The new Kindle Paperwhite is the best Kindle I’ve ever owned.
I haven’t owned nearly as many Kindles as my friend Scott McNulty; I’ve owned only the Kindle 2 and the Kindle 3 keyboard edition. So this new Paperwhite is my first Kindle without a keyboard, my first with a touchscreen, and my first with no page-turn buttons.
And, most appealingly, it’s my first Kindle with a glorious backlight.
I bought a fancy case from Amazon for my Kindle 3 that offered a built-in book light. It leeched from your Kindle’s power, and the light tucked away inside the leather case when you didn’t need it. It worked great, except when it didn’t.
Amazon replaced the Kindle twice and the case four times. The cases had a problem where the contacts would get wonky and the light would only illuminate if I held the cover open at the proper angle. It was really annoying.
The Kindle Paperwhite’s light is built right in. It does not have this problem.
I’ve seen the light
Folks complained that the original Kindle Paperwhite had uneven lighting, especially along the bottom edge of the screen. It didn’t bother me much on that Kindle—which I never owned—because the book lights I use provide similarly uneven lighting.
Either way, though, the new Paperwhite is far superior in this regard: The light is even and seems to come from everywhere. The Paperwhite is easy to read in even the darkest room.
Amazon suggests that you put the screen’s brightness to the maximum setting in bright light, and darker in dark rooms. The company’s right: It’s a smart way to use the light. But it’s annoying as all get-out to switch the light’s setting around. The Paperwhite could really benefit from an ambient light sensor that adjusted the brightness automatically.
Just a touch
Tapping the Kindle Paperwhite’s screen to navigate is better and worse than using older, button-sporting Kindles. Tapping and holding on a word is way better than using that ridiculous cursor navigation doohickey.
But the Paperwhite ain’t no iPad. Tapping and holding on words doesn’t always work. Sometimes the Kindle seems to think that I want to highlight text. When I tap to turn pages, most of the time, my tap is registered and the page turns. Sometimes, though, my tap is ignored. Whenever I’m reading for an extended jaunt, I can expect a low but frustrating percentage of my page-turn taps will simply get ignored. That’s a major disappointment.
I also don’t love tapping the screen to turn the page anyway. The Kindle 3’s much-derided buttons suited me just fine (the page-turn buttons that is; the keyboard can suck an egg). Touching the screen to turn the page is the Paperwhite’s single worst feature.
I do a lot of reading in bed, holding the Kindle one handed over my face. There’s no comfortable way to hold the Paperwhite in this position and reliably turn the page: You can’t rest your finger on the screen, and you can’t easily slide your finger from elsewhere on the Kindle onto the screen to tap the screen without engaging in some kind of finger gymnastics. It’s lousy. The Kindle 3 didn’t have this problem.
The overall reading experience is pleasant enough that you can deal with this major flaw, but you encounter it with every single page turn. Insane.
The rest of the Kindle
I also worried about fingerprints on my Kindle Paperwhite’s screen. That hasn’t proven to be a significant problem. But the pleasant-feeling rubbery/polycarbonate rear shell is a fingerprint magnet, which is a frustration.
While many bemoan the “special offers” that Kindles come with for less money, I haven’t minded them at all. In fact, I’ve already purchased (and enjoyed!) a couple discounted books the Paperwhite promoted to me.
On the whole, I like the Kindle Paperwhite a lot. I can even handle the occasionally unresponsive touchscreen. The page-turn button situation is really a head-scratcher, especially since this is the second Paperwhite in a row to lack dedicated hardware controls for the task. Still, I’m convinced that the new Paperwhite is the best Kindle on the market, and it feels like a significant upgrade over every non-Paperwhite e-Ink Kindle.
Having not owned the original Paperwhite, I believe that original Paperwhite owners need only upgrade if they hate the spotty lighting at the bottom of their Kindles. Otherwise, you can probably wait another revision or three.