New Paperwhite Review (2013)

I have spent the weekend with the new Kindle Paperwhite and I am ready for the final review.

Visually, it is almost indistinguishable from the first Paperwhite.  It has the exact same dimensions (so keep your cases). The only external differences is a very slight difference in the font that says Kindle on the front and on the back it says ‘Amazon’ instead of ‘Kindle’.  That is it, buttons are the same, case is the same.  Weight is supposed to be slightly less, but honestly I can’t tell a difference.

Screen

the Light on a Paperwhite Screen KindThe light is the biggest feature of the Kindle Paperwhite and it is slightly better on the new version.  Dedicated eink Kindles are different from tablets (like the iPad or fire).  Tablets have color LCD screen that make light by shining it out at your face.  The Paperwhite has invisible threads of light running through the screen and shining it down at the text.  This means that there is much less light that comes out from the screen (although it is not zero) and that means much less wear on your eyes.  Personally, it makes a big difference.

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The new lighted screen has a much less blue tint and is more white when the light is brighter and less gray when the light is low. There was a complaint about the first Paperwhite that you could never white turn off the light, but either you can now turn off the light or it is so low I can’t detect that it is on.  (Left is new Paperwhite, right is the original Paperwhite.)

One of the complaints about the first Paperwhite was that the bottom of the screen had uneven light dispersal.  My first generation Paperwhite did not have that problem and so I do not detect that there is a difference.  But other reviewers have made a big deal about the fact that this is a much more even light.  (I can’t tell a difference.)

The new Paperwhite does have faster page turns, but you really do have to work to be able to see it.  There is still a flash between pages turn, but it is slightly less.

Software Updates

The software updates will likely eventually come to the current Paperwhite via software upgrade, so I do not know that it is a good reason to upgrade.  However they are welcome changes.  Footnotes now show as a pop-up on the screen instead of taking you to the footnote in the book.  I would love to have an option to show the notes as actual footnotes at the bottom of the page instead of forcing us to use them all as end notes.  But this is a very nice change.

Scan Page on kindle Paperwhite

There is also a page scan feature.  A pop-up appears on the pages and you can either jump chapters to find what you are looking for (either forward or back) or you can very quickly scan pages.  This shows a slightly smaller page, but the exact page, without actually moving your location in the book until you choose to move.  This is helpful for a couple reasons.  One, if you are trying to go back and re-read something, the smaller page is big enough to actually read the section without moving from your current location.  And if you want to scan forward, you can scan without changing your ‘Furthest Page Read’ which would mess up your audio or multiple device sync.

The GoTo feature has been updated.  In addition to showing a table of contents, it will also show you a table of your notes and highlights and, if you want, the notes and highlights of others (I leave public highlights and notes off on mine).

Another big deal for me, but may be less important for others is the way that your books are stored in the Cloud (or Archive as it was called in older kindles).  It is probably no surprise that I have a fairly large kindle library.  The changes to the original Paperwhite meant that finding a book in my archive was almost impossible.  Practically, it meant that I had to log into Amazon from a computer and push the book to my kindle.  Because I could not easily jump to the author or book name.  There was an update in the software that allowed you to do a basic search, but it was not all that good.

The new cloud search allows you to type in an author or name of book and the Paperwhite auto-completes and suggests (similar to the way google does when you type in a search term).  This makes searching a large library possible (as long as you know part of the title or author).  You can still sort your archive by Author, Book or most recent book.

There are some other fairly minor cosmetic changes as well.  Amazon is moving further and further from the Location concept and toward the traditional page number.  So on the bottom left you can choose, page number, location, reading time till end of chapter or reading time till end of book.  (The bottom right is always percentage.)

Also when you highlight across pages, there is an arrow at the top or bottom of the page pointing to the rest of the highlight as a reminder that the highlight is broken across pages.  When you look up a word or phrase, both the dictionary and Wikipedia automatically come up (with different tabs like in the GoTo).  This is especially helpful if you are trying to find out more about a person or place instead of the meaning of a word.

Continued Problems

There are a few issues that were not addressed (or at least I still view as problems.)  The biggest is that the keyboard still is hard to use.  With a physical keyboard you know when you touch a key, but the onscreen keyboard ends up with a lot of errors because of accidentally hitting the wrong key and it is just a bit too slow.  It just does not seem as accurate as it should be, and not as fast.

The case of the Paperwhite is still a fingerprint magnet.  If you click on the close up picture you will clearly see my fingerprint.  The case helps because the only visible part of the Paperwhite is the front, but it is still quite noticeable.

Amazon still has not figure out a good way to move from one kindle to another.  I have about 250 ‘to read’ books on my kindle.  They are organized into a handful of collections.  Amazon allows you to download the collection of another kindle to a new kindle. But that is only the folders, it does not actually move the books.  So you have to download all of the books you want and then download the collections (which will then organize your books into folders in the same way as the previous kindle.)  But for me that would mean I would have to find and download all of the 250 or so books from my library of more than 3500. There was an update and now you can move collections to a new device.  This makes collections permanent effectively eliminated the problem of moving devices.

Essentially that means when I get a new kindle, I have to start from scratch each time.  My location that I was reading is saved (which is a big deal), but still this is actually an incentive to not upgrade.  (But the changes to cloud storage search make it much easier than it has been previously.)

Also I think that Amazon needs to have an option at the end of the book to ‘clear furthest page read’.  As Amazon is encouraging audiosync and reading on multiple devices, the ‘Furthest Page Read’ becomes more important.  If you are the only reader on your account and do not re-read books then it is not a big deal.  But I share my kindle account with my family and I like to re-read books.  So I have to go to my computer, log into amazon, go to manage my kindle, wait forever while it loads my 4000+ audio and kindle books, search for the books I want to clear and clear the furthest page read.

Clearing the furthest page read allows the next person to keep their place when moving between devices or using the audio sync.  It would make sense to make that an option at the end of the book on the screen where Amazon wants you to rate the book, share that you have finished or buy related books.  (I submitted it to feature requests, but so far it hasn’t happened.)

Future Features

Amazon has also promised two future features. (Now available) One is integration with Goodreads.com. Goodreads is the best social network for readers.  I use it to track my books, find reviews and see what my friends are reading.  So when Amazon bought Goodreads earlier this year there was concern about Amazon turning it into a marketing tool. But also excitement that Amazon might integrate it into future devices and maybe use Goodreads technology to revolutionize Amazon library storage system.  The integration part has been announced as a ‘before the end of the year’ feature.  But the actual content of that feature has not been released. The integration is basic, you can add your kindle books to Goodreads and update your progress as well as access Goodreads from your kindle.  A nice feature that I rarely use.

Also Amazon has announced Amazon MatchBook.  (Now Available) This is a program that will give you a discounted (or sometimes free) copy of an ebook if you buy the physical book from Amazon.  That is not a feature particularly for the Paperwhite, but when it was announced most people assumed it would be released with the Paperwhite because Amazon said ‘in October’.

Conclusion

For most people, this is not an essential upgrade.  There is a noticeable improvement in the screen, speed of page turns and software.  But these were not big problems for the first generation Paperwhite.  If you have an older kindle and would like the lighted screen, then this is a good option, but if you find a good deal on a used or refurbished first generation Paperwhite, then I would probably encourage you to go with that.

Amazon has hit the minor improvements stage for their Paperwhite.  This is the Paperwhite S version.  No major upgrades, just relatively minor tweaks, that while nice are not essential.

Purchase Links: The New Paperwhite Kindle – $119 for Wifi Only, $189 for 3G and Wifi ($10 more than first Generation Paperwhite 3G)

The first generation refurbished Paperwhite is still available for $104

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