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REVIEW: Kindle Paperwhite

I’ve been reading mostly on my iPhone and iPad having sold my Kindle 3G on Craigslist this past spring. I just wasn’t using it enough.  But when the Kindle Paperwhite went on sale, I had to buy one.

There are two versions of the Kindle Paperwhite – one with wifi and one with 3G.  I purchased the 3G with Special Offers but feel like I could have easily gotten away with just purchasing the wifi version for $119.

 

Kindle Paperwhite

In the box

The device comes with a USB cable but NO power adapter.  Your previous Kindle adapter will work with it.

The Feel of the Paperwhite

The Kindle Paperwhite weighs 7.5 ounces which is the exact weight of the Kindle Touch (and basically the same height and width).  The Kindle 3G with keyboard weighed in at 7.8 oz yet when you pick up the Kindle Paperwhite, it feels a little heavier, more solid. The Kindle basic, for example, weighs 5.98 oz.

The weight difference I am feeling may come from the fact that the Kindle 3G with keyboard is almost an inch longer than the Kindle Paperwhite, thus the weight is distributed over a larger area.

The Paperwhite is not too heavy for one handed reading unlike my iPad.  The back is made of a rubberized material while the front bezels feel like a warm metal.

The controls

Only a power button

There is no button other than the power button on the bottom:

Kindle Paperwhite bottom

It would have been nice to have an external button that could have provided context oriented tasks.  The only controls are accessible via touchscreen.  While in a book, if you swipe your finger across the bottom, the device will tell you what location you are at, how many minutes you have left in the chapter and how many minutes you have in the book.  On the right side, the devices tells you your percentage completion or the pages.

paperwhite page mins

CON:  I would like to be able to tap in the bottom info bar and move within the book.  The “Go To” feature is only available when you tap the toolbar.

Tapzones

Instead of allowing users to customize their own tapzones, the Kindle Paperwhite has three tap zones. The greatest portion of the Kindle is given over to the next page.  The far left hand side is for tapping backward.  The top of the Kindle accesses the toolbar.

Kindle paperwhite

 

You can also swipe (as opposed to tap) to the right to go backward and to the left to go forward.  While in a book, if you execute a pinching movement with your fingers on the screen the font size will become smaller.  If you execute the reverse pinch or spread, the font size will become larger.

CON:  What Amazon should have included was the ability to swipe upward or downward to change the screen brightness because other than forward tapping, that is probably the most used function.  Dear Amazon, please make that happen in the next software update.

 The toolbar

The toolbar appears whenever you tap the top part of the screen.  The toolbar is basically the same regardless of whether you are at the home screen or in a book.  Here you will be able to go home; adjust your screen brightness, search content or access the menu.  The menu is contextual which means it changes according to where you are.

  • At the home screen, menu options include Shop Kindle Store, View Special Offers, List or Cover View, Create New Collection, Sync and Check for Items, Settings, and Experimental Browser.
  • In a book, menu options include Portrait or Landscape Mode, Sync to Furthest Page Read, Book Description, Add Bookmark, View Notes & Marks, Reading Progress, and About the Author 

the paperwhite toolbar

CON:  When you access About the Author or Book Description, it actually takes you to the Amazon store which takes about 5-6 seconds depending on your internet connection. I find that to be a pain.  It should open a popup screen that includes the book cover, the book description, and maybe length.  Amazon’s previous Kindles did not direct you to the store and I find it irritating to be redirected because of the time it takes to access and load the store from the internet rather than pulling text from the book’s metadata.

The other feature I don’t like is that there is no easy way to see the cover.  That should be an option under “Go To” for every book but it’s not.  This may be publisher dependent but Amazon should enforce some quality controls for its book.  For instance, Christine Bell’s Down for the Count from Entangled had the cover, but Leisl & Po published by HarperCollins did not.

The light

The big thing about the Kindle Paperweight is the screen and the integrated light.  This is the best screen and integrated light on an ebook reader I have ever seen.  With the light on bright, the device’s screen contrast is sharp making the page indeed look white.  When the Kindle sleeps, the light turns off, but it remembers what setting you had the light at when you wake the Kindle up.

At night, the lowest setting is nice and low and isn’t disturbing to anyone in bed with me.  The light washes up from the bottom.  This creates an uneven disbursement that is most noticeable when you have a big contrast between the room lighting and the lighting on the device.

This image is of the screen in normal ambient light with the light setting at the highest.  It appears more white than in the picture:

paperwhite in normal room light

Click for larger image

This is the bottom of the screen with the light at the highest level in a completely dark room:

screen lights at the bottom

Click for larger image

This is the bottom of the screen with the light at the lowest level in a completely dark room:

Click for larger image

The battery life

Amazon says that this device has an eight week battery life if you read 30 minutes a day.  I read for three days on a full charge and read 4 books, two of them category books.  I figure I will need to charge my device twice a week but likely I will charge it every night because that is what I do with my iPhone.

The Kindle Cover

The reason to buy the Kindle Cover over others is because, like the iPad and Apple’s iPad cover, the Kindle will go to sleep with the cover closed and wake up when you open the cover.  However the cover adds bulk and makes it less pocketable.

Summary

If you’ve been waiting to upgrade to a new Kindle, this is the one you want to get. The screen is the best I’ve seen on an eink device. It’s the right size, making it easy to carry in your purse or backpack or bag.  There are definitely areas in which I would like to see Amazon improve upon but those are software changes that could be made.  I’m giving it as a gift to upgrade an old Kindle I bought my mother a couple of years ago.

One large caveat to the Kindle Paperwhite is that it no longer allows you to listen to audio books or music on the device.  The device is not accessible to the hearing impaired because the menus have no text to speech option and there is no sound capabilities on the device.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

47 Comments

  1. Willa
    Oct 07, 2012 @ 06:19:04

    Interesting review. When it says ‘you have 2 minutes left in the chapter’ how has the device worked that out and if you take longer does it reprimand you?? Just thinking it is a rather strange and dare I say useless feature to have. Haven’t they heard of page numbers yet?

    Also not impressed with not having the ‘full’ package – NO power adaptor.

  2. Ros
    Oct 07, 2012 @ 06:44:25

    @Willa: I sort of approve of them not including a power adaptor as standard. My house is slowly filling up with old power adaptors from various gadgets and I would be happy to be able to reuse some of them when I upgrade a device. I realise that if you don’t already own a kindle it’s an extra expense, but for those people who are upgrading it’s a nice bonus. Maybe what I’d do is have the headline price include the adaptor, but offer an option for a reduced price without it.

  3. Willa
    Oct 07, 2012 @ 07:14:23

    @Ros:

    Maybe what I’d do is have the headline price include the adaptor, but offer an option for a reduced price without it.

    This ;)

  4. Sunita
    Oct 07, 2012 @ 08:47:27

    TheHusband got his Paperwhite on Friday and is quite happy with it. Like you, he wishes that everything wasn’t done via screen taps and swipes. He misses the hard buttons, but I’m sure he’ll get used to it.

    We compared the Paperwhite and Nook Glow screens. The Paperwhite is much, much sharper in terms of screen resolution and the light is better dispersed. I think the technology is better (which probably also accounts for the higher price). But I like the feel of the Nook; I’ve become used to the squarer shape and I use the page-turn buttons much more than screen taps and swipes. So he’s very happy with his Kindle, and I’m still happy with my Nook.

  5. CourtneyLee
    Oct 07, 2012 @ 09:04:20

    As soon as I saw the Paperwhite, I wanted it. My Kindle Keyboard (purchased when it was simply the 3rd Gen) died back in April, likely as a result of too many run-ins with my small children, and I’ve been making do with my laptop and Android phone ever since. I don’t mind reading on my phone–it’s the first time I’ve read frequently on a self-lit touchscreen–but I’d rather have a Kindle again.

  6. Maritza
    Oct 07, 2012 @ 09:07:36

    Jane,
    I’d like to know what book you were reading. The excerpts intrigued me

  7. jane_l
    Oct 07, 2012 @ 10:02:38

  8. Liz
    Oct 07, 2012 @ 10:54:39

    @Sunita: Any chance you can elaborate about the better dispersed light on the Paperwhite?
    I’ve borrowed a friend’s Paperwhite and as Jane displayed, you can really the lights eminating from the bottom in a very dark room. It’s driving me nuts. I haven’t tried a NookGlowLight yet, but I was hoping for better results. (I also generally prefer the Nook, and have been looking for an excuse to get a new one…)

  9. Sunita
    Oct 07, 2012 @ 11:36:53

    @Liz: You can see the lights in both devices. They’re at the top of the screen in the Nook and at the bottom in the Kindle, and there are more of them in the Nook. The color of the light seems different, too. The Nook seems whiter but it’s more uneven, whereas the Kindle’s contrast is better but less white. If that makes sense.

    I’m taking some pictures and will link to them when I post them.

  10. Aurora
    Oct 07, 2012 @ 11:47:06

    Lovely review! :)

    The one thing that you didn’t mention…that some people (like myself!) will care about is storage… I was all set to buy myself one or two of these (always good to have a spare! ;)) when they first came out…and was dismayed to discover that while the Kindle with keyboard has approximately 3gb of space available for user content, the Paperwhite (like the previous model) has a mere 1.25gb of space available for user content.

    If the whole reason you BOUGHT a Kindle was to carry your library around with you at all times (including hundreds of books from Project Gutenberg!), and you keep your books organized via an elaborate system of collections, and you read a lot (say, two to three novels per day), and are often in places without reliable 3G or wifi, then you really do want and need that extra space. Or if you’re someone, like my mom, who prefers the audible versions of books, so she can listen to them during her three hours of daily commute–and thus, may be using larger files, and thus, using up storage faster. Or if you just don’t want to be bothered sorting through the archive, everytime you want another book to read…since it’s rather slow, and clunky, when you have thousands of books to go through!

    In the two years I’ve had my Kindle with Keyboard, I’ve loaded almost 2,000 books on it–almost half of which are from Project Gutenberg, not Amazon–and still have 1.2gb of space left to load up. And it’s comforting, knowing that no matter what I’m in the mood for, if I own it, it’s on my Kindle, and never farther away than my purse, no matter where I am, and what type of network connectivity I have.

    I’d LOVE to try the Paperwhite–but it doesn’t even have enough space on it for me to load up what I already own…never mind any future purchases. :(

    (None of which makes any of your review less helpful–I just thought I’d point out something that may be a significant shortcoming, for some folks looking to upgrade. :))

  11. jane_l
    Oct 07, 2012 @ 11:48:32

    @Aurora: Your mom can’t use the Kindle Paperwhite for audiobooks. Audio is not included in the Paperwhite any longer.

  12. Sunita
    Oct 07, 2012 @ 12:09:40

    @Liz:

    Here’s a photo of the two in full light in a dark room.

    ETA: The second photo isn’t loading properly for me, but you get the idea.

    Here is the second photo (25% light in the same dark room): http://dearauthor.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Kindle-Nook-Light.jpg

  13. jane_l
    Oct 07, 2012 @ 12:30:22

  14. Aurora
    Oct 07, 2012 @ 12:47:19

    @jane_l: Ouch! :( One more strike against it for some folks! :/

  15. Dabney
    Oct 07, 2012 @ 12:52:41

    @Aurora: This is one of the reasons I am considering not keeping the Paperwhite. My Kindle Keyboard is still holding on there and I do have tons of books stored on it. I do use it as a mobile library. I have the all the books on my Keyboard stored on my Paperwhite and I have 650 MB left.

    It’s clear that Amazon doesn’t intend for the Paperwhite to be a mobile library. (It also doesn’t work smoothly with Calibre which I use to organize my books into collections and dates.)

    It is a superior reader to the Keyboard and I long for a reading device with a light like the Paperwhite has and a touch screen. (I’m stuck on Kindles given my number of purchased books.) I am wondering if it’s worth returning this one and seeing if one comes out with a larger storage capacity. Or if I need to rethink how I keep my books and rely far more on the cloud. It’s clear that, when one loads the Paperwhite to capacity, it slows down as well.

    On the other hand, it’s a great reader, the cover is genius and it isn’t that expensive.

    I’m still trying to make up my mind. Thanks for pointing out the storage issue. I hadn’t given that much thought.

  16. jane_l
    Oct 07, 2012 @ 13:16:33

    @Dabney and @Aurora – I think the reduction in size is due to the addition of 5 GB of cloud storage for books. I use that quite a bit and you can use it with your collections too, I believe.

  17. Anne V
    Oct 07, 2012 @ 13:24:35

    I have a paperwhite and a kindle keyboard, as well as a small stack of iOS devices that have too much glare and backlight to be good for sustained reading. My vision is bad, and the paperwhite is a markedly better, less-eye-straining kind of read.

    I don’t care about TTS. I wish very much that there were page turn buttons on the frame of the paperwhite the way there are on the keyboard, and also a way to manage the brightness without going into the menu or messing with the screen.

    It’s my experience that all kindles slow down/get wonky if you have many (>500) books on them, and that you wind up having to delete the indexes and let them reindex pretty regularly if you swap books on and off, so I have been curious about non-tethered, non-cloud storage.

    A couple of weeks (months?) ago, Charlie Stross had a thing about using NAS with his iPad. It sounded genius, and I promptly went out and got one. I am not a genius, and so I funked setting up for a little while, and now I love it greatly and have named it. And this is now what I want for my kindle – accessible portable network storage. Yeah, I could email all my books to my amazon account and pay them for that and – no. I spend a fair amount of time in places without cell or wifi, and I want to be able to get at my stuff.

    @jane_l: 5GB is not so much – I have 10.72GB in calibre, not including anything purchased from Amazon.

  18. Ros
    Oct 07, 2012 @ 18:21:06

    @Sunita: @jane_l: But that requires you being in range of wifi to access the cloud content, which isn’t always easy.

  19. Ros
    Oct 07, 2012 @ 18:21:44

    Huh. No idea how Sunita ended up in that comment! I was replying to Jane.

  20. carmen webster buxton
    Oct 07, 2012 @ 20:42:04

    When my Paperwhite arrives, it will be my 5th Kindle. I confess I am an addict. But I’m wondering, as you mention assuming that an up and down swipe should control the light– the Kindle Touch used up and down swipes to go forward and backward a chapter at a time (assuming the book is coded to properly identify the chapters). Does the Paperwhite do that? I would hate to see that feature go away.

    I’m giving my husband the Kindle Touch and taking back the Kindle Keyboard to keep it for proofing. And now that I know about the reduced storage, I’m really glad I got the 3G model!

  21. Kaetrin
    Oct 07, 2012 @ 20:56:43

    @Sunita: Is the Glow on the right?

  22. Charli
    Oct 08, 2012 @ 00:23:21

    Thanks for your review of the Kindle Paperwhite, Jane. I’m really glad you’re enjoying yours!
    I, too, have thought about selling my Kindle Keyboard 3G, as I can read on my iPhone, laptop or iPad. I have also flirted with the idea of buying a Paperwhite or a Fire, for some time. (I love gadgets – can you tell?) After reading your review, I think I’m going to stick to my Keyboard 3G, for now. I do use it still for reading in bed, (I have the leather book light cover and love it!) plus it holds so many books and is great for traveling. There are quite a few features on my Keyboard that I like, also, and would miss them if I bought something else.
    Thank you for helping me to make up my mind! My husband thanks you, too!! ;o)

  23. Sri
    Oct 08, 2012 @ 01:22:39

    @carmen webster buxton: From what I’ve seen in the mobileread forums, apparently this function is not available in the Paperwhite.

    Also, I’ve seen posts in the MR forums that quite a number of PW has a red/green blob on the screen which could be caused by some glue. It might be resolved in a few days of air circulation but most of the posters have sent back their PW for a replacement. This issue has been acknowledged by the Amazon CS.

  24. Dabney
    Oct 08, 2012 @ 05:58:09

    @jane_l: I can’t figure out a way to make the cloud keep my ARC selections. If I didn’t buy the books from Amazon, they don’t show up in the collections on the cloud. Do you know a way around that?

  25. Dabney
    Oct 08, 2012 @ 05:58:48

    @Anne V: What NAS are you using with your iPad?

  26. Anne V
    Oct 08, 2012 @ 07:52:36

    Maxwell Airstash. It’s pretty small (somewhere between cigarette lighter and pack of cards sized) and the storage is expandable because it resides on SDXC/SDHC cards, which I find really helpful. It can also be used as an SD card reader. The battery holds about 6 hours of charge and it seems to recharge pretty quickly.

  27. Sunita
    Oct 08, 2012 @ 08:33:06

    @Kaetrin: Sorry, I should specified that! Yes, the Glow is on the right

  28. carmen webster buxton
    Oct 08, 2012 @ 08:49:50

    @carmen webster buxton:

    @Dabney– Are you sideloading the books with the USB cable? When I email documents to my Kindle, they go into my archive. They didn’t originally but they have for several releases. This applies both to books and to Word documents I send, but if the book is an actual Mobi format book, with the metadata properly identified, it looks just like the other books in my archive. I can even send them to other Kindles on my account which is a nice feature. I use the email feature all the time because I like to proof manuscripts on the Kindle. I don’t know if any other ereader offers it, but I think it’s a great feature, especially now that they have wifi in Kindles, and you don’t get charged if you use that to connect when you send the email.

  29. carmen webster buxton
    Oct 08, 2012 @ 08:50:54

    @Sri:

    Phooey!

  30. Dabney
    Oct 08, 2012 @ 10:22:14

    @carmen webster buxton: I did try and sideload and it didn’t work. I just had so many books to download.

    I am struggling with this in general and think I need a new way of keeping track of my books. I have well over 1000 I’d like to keep categorized and easily found for referrals. The Paperwhite storage issue and the fact that Calibre doesn’t work with Kindle collections is requiring me to find some new solution.

  31. Sandra
    Oct 10, 2012 @ 10:20:23

    How is the page turn speed for Paperwhite? A friend has the Kindle Touch and don’t don’t think the pages turn as fast as the older Kindle keyboard.

  32. jane_l
    Oct 10, 2012 @ 10:33:05

    @Sandra: I think it is pretty fast but I didn’t have the Kindle Touch.

  33. Maja
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 14:38:00

    Hi to you all,

    Thanks for the really helpful information! One question – does the Kindle Paperwhite have screen rotation? I read most of my books in landscape format (which seems about as wide as a ‘paper’ book) and would really miss that. Other than that, I’m hooked already!

    Thanks!

  34. jane_l
    Oct 16, 2012 @ 14:38:53

    @Maja: Yes, it does. It rotates into landscape.

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    Nov 04, 2012 @ 09:23:08

    [...] Review of the Kindle Paperwhite [...]

  36. Andrew
    Nov 24, 2012 @ 14:55:47

    My wife just got the paper white but when she turns the page when reading the toolbar appears after about 3-5 seconds everytime. Why is this? Is there a way to turn this off. She is able to make it disappear by taping the page twice but what are we doing wrong this cant be the way this device is meant to function. This very frustrating for here when reading.

  37. Jane
    Nov 24, 2012 @ 15:23:11

    @Andrew: That sounds like a glitch. I would restart the Kindle Paperwhite (holding down the power button for 20 seconds. After 6 to 8 seconds, the screen will go blank. Continue holding down the power button until the device turns back on).

    If this continues, I would call Amazon and tell them your problem. You probably need a new device if turning it on and off doesn’t help.

  38. Stephen McGrath
    Jan 25, 2013 @ 20:58:56

    @Willa: The reading time is actually one of the best features of the Kindle. Most people read when they have spare time, and that spare time eventually has to come to an end. We have to go back to work after lunch. We have to get to sleep eventually. We have important activities that are quickly building in priority as the clock ticks. This feature is perfect for choosing whether to read the next chapter, or pack it in for the time being. Personally, it was right up there with the light as a reason for me to upgrade to Paperwhite from Touch.

    The Paperwhite learns your reading speed as you turn pages, and constantly refines it as you progress. It is quite accurate.

    I’ll also add that I now read a lot more with the Paperwhite than I ever did with the Touch. I love it and would recommend it to every reader.

  39. Stephen McGrath
    Jan 25, 2013 @ 21:06:09

    @Aurora: The paperwhite should not really be considered a proper library, so much as a mobile library. You know those trucks that travel around small towns with a good selection of books for the locals without access to libraries?
    You seem similar to me, in that you like to collect as many books as you can. If you are not already doing so, you should catalog them in Calibre, and synch all those you will actually read to your Kindle. The Kindle will hold about 2500 books, and of course you are unlikely to read that many in the time that your Kindle will remain operational, or be replaced by a new gadget. If, during the day I get the urge to read something that I haven’t yet synched to the Kindle, I connect to Calibre that night and add it immediately.
    Calibre is the solution for those who want to manage large ebook libraries.

  40. Stephen McGrath
    Jan 25, 2013 @ 21:08:56

    @Dabney: Curious about your issues with Calibre. We have two Paperwhites, one Touch and one Keyboard, and they all work perfectly with Calibre.
    Are you sure you set the profile up correctly for the Paperwhite? Are you using Collections and expecting them to be supported by Calibre (they’re not).
    Can you elaborate, please? I may be able to help you, as I’ve not come across a single book that hasn’t synched seamlessly.

  41. Jan Mowery
    Apr 20, 2013 @ 11:27:02

    I am so disappointed! If I had known the Paperwhite did not allow audio books I would not have purchased it. My eye sight is not the best especially after a hard day at work on the computer or after reading for a long period. I love the audio books because I can rest my eyes and listen to the book. I’m really glad I didn’t get rid of my old Kindle. Why would they take the option off the new Paperwhite ? I thought the idea was to add features or enhancements, not take away an important feature! Can they make an adapter that will fit into the usb outlet for audio?

  42. NomDeGuerre
    Jul 18, 2013 @ 11:56:44

    Your literary taste is…well, let’s just say “less than distinguished.”

  43. Jane
    Jul 18, 2013 @ 12:05:12

    @NomDeGuerre: I’m in good company then!

  44. Amanda
    Jul 18, 2013 @ 12:10:26

    I like the sound of this, while my old kindle reader is still going fine it is nice to know I can get a new one if anything ever happens at a reasonable price and it sound like a pretty good reader. My only beef would be the lack of external buttons. I know everything is touch now but I still like a button to turn pages.

  45. Briar
    Jul 18, 2013 @ 19:17:37

    @Jane: The best company.

  46. Alfred Wayne Hester II
    Nov 21, 2013 @ 14:55:02

    Just wondering as a musician….are you able to load lyrics that were created in MS word or Word perfect…..as I am looking for a way to put all the lyrics that I have into something like this to take to gigs instead of big paper notebook….thanks for the help…..

  47. Stephen McGrath
    Nov 21, 2013 @ 23:26:28

    @Alfred Wayne Hester II: Yes, you can do that, but you’d be significantly better off with an iPad or other tablet, in my opinion. Better for file management, screen re-sizing on-the-fly and viewing in different lighting situations.

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