In Love With the Kindle Paperwhite

by October 3, 2013 0 comments

Prasanto K Roy, Advisor CyberMedia

I found my old Kindle in a cupboard last month. The battery had drained two years ago. But the display still showed the “battery drained” message, loud and clear.

In the smartphone-tablet explosion, India totally missed the e-book reader. Yet for serious readers, there’s nothing to beat a good e-book reader.

And the new Kindle Paperwhite is good. It’s helped me rediscover the e-book reader, years after my clunky old Kindle. Through these years, I did much reading on my iPad’s Kindle app, and I bought paper books too.

It helped me spend a rainy week on a hilltop. It poured throughout. I browsed dozens of books, and bought and read two.

There are two reactions I get from most people. First: “Why an e-book reader? I have an iPad.” And the second reaction is when they see and hold the Kindle Paperwhite: “Wow.”

So why an e-book reader?

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How about the ability to think of any book, anywhere, browse a sample (usually the first chapter) instantly, and buy in a minute? (The new Amazon India store has nice prices on Kindle e-books.)

Okay, you can do that on the iPad’s Kindle app. But an iPad isn’t made for extended reading. The glossy, backlit display doesn’t work in sunlight. Even daylight washes out the display. And it’s too bright for a dark room where others are trying to sleep.

And despite the iPad’s eight-hour battery life, I do watch the battery meter if I’m reading a book on a three-hour flight. And it’s heavy. The iPad Mini is better as a book-reader, but still has the other issues.

An e-book reader uses an e-ink display. That’s black-and-white, and way slower than an LCD. But it’s perfect for reading. It looks like a book, with black print on paper that isn’t too glossy.

And it has two big advantages over an LCD.

One, the e-ink display doesn’t consume power when it’s showing a page, but only when it’s changing a page. So when you’re reading, power draw is near-zero.

Two, it’s not backlit. Backlit displays shine light through the display, which strains eyes after prolonged reading. And they get washed out by bright light falling on the display, making LCDs unreadable in bright daylight. E-ink displays use reflected light. No problem with bright sunlight.

How does the Paperwhite light up its display? Rather cleverly, with front lighting. A group of bright white LEDs on the lower end of the display shine into a “light guide”. This special layer of glass guides the light evenly across the display, reflecting it down onto the e-ink display layer.

And even with the light on, my Kindle runs four weeks on a charge with wireless off, so those LEDs are efficient. I tend to turn the light off in daylight, but keeping it always on gives you a consistent reading experience in all light conditions.

The Paperwhite 3G I’m using is Rs 13,999, which is expensive. The wi-fi only version, at Rs 10,999. I hope Amazon gets that down to Rs 9,999 soon. The basic 5,999 Kindle is nice value, but I’d spend the extra 5k and go for the Paperwhite.

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