I really want to like the Kindle Paperwhite. It’s a beautiful piece of technology. I’m going to give it some more time before I decide, but my first impressions are almost overwhelmingly negative compared to the previous model I have (the $79 “plain” Kindle), even about the changes that have some benefits.
- When reading longform (books), I find that I quickly get incredibly disoriented about where I am in the book. Every visual cue here helps, and modern e-readers offer very very few of them. If I don’t have enough that are persistently on the screen, my brain gets preoccupied with trying to figure it out, and it’s very distracting. Indicator cues that I have to tap some area of the screen to make appear are not an adequate substitute - in order for them to work for me, they have to be on the screen at all times. The old Kindle had a visual progress bar and a percentage meter. The new one drops the progress bar in favor of some options of “time left to read the book” (useless), “time left to read the chapter” (useless and largely inaccurate), or “location number” (useless and obscure). There is still a percentage meter, but that alone isn’t enough. Similarly, there’s no way to persistently display the (pleasantly small) clock on the screen, but that’s not a new problem. Incidentally, iPad reading apps pretty much all universally get this wrong. Recent versions of iBooks are slightly better. Recent versions of the Kindle app are worse. I get that some people want the chrome to fall away so they can “concentrate on the text”. I feel lost when that happens, and I’m not alone. Forcing me into that mode makes me not want to use your app at all. This is my #1 dealbreaker.
- I miss the physical buttons. The touchscreen is reasonably okay, but it’s still too easy to accidentally turn pages. The textured screen is nice.
- The front-lit screen is, in fact, lovely to look at. But in being so, it’s almost-but-not-quite too good, and it draws into sharp contrast every irregularity on the surface of the screen. This is the Uncanny Valley of display technology - it’s not perfect, and in being so every flaw stands out. It’s possible that I have a defective screen (a replacement is on the way), but while most of the screen is evenly lit, there are subtle dark/light blotches near the bottom. They immediately stand out. In a completely dark room, the front-lit display is actually harder to read than the previous Kindle with a light. Yes, the illumination is diffused and evenly distributed over the screen, but that results in the page being a glowing rectangle in the dark with no context. Removing the light spillover on the outside case increases the contrast with the surroundings (since the screen isn’t large enough to fill the entire field of vision), so rather than disappearing, all you notice is the edges of the screen. I find this very distracting. In medium or bright light, the front-light actually really helps increase the contrast, but then the large reflective “kindle” label on the front draws your eye. Someone didn’t think this through properly. I find the black border to be more distracting than the old grey one, but that may just be that I’m not used to the difference yet. In many ways, the screen is better than before, but I haven’t found it to disappear the way the old one did. In terms of eyestrain, I think it’s about equivalent to using the old one with a light, except you don’t need an external light. I definitely want to keep the light on all the time, as it makes the screen much higher contrast and easier to read. I haven’t given it an extended test yet.
- I really like that they added the ability to have a lock on the store purchases without locking the device, but mysteriously even if you have no lock code set, you still have to “swipe to unlock” AFTER pressing the power button. If you have a lock set, you have to press the power button, enter the code, and THEN swipe. This is annoyingly tedious without any apparent explanation. I also don’t really understand why the store lock is under parental controls, but that’s a minor quibble of terminology.
- The light, while pleasant in the daytime, is entirely too blue for nighttime reading. I think it’s messing with my sleep in ways the old one doesn’t. Someone at Amazon needs to read (or reread): http://stereopsis.com/flux/research.html
- The black matte frame is a fingerprint magnet.
I think that’s about it. I want to like it, but I think I don’t. The more I use it, the more I want to switch back to the old one. That’s not a great sign. Maybe it’s just me.
(Update: After using it for a few weeks, all of these initial impressions held, and I returned it in favor of keeping my old Kindle.)