Kindle Paperwhite

I decided to upgrade my Kindle Keyboard to the new Kindle Paperwhite. I wouldn’t usually upgrade such a device so soon (2 years after buying it) but my girlfriend was thinking of buying the basic £69 Kindle, so I used that as an excuse to let her have my old one, so I could try out the new one with the light 🙂

My first impression is that the lighted screen is beautiful to read from, and will make it easy to read in pitch-darkness. That’s the real benefit here, whether in bed at night or outside in the sun the screen just looks great. You may read reviews complaining about some unevenness in the lighting along the bottom of the screen, yes I noticed that but it’s really not an issue at all, since that part of the screen only shows your progress information anyway, not text from the book.

Unfortunately the touch screen is a major step backwards in page turning, instead of 2 large buttons on each side of the device for backwards and forwards, there’s an invisible grid on the screen tap over to the far left to go back, tap in the middle to right to go forwards, and at the top to bring up the menu. It feels clumsy and makes this device stop short of being the perfect reading device. The touch screen does make the virtual keyboard easy to use, so buying books is much easier. However I spend about 0.0001% of my time on the Kindle inputting text so I’d be happy do to without that. I often find myself getting lost in a book because I mistakenly went forwards instead of back.

So I’m mixed about this one. Great screen, but missing physical buttons. I guess Amazon need to save something back to make people upgrade again next year? 😉

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Do people really feel their books?

The BBC have been running a story this afternoon about e-book sales vs printed book sales. I was surprised when a majority of the people they (unscientifically) surveyed said they preferred printed books. This was not because they can be purchased second hand for next to nothing, not because they make a great gift or because they can be passed along to a friend, but because of the way they 'feel' – really?

I have never finished a great book and been absorbed for days by the texture of the book in my hand – a satisfying plot, however has made me do just that – and digital advances can improve the reading experience by offering custom fonts, synchronsiation, character profiles, built in lights, and being easier to hold. I've probably converted about 4 people I know who said they loved the smell and feel of printed books to e-readers, because good story is what makes a good book, after all.

Six months on, my Kindle thoughts

It’s been around six months since I stopped reading paperback books and moved to the Kindle. My reasoning behind doing so was not so much environmental concerns (I’m sure an electronic reading device isn’t exactly green to produce and keep charged) but convenience and hopefully a better reading experience. Having all your books on you, being able to synchronise your place with other devices (phone, tablet) for those occasions when you forget your Kindle and find yourself wanting to continue your book, and being able to adjust the size of the text.

Wi-Fi only would have been enough

I opted for the more expensive 3G option thinking I might take advantage of the free 3G to browse the web or buy books when I am out and about. I have rarely needed or wanted to do this. When I’m at home I can use the Wi-Fi, the same goes at work. When I’m on holiday there’s usually no shortage of Wi-Fi available (in Lisbon even the tour bus had free Wi-Fi!). In those situations where there is no Wi-Fi, frankly I can wait a few hours to purchase the next book. Oh and the web browser isn’t particularly useful, not when you have a smartphone in your pocket at least.

A better reading experience

In all honesty I can say that the Kindle is a more enjoyable reading experience than a normal book. Yes it lacks that woody aroma, and you never get to see the cover artwork in it’s full colour glory – but as someone once said, you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover anyway. Being able to make the text bigger and control the line spacing really helps. Some books that were 900 pages long with a 8pt text size would have put me off in the past, but with a Kindle you don’t really pay much attention to how “fat” a book is, all you see is that percentage indicator gradually creeping up. The built in dictionary makes it so easy to lookup words that I actually learn a lot by looking up words I didn’t know instead of simply inferring what the meaning might be.

It’s still a gadget

Of course there’s no getting away from the fact that these things cost a lot of money, and the books themselves aren’t really that much cheaper than their paper counterparts (thanks somewhat to the UK VAT laws, which mean digital books are subject to VAT, but traditional paper books are not). Taking a expensive gadget everywhere isn’t always an option, and you’ll probably want to buy a case for it. Oh, and PLEASE don’t do what I did and put the Kindle in the same bag as a bottle of sunscreen (yes, the case was a good investment!).
However, that said, I think the benefits outweigh the negatives and my Kindle had survived trips to the beach. I’d definitely recommend a Kindle.