It took five years and five models, but Amazon has finally released a new generation of the Kindle — the Kindle Paperwhite — that delivers the goods. The problem with the previous models boiled down to this. The screens were fairly muddy. The contrast, poor. The words didn’t pop off of the page. If you ever tried reading a Kindle indoors, especially in lower light conditions, you know what I mean.
With the Kindle Paperwhite, Amazon has made a pretty big leap ahead. They’ve made improvements to the font contrast and screen resolution, which definitely enhance the reading experience. They’ve also added a touchscreen to the e-ink model. But the big stride forward is the built-in light that illuminates the screen. The screen is sidelit, not backlit (à la the iPad). The point of the light isn’t to make the screen glow like a computer screen. It’s to make the screen stay white, like the page of a book, under varying light conditions. If you move from brighter to dimmer lighting conditions, you nudge up the brightness so that the page continues to look white. And then you stop there.
It all works quite well, until you start reading with the Paperwhite in pretty dim light conditions. Then you’ll need to dial up the light until the screen actually glows, and that’s when you’ll start to see some imperfections in the design. As David Pogue mentioned in his New York Times review, the Paperwhite has some hotspots (areas of uneven lighting) along the bottom of the screen, which detract minorly from the reading experience.
The last thing Amazon got right is the price. The entry model starts at $119, which means that Amazon is basically selling the e-reader at cost, and then making money on book sales. But that doesn’t mean that you need to spend very much. You can always download texts from our collection of 375 Free eBooks. Or, if you’re an Amazon Prime Member, you can borrow up to 180,000 books for free.
For a complete tour of the new Kindle, watch this 20 minute video.