Why I love my Kindle Keyboard

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Earlier this month, Amazon released a collection of new Kindles. One of the new Kindles is the Kindle Paperwhite, a front-lit e-ink multi-touch Kindle with one of the crispest displays Amazon has yet released.

After reading the tech buzz surrounding this new Kindle (which doesn’t come out until October, so hasn’t yet been reviewed), I wanted one bad. It has all the elements of an amazing e-Reader: functional touchscreen, responsive page-turns, crisp text, a front-lit display that is not as sharp on the eyes as an LCD screen, and the best contrast for any e-ink screen on the market. Also, the price is right: it’s only $119. Sure, it’s not the cheapest Kindle, but it’s still affordable.

I was ready to pre-order and sell or give away my current Kindle, the Kindle Keyboard (or Kindle 3 as it was called when it was released). I ordered this Kindle when it came out in Fall 2010. Before this, I had owned the Kindle 2, and while I liked this Kindle, its screen did not have the pixel density and sharpness of the Kindle 3. It was also heavy and wasn’t receiving the same software updates as the Kindle 3, so I sold it on eBay and used the money to buy the new Kindle.

Immediately, I was impressed with my new Kindle’s beautiful screen. It was so sharp that when I opened it for the first time, I thought the start screen was a protective sticker, and I tried to peel it off before realizing it was the e-ink screen. At first glance, I didn’t see pixelation around the text; it looked like a printed page. As I began using it, I would notice some pixelation, but overall, reading on this Kindle was as close to reading on paper as I’d ever come. It was lighter, too, and easier for me to forget I was reading on a device. The pages turned quickly, and I was happy with my choice to upgrade. The Kindle Keyboard outperformed my expectations and made up for the shortcomings and annoyances I had developed with the Kindle 2.

I haven’t upgraded to any of the current e-ink Kindles because they just aren’t as useful or beautiful as my Kindle Keyboard. Yes, 2011 brought the Kindle Touch, a multi-touch Kindle with a faster page-turn rate and a lighter/smaller form factor. But from my tests with this Kindle, it didn’t live up to the hype. I’ve grown to love typing on my Kindle Keyboard, and since I love to take notes while reading, a keyboard seems like an important feature. The multi-touch keyboard isn’t as responsive as a multi-touch keyboard on a smartphone or tablet. This was a deal-breaker for me. I decided to hold on to my old Kindle, even though it was already a generation behind.

I also found the Kindle Keyboard’s screen to provide a much better reading experience. Initial reviews of the Kindle Touch suggested that because an extra layer was added to the screen for touch functionality, the text lost some sharpness. Text looked greyer than on the Kindle Keyboard and the standard $79 Kindle, according to these reports (which, by the way, was ruled out by me because it did not provide an easy way to type notes). Although this has been fixed with software updates, I grew to like the way the Kindle Keyboard felt in my hands and didn’t see the need to upgrade. I appreciated its simplicity and ease of use, and the battery life was still sufficient enough for my needs.

So I kept the Kindle Keyboard, waiting for an upgrade that mattered to me. The core functionality I sought out was screen contrast and resolution (the higher the better), usable touch that doesn’t compromise on readability, and a decent, built-in light. Also, high battery life, light and thin form factor, and decent software to handle reading a variety of publications, not just books.

It seems the Kindle Paperwhite is that device. I want to upgrade, but I keep going back to how much I love my Kindle Keyboard. Amazon still supports the Kindle Keyboard; in fact, it just updated the software, bringing even better screen resolution and updates to the new Kindle book formats.

Now that I’m considering an upgrade, I have to decide: is losing a great keyboard on a device that I’ve learned to love — and that, by the way, still gets software updates — worth gaining some incremental perks, such as touch capability and a well-designed front-light? Some days, I think gaining these new functions makes the upgrade worth it, but then I sit down and read a particularly engaging section of a book on my Kindle Keyboard and fall in love with the device all over again. It seems trite, but it’s true: I love my Kindle Keyboard because it provides the best reading experience.

Ultimately, what’s most important is the act of reading itself. Maybe it doesn’t matter which device I use. If the book is good enough, I’ll fall into it in the same way.

True, but I haven’t had this experience reading on my smartphone or Kindle Fire (which I don’t plan to upgrade, even though the new Fires look pretty cool). LCD screens don’t allow me to “fall in” to books because I’m distracted by apps and notifications. Reading on my Kindle 2, an e-ink Kindle, always felt artificial, although it was an OK experience while reading outdoors. I’ve tried Nooks and Sony readers and have felt the same way: something I can’t name is missing.

For now, the Kindle Keyboard has the best attributes for a perfect reading experience, and I’m not sure I want to give up on that. I have yet to decide, but I think I’ll wait it out and stick with my Kindle Keyboard, even though that Kindle Paperwhite looks awfully tempting.

I’d be interested to know what readers think. Do you have a reading device you’ve grown to like and don’t want to give up? Are you considering the Paperwhite or another device? Should I reconsider the Nook Glowlight or some other device I’ve dismissed? I’m curious to know more.

About Kevin Eagan

Kevin Eagan (@criticalmargins) is a freelance editor, writer, and teacher who lives in Central Florida. He edits book manuscripts and articles for local and national publications. In addition to writing about book technology and teaching college students how to write, Kevin works as an associate editor for punctum books. Previously, he was the books editor for Blogcritics. You can also follow him on Google+ or check out his professional website, KevinThomasEagan.com.

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  • http://twitter.com/iserotope Mark Isero (@iserotope)

    Thank you for this post! I’m keeping my Kindle Keyboard for many of the same reasons that you cite. For people who like to take notes when they read, there’s nothing better because the keyboard is physical and always right there.

    I got a Kindle Touch last year but was not wowed. In fact, if all I’m doing is reading, I prefer the $69 Kindle. It’s light, it’s small, and it tells you, “Read. There’s nothing else to do here.”

    I’ll end up getting a Paperwhite, but I’m not sure it’ll replace my Kindle Keyboard. And I’m really hopeful that Amazon will continue supporting it.

    • http://criticalmargins.wordpress.com Kevin Eagan

      For deep reading or for class work, the Kindle keyboard is a far superior product. I hope it stays around for at least another year.

  • Justin L

    My kindle keyboard broke in June (my 3rd one, 2nd with screen lines!) and I went to a local store to buy a replacement. I decided to pick up the $79 wifi kindle and have had very few gripes with it. I just bought a refurbished kindle keyboard for $50 too.

    Here are a few things I’ve noticed. First, I have very mild carpal tunnel and some thumb pain as well, and I’ll have to do more testing with this since it’s been a few months using the kindle keyboard, but I think that the smaller size is easier for me to hold, and that the page turn button locations put less stress on my hands and wrists. Again, more testing is needed.

    I briefly replaced the kindle keyboard with a nook simple touch but hated it. I find moving my finger to the screen every time I want to turn the page to be very distracting, and while it does also have page turn buttons they are much harder to push than the kindle’s. The paperwhite also has no buttons and relies only on a touchscreen (from what I’ve seen anyway). I don’t understand why Amazon is pushing us towards touschreens when I would gladly use a paperwhite that had buttons.

    I also really love the TTS feature and miss that a lot in my kindle 4, and it’s sad to see that it has not been added to the kindle paperwhite or kindle 4. I’m as others on reddit have said it has to do with cost of those parts and once that decreases they will probably add speakers in.

    • http://criticalmargins.wordpress.com Kevin Eagan

      Moving fingers around on a page without access to physical buttons is one thing holding me back as well. I just like having buttons. Thanks for commenting!

    • Felidae

      Amazon remove TTS and audio support (and 2G internal storage along with them) , probably to promote the “Immersion Reading” feature on those new Kindle Fire HD products.

  • http://jordontate.wordpress.com J. Tate

    I pre-ordered the $119 version within an hour of release on Sep 6. After a week of contemplation of whether I made the right decision, I came down to yes… an upgrade will be good. I’ve had my KK since Sep 2010 (2 years exactly) and there is nothing wrong with it. In fact, I am quite attached to it since I use it daily and it goes with me almost everywhere. I didn’t jump on the 2011 kindle releases, but this year is different. Why am I upgrading? The light and minimalist design, no other questions asked. I will surely miss my KK after some lucky second-hand buyer picks it up. Sure, I’m trading in the audio, buttons, and 3G capability (opted out this time, it’s crippled now and I didn’t really use it). But what am I getting? A (predicted) better reading experience, and perhaps getting more reading in since the light allows you to read in dim and no light situations without the hassle of sub-par clip on lights. I expect I’ll be spending a lot more time at my favorite dimly lit coffee shop down the street and also more time reading in bed before getting to sleep. I’m also looking forward to the touch screen and minimal design (less distraction). All we want is to get lost in the story. I’m optimistic that the paperwhite will be great! http://cdn.geekwire.com/wp-content/uploads/kindlecompare.jpg

    • http://criticalmargins.wordpress.com Kevin Eagan

      The picture that you’ve linked here makes me really want to try out that new screen. I still like the keyboard, but I might consider the paperwhite after reading the reviews and seeing what others think.

  • Felidae

    Several days after the new Paperwhite was announced by Amazon, my sometimes glitchy but always beloved Kindle Keyboard 3G for 21 months, was officially dead. Squaretrade warranty covered my cost and send me a $199 Amazon gift card. I spent the past few days comparing e-readers on the market. I was initially ready to upgrade to the Paperwhite 3G with ads ($179), but when I completed the order I was told due to high demand my Paperwhite would be delivered at. the

    • Felidae

      would be delivered near the end of October. I abhor reading on LCD screens, even iPad, so I found the wait and days of life without a dedicated e-ink reader unbearable. I also found out the Paperwhite won’t have Page-turn buttons like those on KK and those $69 basic Kindles. I cancelled the Paperwhite order eventually and bought a basic Kindle instead, which is to arrive this coming Monday. The reason I forgo the Kindle Keyboard is the power switch design. I always hated the clumsy slider, which looks and feels like a medieval lock. that’s the glitchy part I talked about in the beginning.

      • http://criticalmargins.wordpress.com Kevin Eagan

        You’re right about the power switch, it’s one thing I dislike on my keyboard. The $69 Kindle is tempting as well…might consider it to try out the new-ish screen on these models.

  • http://twitter.com/iserotope Mark Isero (@iserotope)

    Justin L is correct that the TTS feature is one of the best things about the Kindle Keyboard. It’s too bad that Amazon is moving TTS to the Fire. I find it surprising that anyone can read on a tablet; I find them too distracting.

  • Billy

    Glad I’m not alone in still enjoying my Kindle Keyboard. I agonized a little over making the upgrade but stopped for 4 reasons.
    1. My Kindle is only two years old and still perfectly functional.
    2. Glow display isn’t as big a deal for me than it seems for others.
    3. I would miss the physical page turn buttons, the second biggest improvement e-readers have over real books in my opinion.
    4. The reviews have been so good for the Paperwhite I wonder what a Paperwhite mark II might look like.

  • CW

    I’m sticking with my Kindle Keyboard 3G for a while. Many reasons why:
    1. $120 vs. free (already paid for, I know I can sell the KK but that takes effort). If I’m going to blow this money on a device I’ll put it toward a new thing, not a replacement for something that works fine.
    2. Limited 3G surfing with email free (KK) versus just wifi (Paperwhite).
    3. KK’s keyboard is good for url input and short emails.
    4. Font clarity on the HD Paperwhite can’t be that much better, it is just text after all.
    5. Otherwise, so far as I can tell what you gain with the Paperwhite is a built in nightlight. Whoop de do. And several Amazon reviews assert the light is less even spread over the page than the promotional literature would have had you believe. (Anyone?)
    6. If I read in the dark I usually use my N2A Nook Color with inverted mode (white on black). I find myself using the KK mostly to read outside. No Paperwhite benefit to this. And refurb NCs and NTs are going for less than this new Kindle.
    7. You lose all audio with Paperwhite, not just TTS but background music and audiobooks too. The little stereo speakers on KK are nice for this.

    Like many Kindle users I salivated over the Paperwhite when first announced. But I have for just about every other cool new device I can think of too. I’ve learned to wait on new tech. Then you forget about it for a while, and by the time you pay attention again you can read user reviews about actual experience, and see what’s coming next, usually (but see above not always) better.

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  • turanggasp

    I have been using iriver story since 2 years ago and still loving it, maybe I will buy a new one someday. I was wanted to buy kindle keyboard too, but it has no memorycard slot, because I often using my ereader to listen music or as a memory storage.

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  • P

    Hi Kevin, could you let me know how you found the paperwhite in comparison to the kindle keyboard in the end?? I need to make a decision… Thanks!

    • http://criticalmargins.com Kevin Eagan

      Yes, I can let you know: I still think the Kindle keyboard is an excellent device, but I’ve upgraded to the Kindle Paperwhite: http://criticalmargins.com/2012/12/14/kindle-paperwhite-best-e-reader-available/

      Your choice of e-reader will depend on how you read. If you take a lot of notes while reading, the keyboard might be the best bet. While the multitouch keyboard on the Paperwhite is very good, it’s more prone to errors.

      If you want a high quality e-ink screen and a frontlit option, go with the Paperwhite. The screen is beautiful. Having the light option is great as well. You can still highlight and take notes, but it’s all on the touchscreen.

      The downside to the Paperwhite is that there are no physical buttons. Swiping on a screen is a bit odd while reading. Back and forward buttons should be an option, like the Nook Simple Touch w/ Glowlight.

      Check out my review and let me know what you think!

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