Reading books is back in style, mostly because sweet, little devices like the Nexus 7 and Nook have made it incredibly easy to take books “on the go” — without weighing down your purse or backpack. The big question, though, is when you can buy a mini tablet that does so many things, does anybody really need a dedicated device for books? The Kindle Paperwhite had better be pretty special.
The Kindle has been around since 2007. With the Kindle, Amazon set the bar for the eReader, in much the same way Apple blazed the trail in tablet computing. The Paperwhite, which features a touchscreen instead of a keyboard, started shipping in October, 2012, and although it’s not a perfect product, it shines on many levels, according to The Viewpoints Blogger Reviews Panel.
Our unique test
All members of the Viewpoints panel are successful female bloggers who know a thing or two about techology and helping their readers make important decisions, like how to buy a gift that’s sure to please. Viewpoints bought the Kindle Paperwhites ($119 each) for our test, shipped them out to the bloggers’ homes across the U.S. and Canada and asked each to use the devices and give their honest opinion. Each of the bloggers chose a deserving someone or organization in their communities who will get to keep the Kindles after this reviews project. So this is as close to an unvarnished, unbiased professional review as you’ll find.
It’s been three weeks since the Paperwhites arrived, and in that time, Hurricane Sandy blew into the lives of two of our female bloggers, providing a test under extreme conditions. Kathy Zucker is founder of Metro Moms Network, a website connecting families in Hoboken, New Jersey:
“I didn’t expect to conduct the majority of my testing under disaster conditions while surrounded by floodwaters, but I certainly got to know the Paperwhite very well since it was literally my sole form of entertainment for a week. No cellphone or internet = lots of reading.” –KathyZucker, Reviewer since 2012
Having constant watch on the battery usually comes with the territory with the tech gadgets in our lives. Not so with the Kindle Paperwhite, says Kathy:
“1 week without power during Hurricane Sandy + extensive reading = 50% battery life. It outlasted all my other devices, even the ones with backup batteries.” –KathyZucker, Reviewer since 2012
In fact, our blogger panel members are not only impressed, they are amazed at how the Paperwhite keeps going, and going, and going….Amazon advertises an 8-week battery life. And nothing the bloggers have found would contradict. In fact, the Paperwhite’s battery life is perhaps the strongest area of agreement among these creative writers.
Since the Kindle is joined at the hip with Amazon, you get the benefits and ease of downloading books seamlessly. Amazon touts a “massive book selection” at the lowest prices, with more than a million titles less than $10. Sheila Hill calls her blog Pieces of a Mom ”because motherhood is a little bit of everything.” From her home along the Jersey shore, she too weathered Sandy during our test. Like Kathy, she endorses it wholeheartedly, giving the Kindle Paperwhite a ’5′ in book choices and a ’5′ overall:
“Let’s be honest. Nothing compares to the vast Amazon library. The choices of available downloads were plentiful. All bestsellers and popular fiction can be found on the Paperwhite. I was surprised at the number of children’s books that were available.” –SheilaColemanHill, Reviewer since 2012
Amazon Prime members can choose from more than 180,000 books to borrow for free, with no due dates, but a couple of our bloggers noted that as a Prime member the current titles are so limited, it is really nothing to get excited about.
The Paperwhite has “25% better contrast for sharp, dark text,” says Amazon, with “62% more pixels for unsurpassed resolution.” Okay, that sounds impressive, but does the Paperwhite screen really make for a more pleasant reading experience since we aren’t exactly playing video games?This device is designed for books, after all.
At One Good Thing by Jillee, Jill Nystul sorts through the “beautiful clutter of life” to share a positive post every day. She says, thanks to the Kindle Paperwhite, she’s fallen in love with reading books all over again:
“The Kindle creators did a fantastic job designing this thing. It really feels like I’m reading a book! I hold it in my hand like a book, I swipe my finger across the screen like I would turn a page of a book. The screen is just as easy to read in indoor and outdoor light. Plus it has definite perks no ordinary book can give you….reading in bed without needing a light on! I love this feature.” –JNystul, Reviewer since 2012
Most of the bloggers feel the same way, however Lian Dolan, who documents “Modern Motherhood and all its madness” at The Chaos Chronicles, is more critical of the overall reading experience.
“Yes, the contrast is good, the screen lights up for reading on planes or in bed and you can read on the beach as promised in the ads. But the small screen size means you are turning the pages a lot and that feels distracting. It made me a touch self-conscious of how fast I was reading and where I was in the chapter ( there is a running time clock on the bottom of the screen estimating your “time left in chapter.” That was odd. ) But if you love to read on the run, in the carpool line while waiting, on the sidelines during kids’ practice, this is a good little device.” –liandolan, Reviewer since 2012
Design and ease of use
Besides the elegant backlight, another very cool feature of the Kindle Paperwhite is “Whispersync.” Sarah Mock is all about saving money and time. She shares her findings at How I Pinch a Penny and raves about both the Paperwhite and Whispersync:
“This feature synchronizes your last page location, bookmarks, and annotations across all your devices so you can pick up exactly where you left off reading. This was great because I could be reading a book on my kindle app on my iPad and then when I plugged in the iPad to charge at night I grabbed the Kindle Paperwhite and took it to bed with me. I was able to open to the page I had just left off on the other device!”
Everything on the Paperwhite is controlled by touchscreen, which Marci Rich simply adores. Marci blogs about the joys and adventures of being The Midlife Second Wife and was able to compare the Kindle Paperwhite with the Kindle Keyboard 3G, Model Number D00901, which she got as a Christmas present in 2010:
“Reading with the Paperwhite is, I imagine, like driving James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5, had it been manufactured five minutes ago: smooth, sleek, and with all the latest gadgetry. Reading with my old Kindle is like driving the first car I ever owned: my grandfather’s 1964 Chevrolet Biscayne. No power steering, no power brakes, no power anything really except for a gigantic motor. The differences are that substantial.”–MarciRich, Reviewer since 2012
“The Viewpoints” reviews of the Paperwhite touchscreen shows the widest divide. In their blog,momfaze, Mara Shapiro and Randi Chapnik Myers dish about the joys and challenges of parenting teens and tweens. Mara calls the Paperwhite touchscreen “amazing:”
“I absolutely love the Kindle PaperWhite for a number of reasons. It’s easy to use, the touch screen is very intuitive, the screen is incredible to read on and easy to customize to a person’s needs, and there are tons of cool features for a person who wants to take their reading experience further.”–momfaze, Reviewer since 2012
Amy Bradley-Hole, who writes about her everyday reach for perfection at Freaky Perfect, had a different experience. Amy found the touchscreen too hard to control, as did Marci, and also found the screen layouts (home page, store, etc.) a little cluttered and difficult to navigate:
“I’m not a fan of the touchscreen. I don’t want to have to swipe to turn a page. Older Kindles had buttons on each side that you could easily press to turn the page. I miss that. If you’re like me, and you’ve used older Kindles for many years, just know that there will be a bit of a learning curve, since you’re so used to pushing those buttons without even thinking.” –amybhole, Reviewer since 2012
The bottom line
While each blogger had quibbles about it, especially the fact that it’s shipped without an AC adaptor (available for $10), their overall experience was positive:
Kathy Zucker: “I seriously love the backlighting.”
Lian Dolan: “Good little device for readers on the run.”
Jill Nystul: “I’m actually reading BOOKS again!”
Sarah Mock: “Kindle Paper White is worth your pennies!”
Shiela Hill: “…the perfect e-reader.”
Marci Rich: “Very intuitive. Made me feel like a smarty.”
Amy Bradley-Hole: “…brilliantly clear and crisp.”
Mara Shapiro: “…just the right size.”
Watch The Viewpoints Blogger Reviews Panel as they discuss the Kindle Paperwhite in a Google Hangout on November 13, 2012.
Editor’s note: If you have professional experience with tablets or ereaders, Viewpoints is recruiting experts in priority product categories to write for our blog. Check out this overview of the Viewpoints Category Expert Program, including qualifications, compensation and how to apply.