By Jason Snell
September 18, 2014 2:40 PM PT
Jason’s Umpteenth Kindle
(Photo courtesy Andy Ihnatko.)
I bought a new Kindle last night.
Someone on Twitter mentioned that Amazon had announced new Kindles, and within about five minutes I had ordered the Kindle Voyage, a $199 dedicated ebook reader that’s the spiritual successor to the Kindle Paperwhite (which remains in the ever-growing Kindle product line).
Yes, Amazon announced several new devices (and my pal Andy Ihnatko saw it all). The other devices were new Fires (formerly Kindle Fires, now not part of the family)—Android-based tablets including one for only $99, but I love my iPad and that’s that.
And yet… those E-Ink Kindles? I have a weakness. This is the fourth or fifth I’ve bought. I’ve lost track.
Why do I love Kindles so much? Why does someone with an iPhone, iPad, and MacBook need a Kindle? Am I a crazy person? (Spoilers: I am definitely a madman with a Kindle.)
In August my wife and I went to Mexico, without the kids, for our 20th wedding anniversary. As we walked through the pool and along the beach I was reminded that when I go to sunny places such as these, I see Kindles everywhere. Part of that is that they’re cheap(er) than iPads; I had no fear of leaving my Kindle on my beach chair when I took a dip in the ocean.
But mostly it’s about the glare. Backlit tablets just can’t compete with E-Ink-equipped Kindles when it comes to reading in the bright sun. One of these days, maybe Apple will figure out how to make a glareless iPad with a really bright backlight for outdoor reading, but until that day I’m Kindle all the way.
At night, the inverse applies. My Paperwhite, turned down all the way, is much darker than my iPad’s backlight at the lowest setting. Which means it’s much less likely to disturb my wife while she’s sleeping and I’m reading.
Whether dark or light or in between, I prefer reading on these devices. They never push notifications at me, I’m never tempted to switch over to Twitter or email, and the static black-and-white calm of words on a page evokes the best things about reading a paper book or newspaper.
The new Kindle Voyage, while not cheap at $199 (with ads!), has a bundle of new features I’m excited about. It being thinner, like every other gadget under the sun, is not one of them.
But the Kindle Voyage’s screen is 300 dpi, bringing it up to Retina-levels of quality. I talked to Andy Ihnatko today about how text looked on that screen, and he said it was “impossibly crisp” in a context very different from that of a backlit device.
My biggest complaint about the Paperwhite was that the company dropped physical buttons for page turning and instead forced you to swipe or tap your finger on the screen. When I’m reading, I don’t want to position my finger just off the edge of the screen and then move it in to tap. On my old Kindle, I could rest my hand on the page-turn button and just squeeze to advance to the next page.
Well, well, well… someone at Amazon must be looking out for me. The Kindle Voyage offers “PagePress sensors” with “haptic response”, which is a fancy way to say they’re pressure sensitive forward and back buttons on either side of the screen. Push them (they don’t physically depress) and up comes the next page. Fantastic. And if you prefer to swipe or tap on the screen, well, knock yourself out. That works too.
What made the Paperwhite great was the fact that it lit itself, after many generations of Kindles that required a clip-on book light if you wanted to read at night. The Voyage adds a light sensor, so it can optionally auto-adjust the brightness based on your surroundings, and even adapts over time as your eyes adjust in dark rooms.
There are other marketing words up on Amazon’s site like “magnesium back” and “micro-etching”, but it’s all blah blah blah blah TAKE MY MONEY! Which Amazon did, last night.
I get the feeling Amazon knows exactly how many people are dedicated to this class of device, and has decided to make a no-compromises device for them, rather than consigning the dedicated ebook reader to the bargain bin. Even at $199, I didn’t hesitate to buy the Kindle Voyage. I just can’t believe I’m going to have to wait a month to get it.
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