There is something to be said for books – their musty scent, the solid wisp as the page turns, the feeling of print under one’s fingers, and the nostalgia of them collecting on a strategically placed bookcase. However, despite the inherent virtues of paper books, I have firmly placed myself in the eBook club for the past several years. Why? The simplicity. It is incredibly liberating to be free of hundreds of pounds of pages, to have the next novel, compendium, or textbook at my fingertips, ready to be taken out of my bag at a moment’s notice, ready to replace a completed book in those unexpected moments, and capable of going beyond the constraints of paginated paragraphs. Additionally, in many cases (though not all), eBooks are cheaper than their respective paper versions, and in all cases (where eBook versions are available), they’re much faster to get a hold of. While it is less fulfilling to browse virtual catalogues of books than wander through the tactile experience of a bookstore, it is certainly easier and more efficient.
My first foray into eBooks was to embrace the iPad’s iBooks – why not simply use the device I already carry with me and keep the device-management to its existing level? While this lasted for a few years, it wasn’t ideal. I didn’t read as much as I used to (though for a variety of reasons, not entirely to be blamed on the medium), and although I enjoyed reading on the iPad, especially on a train, plane, or bus, it was a far-cry from reading on paper. The screen is a screen – it’s not easy on the eyes, and although I don’t suffer from the eyestrain that many feel when reading on a tablet, it wasn’t conducive to long draw-out reading sessions.
For a long-time, I’d seen Amazon Kindles around, seen their advertising, and be obviously aware of their presence. I even purchased some books in the Kindle app for my iPad when equivalent iBook versions weren’t to be found. Yet I never even considered purchasing a dedicated Kindle – why would I? I had an iPad.
Turns out, Amazon hasn’t been doing such a great job of combating that argument, because they sure didn’t answer that to me in their marketing. Sure, we’ve all seen the commercial’s pointing out how you can read your Kindle in the sunlight, unlike the poor sap with a tablet. Big whoop. Sit in the shade – it’s better for you.
But guess what: I don’t leave home without my Kindle Paperwhite in my bag or pocket.
Welcome to the Kindle
What changed, you might obviously ask. My better-half kept sitting with her Kindle Paperwhite (1st Gen), happily reading her way through Game of Thrones, and leaving it sitting on the nightstand. While I’d seen a Kindle before, knew how eInk screens worked, seeing one up-close was like a chimp being given a camera. I kept staring at it, amazed at how unlike a screen it looked, and baffled by how the eInk screen just sat there, chilling, showing words, yet not actually doing anything.
Long story short, I wound up buying my own Kindle Paperwhite (2nd Gen) a year ago, and I haven’t picked up an iBook or read a book on my iPad since then. The eInk display, especially with the new generation in the Paperwhite (2nd Gen), makes each page look freakishly like a printed page. If you haven’t experienced it, you probably think I’ve been overindulging in the scotch, but it really is extremely different from a conventional screen. It is much easier on the eyes to read, with the fatigue typically associated with reading on a screen being nonexistent. The device itself is very light (7.3 ounces), and although plastic-bodied, it is extraordinarily resilient. While I purchased Amazon’s handy flip case for it, I don’t always use the case. Nor am I overly careful with the Kindle – I routinely treat it as I would a regular book, irreverently tossing it onto surfaces, throwing it into my bag, or cramming it in a jacket pocket. Yet abuse it as I do, I have yet to dent, scratch, or damage it. That is part of what has kept me hooked on it – that ability to not worry about it, just know it’ll be ready to go whenever I am.
On a related note, the battery life of the device is commendable. Amazon officially states that it’ll last 8 weeks on a charge. However, I recommend taking that with a grain of salt. There are many factors involved in the Paperwhite’s longevity – how much you’re reading, how much you’re using its backlight, and how much you’re using its WiFi (or 3G in that model). My experience is that, keeping WiFi on all the time (for WhisperSync, ensuring that my pages are always in sync, on the off-chance that I read something on my iPhone’s Kindle app), with brightness around the 4 mark (just enough to remove any shadows, but not enough to read in a dark room), I’m able to easily read 2-3 books on a charge. That being said, I have tended more recently to simple charge it whenever I happen to think about it, or happen to not be reading while I have the Kindle nearby and a micro-USB cable lying in front of me – so maybe once every several weeks.
If you enjoy reading, try it. The Paperwhite is $119 (with special offers – aka: when you’re not reading and the Kindle screen is “off” (eInk is never really off like a normal screen, it still displays something), it displays an ad for a book that you may like), and isn’t going to break your bank account to try. If you’re a starving student and really don’t believe what I’ve been saying, but still want to try on the off-chance that I’m not crazy, pick up the basic Kindle (4th Gen) for $69 and give it a shot. I’ll bet you’ll like the idea and want to upgrade.
The Amazon Kindle Store is okay. Browsing it on the Kindle itself is lacking, browsing on a real web browser is better, but far from perfect. They haven’t quite figured out how to make the experience comparable to a bookstore, so I tend to look for/discover books elsewhere, and then just search and buy on Amazon. GoodReads is a good place to start (and your GoodReads account blends happily on your Paperwhite). But really, discovering books can be done anywhere. Buying them (assuming they’re available on Amazon) takes a second, and two seconds later, it’s on your Paperwhite.
There are a whole heap of other handy features on the Paperwhite, from dictionaries to parental tools, note taking, “X-Ray” character guides, and lists of other tricks you can play with if you feel so inclined. But for what it’s for –reading– just open the box, and you’re good to go curl up and swipe through the pages.