Lauren Goode

New Kindle Paperwhite Is a Snappier, More Capable E-Reader

There’s a new Kindle in town: The Kindle Paperwhite. This latest product in Amazon’s line of basic monochrome e-readers has some welcome improvements over last year’s Paperwhite, including a faster processor and a nicer screen.

But since it’s not a blow-your-mind upgrade, Kindle lovers might be wondering whether it’s worth an upgrade. And e-reader newbies may wonder what the difference is between this one — which starts at $119 — and the $69 entry-level Kindle.

I’ve been using the new Kindle Paperwhite for the past week, reading mostly media theory and economics books, which means I use it for less than an hour a night before I fall asleep. My conclusion is that it’s probably not a must-have for people who are perfectly happy with their 2012 Paperwhite, but it is very tempting. Overall, the new Paperwhite is an excellent product.

It’s a little bit snappier than the 2012 version. The front-lit E-ink screen doesn’t have the “shadows” that plagued some of last year’s Paperwhites, including the one I have. And I like the new features that help you recover your place more quickly, as well as Vocabulary Builder, which creates flash cards of the word you look up using the Web-based dictionary.

In deciding whether to purchase this e-reader for yourself it might help to first understand the Amazon Kindle product line.

There are currently two different Kindle e-readers being sold: The “regular” Kindle and this Kindle Paperwhite, which replaces last year’s model.

Then there are variations within those two products: Wi-Fi-only models, those with both Wi-Fi and 3G, those with ads, and those without. Both have monochrome E-ink screens but the Paperwhite has a glow-y screen so you don’t have to shine a light on it to read in the dark.

Kindle Paperwhite

Also, the regular Kindle has buttons, not a touchscreen; and it’s significantly cheaper, starting at $69. (These shouldn’t be confused with Amazon’s separate Kindle Fire line, which consists of full-color tablets running apps.)

The new Kindle Paperwhite costs $119 for a Wi-Fi-only version with “special offers,” which basically means that Amazon runs ads for books across the lock screen. Then the price jumps up to $189 for a Wi-Fi and 3G Paperwhite with special offers. Strip the special offers away for an ad-free e-reader and both of those models go up in price by $20.

The new Paperwhite measures the same as the previous one — 6.7 by 4.6 by .36 inches — and has a six-inch touchscreen display. It weighs 7.3 ounces, meaning that it’s less than an ounce lighter than the 2012 Paperwhite, and when I held one in each hand, I really couldn’t tell the difference. It has a smooth, rubberized coating, and feels durable.

On the left is the 2012 version of the Paperwhite. On the right, the new model.

On the left is the 2012 version of the Paperwhite. On the right, the new model.

It comes with two gigabytes of internal storage, storing around 1,000 books. At the bottom of the Paperwhite there is a power button, a status light and a micro-USB port for charging. There are no other buttons on the device.

When you fire up the Kindle, you see a row of options at the top of the screen, including home, back, lighting adjustment, settings and a shopping cart that takes you to the Amazon store.

This is, of course, so you can buy e-books on Amazon.com. (The Kindle app on iPad, which I also use regularly, doesn’t have a purchasing option.) Amazon has around two million e-books available for download on Kindle, including 400,000 that are exclusive to the Kindle store. Users can also borrow a fraction of those e-books, provided that you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber.

Paperwhite4

In my experience, three out of roughly a dozen books I’ve searched for in the past week weren’t available on Amazon.com as a Kindle download.

Once I started reading I could see the difference between last year’s version of the Paperwhite and this new one. My old Paperwhite has a strange “shadow” at the bottom of the display and in general can have a sort of uneven look. The new one looks brighter, the contrast of black and white is greater, and the best part — there are no shadows on the screen.

The new Paperwhite also has a faster processor. I noticed its speediness more when toggling through the icons at the top of the screen — tapping the home button, searching, going into settings — because everything just felt more responsive. I didn’t notice it quite as much with page turns. If it is faster, it might be fractions of a second faster. Books also downloaded very quickly.

Paperwhite

There are a handful of new or improved features that Amazon is boasting about with this Paperwhite, but I’ll focus on three key ones: Page Flip, In-Line Footnotes and Vocabulary Builder.

Page Flip lets you skip around without losing your place. In-Line Footnotes lets you view a footnote from the page you’re on in a pop-up window, instead of being catapulted to another part of the book. In my experience, In-Line Footnotes worked with some books, but not all. Vocabulary Builder, which appears in a drop-down menu from the settings tab, shows you flash cards for all the words you’ve searched for while reaching.

The good news about the new Paperwhite’s battery is that it matches the battery of the old Paperwhite, even while running on a more powerful processor. The battery will probably outlast Jeff Bezos’s 10,000-year clock. Okay, not really, but Amazon said it can last up to two months with Wi-Fi turned off. After five nights of using the Kindle Paperwhite with Wi-Fi turned on, my battery had only dwindled to approximately 70 percent.

Paperwhite

The bad news is that Amazon still isn’t throwing a power adapter for wall outlets into the box, which means you could spend $15 extra on that.

A few more downsides: The Paperwhite doesn’t have a headphone jack, and it doesn’t support audio books through Audible. The “experimental browser” still feels like an experiment.

Also, and this is a small thing, but I really like that notes are auto-corrected when you’re using the Kindle app for iPad. Conversely, on the Kindle e-reading devices, text isn’t auto-corrected, which means I’m fat-fingering all sort of words that probably won’t make sense to me later on.

Downsides aside, the new Kindle Paperwhite is a welcome improvement in the Kindle line.


Latest Video

View all videos »

Search »

There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle