Kindle Paperwhite: A Smart Bitches' Review

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Last night my Kindle Paperwhite (which I've been calling the Kindle Paperweight without meaning to, and the name has stuck) arrived. I had this scheduled on my calendar as soon as I received the shipping notification. I wanted time completely alone to set up the Kindle - and to my surprise my sons were about as excited about the new Kindle as I was. They wanted me to open the box in front of them, which was bonehead easy, thanks to Amazon's truly (and I mean this) excellent packaging initiative. 

reading a kindle
Reading with Kindle by goXunuReviews via Flickr

Not only is the entire box easy to open (rip tab, lift lid, ahoy Kindle!) but the whole damn package is recyclable. I can't even tell you how much I love that. 

The packaging is part of the presentation (something Apple figured out a long time ago) and my kids thought it was a big deal that I got to rip the paper off my Kindle box and open it with them. TA DA! 

No really: TA DA! 

The Kindle's Box: all recyclable paper, easy to open.

It kind of looks like a square toilet in this picture, but it was very impressive to a pair of 6 and 5 year olds. And can I say again how much I love that the packaging is recycleable? (Total tangent: I recently subscribed to this wine delivery service called ClubW and not only do I love all the wines but the packaging the wines arrive in is also recycleable. Every part of it - no bubble wrap, no puffy pillows of plastic air. It's like the silliest bonus feature to me; I love it when everything an item comes in is recycleable. And if you're interested in ClubW, email me and I'll send you a code good for a free bottle if you sign up.)

The Kindle Paperwhite itself is lovely. I've been using the Kindle keyboard for years now, and had resisted the touchscreen for a number of reasons, mainly that I live a very schmutzy life, and my screens get kind of grotty. This screen I love. It has a matte texture and isn't glossy reflective like, say, an iPad or the Fire. It fits nicely in my tiny hands, it doesn't make my wrist hurt, and it's lightweight. 

The paperwhite booting up.

Here's the Paperwhite still in its cellophane wrapper, booting up, serving as a paperweight on top of a pile of backpack mail. (OH MY GOSH THE BACKPACK MAIL. There is so much. I do need a paperweight for all of it. But I won't be using the Kindle.)

After the initial bootup, the Kindle went through an introductory sequence that I expected to find very tedious, but was very useful. I haven't used a touchscreen Kindle at all (except for the first generation Fire) and this intro explained very simply where stuff was that I'd want. 

The Kindle Getting Started Sequence, pointing out all the parts of the touchscreen. Y'all I'm sorry Kindle isn't blind accessible. That blows goats.

(Note: the shiny parts on the edges are caused by the cellophane, which I hadn't taken off yet). 

The font being used for the intro made me feel like Charlie Brown and Snoopy were giving me the introductory tour. It's sort of like Comic Sans/Charles Schultz's font lovechild. 

Text settings, adjusting size and font for the display.

Note that I can't choose that font to read my books in, darn it. I can choose from a few fonts, and type sizes, though. As I've said before, I like to read with my glasses off, so I crank it up to "Great Grandma's Text Size."

The Book x-ray: common terms, how many chapters, and other internal data about the book.

One feature that's rather neat is the book "x-ray," which is only available with all x-ray features for books purchased at Amazon. It shows commonly used terms, and gives internal information about the book. I didn't need to know about Gamgee, though. 

For personal documents, the full x-ray features are not available. This is the book I'm reading right now (Sarah Rees Brennan's Unspoken) and you can see at the bottom the time it thinks it'll take me to read the rest (likely not that long) and how far I've read. The X-ray features are greyed out and not available in the top menu:

I can also enable the Kindle to Tweet and post to Facebook notes and highlights. I haven't set that up - and I don't think I will.

After the kids were in bed and all was silent, I and my laptop and my old Kindle went to the couch to get to work. I had dedicated 2 hours on my schedule to set up the new Kindle just the way I wanted it, and in the end I needed 40 minutes.

Part of the ease of setup is my own organizational system, and the fact that I use Send to Kindle  to manage any new reading material I receive. Because most of my books are either purchased at Amazon (a few) or sent to the Kindle through the "Send to Kindle" app (I'd say 90%), there was an archive of my personal documents, from BPEs (Books Purchased Elsewhere) and ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) to BPAs (Books Purchased at Amazon) and BNMs (Bare Nekkid Manuscripts). 

This is not truly important but if you're looking at pictures of my reader I figure I should explain: I organize my books by the month in which I allow myself to read them. I don't want to read too far in advance because if I get all excited and talk about a book in May and folks can't buy it until August, I feel like a total douche. So I organize by month - you'll see my collections are dated, and everything inside is what I've determined I'm going to read during that month. I had a list of the books filed in collections on my old Kindle, and using the Amazon Kindle management page, I resent my files to the new device. It took me probably 10 minutes to resend the files. Then I created collections and filed them by month. Done.

This is the main screen of the Kindle and the one part that caused me some confusion - though it was momentary. At the top are my collections and underneath are the featured books Amazon would like to tell me about (whatever). At the bottom is the "special offer." I bought the "special offers" Kindle because it was cheaper, because the ads don't really bother me, and every now and again there's a deal for $3-$5 credit for MP3s or something, which is lovely useful. 

Main screen of Kindle - my collections, and promoted items at the bottom.

But I wasn't sure how to get into my collections or get to the others that are behind the ones on the screen. It's pretty simple, though I must have missed this part of the introduction because I was stabbing at the Kindle Paperwhite with my finger trying to figure it out.

To enter a collection, I tap it.

To see the other collections, I swipe across the ones that are showing on the screen.

To change the name of a collection, I long-press on the collection for a beat or two, and a submenu pops up. And to add a book to a collection, I long-press on the book itself for its submenu, which contains the option to "Add to collection." Once I figured that out, I didn't need to know anything else. 

The rest of that time I used to change the name of my Paperwhite (this one was "Llyfr Sarah 2" but is now Llyfrau Sarah, Welsh for "books of Sarah") (I think), change the email address for the Paperwhite, and explore any other parts of the device I hadn't seen yet, like the single page for all the available special offers: 

The Kindle Special Offers Page

Hey, look - it's Susan Ee's "Angelfall." That's cool. 

There are some changes I wish I could make. For example: 

Main screen of Kindle - my collections, and promoted items at the bottom.

I'd like to customize the carousel at the bottom of the main screen so that instead of "New & Notable" or "Popular Mysteries & Thrillers," I could specify which genres I wanted to see (e.g. "Romance and More Romance" "Still More Romance, Please" "All the Romance, Bring It Now").  

I'd also wish the Kindles were blind accessible. The Kindle itself is not accessible, even if the books have "Text to speech" enabled (most do not). If you close your eyes and try to use a Kindle, the paperwhite or any other model, you can't figure out what you're doing. It doesn't respond audibly or offer cues to the menus. This is a big missed opportunity, in my opinion. But then, this Kindle doesn't have a headphone jack, either, so it's not meant to say anything to anyone. It's mute, the Paperwhite. 

In the end, the time I had blocked off for setting up, I used to pick up the Kindle and read. This is where the device really excels. With the adjustable screen brightness and the touchscreen areas for turning pages forward and back identified in the introduction so clearly, it was very, very easy to pick it up and start reading. One thing that Kindle does well every time is making the process from purchase to reading as simple and easy as possible. There are very few obstacles in the way of the user, and now that the screen has higher contrast between text and background and very crisp edges to the letters, it is a simple thing to pick it up and start reading. 

According to Me & My Kindle, the Paperwhites are showing as sold out, with a 4-6 week delay in shipping orders that are placed today. If you're thinking of buying one to upgrade or to try digital reading, I echo the other reviews online from various tech sources: the Paperwhite is a marvelous device. It's easy to use, it's easy to read on, and it's simple to set up. I give it a B+, due to the lack of accessibility and the lack of more detailed customization of the main screen. That said, I am very, very happy I upgraded. 


If you've got questions about the Paperwhite, you can find me on Twitter @smartbitches or at my website, Smart Bitches Trashy Books.com.

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