but numerous reports of issues with the screen, specifically uneven lighting and screens that had "holes", kept me from making the purchase. Plus there were rumors that Amazon had their own version coming in July. The rumors were right about the Kindle device, though wrong about the timing. When Amazon finally announced the Kindle Paperwhite in September, I bought one within an hour or so of it going on sale (I mentioned my gadget addiction, right?). On paper (no pun intended), the Kindle Paperwhite (KPW henceforth) sounds awesome on paper: a higher-res (higher dpi) screen, built-in light with 24 levels, additional fonts, slightly smaller size, 'time until end of chapter/book', etc. So how did I like the KPW once it arrived last week? Read on...

My first thoughts on taking the KPW out of the box were that it looked and felt much better than the previous Kindle Touch (KT). It feels a little smaller and lighter, and the soft rubberized exterior is more comfortable to hold than the KT. It actually feels a lot like the Kobo Touch, which is my favorite of the 3 e-ink readers I own. Once I turned it on though, I was immediately disappointed in the light. First, there are shadows at the very bottom of the screen where the LED lights are. This seems to be common among all KPW devices, even though there is no hint of such a thing in Amazon's promotional materials. Second, I happen to have one of the many "defective" devices that have the uneven lighting, though I don't really notice shades of pink like some have reported. I will say that my screen seems to have more of a bluish tint than a white tint, which is a bit off-putting. After spending just an hour with it on the night it arrived, I was ready to pack it up and return it. I decided maybe I was being hasty, and I should give it a solid week.

Well, the week is over and I am most definitely returning it. I'm just not happy with the light. And for some reason, for me, the light actually gives me eyestrain. I know it is front-lit and it should not bother my eyes like an LCD, but with the light on, I find the fonts are a bit fuzzy and less sharp then the previous Kindle Touch. Now when the light on the KPW is turned all the way down in a bright room, you can indeed see that the fonts are more crisp on the KPW compared to the Kindle Touch. But once the light (on the KPW) is turned up, the fonts are harder to read (due to fuzziness). And if I turn the light up bright enough to get that "Paperwhite" screen, its just too bright..and looks no different than a tablet screen to me. As I said, technically I know there is a difference, but to my eyes, there is not. I know others will disagree, but all I can do is give you my opinion. When it comes right down to it, if I have to read in a darker room, my Nexus 7 tablet (with a screen dimming app installed) is more comfortable (with less strain), then my KPW. Given that fact, there is really no reason for me to keep the KPW. So I plan to return it and stick with the Kobo Touch as my main reader, and the Nexus 7 when I read in bed. I have to say I am pretty disappointed in the KPW. I thought I finally had once e-ink device that I could use anywhere, no matter the lighting conditions.

If you want to read more opinions on folks who have liked, and disliked, the KPW, see the Kindle forums on MobileRead here. Like most forums, you will see more negative thoughts than positive (since people who like theirs don't seek a place to complain) fact, you will find that many members have returned their KPW multiple times, trying to find one with a good screen. Apparently, there are some that do indeed have a truly white screen. I don't think my KPW is as bad as some folks is on that forum, but I also don't think I have one of the good ones. I could do what they are doing and keep exchanging mine until I get one I like, but I just don't care enough. Mostly because I prefer the Kobo readers, due to their ability to customize the reading experience way more than the Kindles. In fact, I'll likely dedicate a different post to why I like the Kobo Readers (including how I read Kindle books on my Kobo).

So, I will send back my Kindle Paperwhite and will likely wait for the Kobo Glo to be available here in the US and give it a try. I did buy the new Kobo Mini this week...Best Buy had them available for less than 24 hours on their website Tuesday. I lucked out and got one of the few they had, as the Kobo Mini is once again listed as "coming soon". Anyway, my Kobo Mini arrived last night, so look for a review on it next week. I can say my initial impressions are positive. While the screen is only 1 inch smaller (it has a 5-inch instead of the typical 6-inch screen), the device feels a GOOD way.

If you have any further questions about the Kindle Paperwhite, feel free to ask. Be aware that all I do is read on my e-ink devices, so I don't typically use the dictionary, annotations, etc.

Comments (3) Trackbacks (0)
  1. As always, good tech review! :-) I read similar issues with the lighting (thought perhaps not as bad) at Daring Fireball.

    This “return it till you get a good one” baffles me. Obviously it speaks very poorly of Amazon’s quality control and probably design, though it does show how devoted Kindle users can be. I don’t know why someone would bother returning it multiple times, hoping for a good one (no guarantee of that!). I can see doing it once, but knowing there’re issues like this and having a unit with these problems, especially with so many e-ink readers out there . . . it seems like a waste of time and effort. (shrug)

    • I guess a lot of people stick with the Kindle due to their investment in the ecosystem. I do buy most/all of my ebooks from the Kindle store (due to the credit I earn from the blog), but since I ‘liberate’ them using Calibre, I can read them on whatever I want. I’ll probably go into more detail on that in a post in the near future, too. I plan to write up a review of my Kobo Mini, and maybe another one about my digital reading setup/process (not that anyone is particularly interested).

  2. Thanks for the great review. I am going to buy my first e-reader and this review (amongst others) convinced me that Paperwhite is going to be a hassle.

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