Kindle Paperwhite: Best e-reader available?

Kindle Paperwhite
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Kindle Paperwhite
Kindle Paperwhite | flickr

A couple months ago, I praised my Kindle keyboard as one of the best e-readers available because of its content selection, accessibility options, excellent keyboard for annotations, and battery life. I said that if the Kindle Paperwhite was able to match these qualities and add new ones, I’d consider buying it (at the time, it hadn’t been released to the public). I was happy with my Kindle keyboard, so I waited.

I decided to buy the Kindle Paperwhite last month, and I have to say, it’s a wonderful e-reader. I’m so convinced that I might have to give up on my Kindle Keyboard because all of my needs are met with the Paperwhite.

Even though the Paperwhite shed some functionality like text-to-speech, its new features make up for what it has lost. First, the text is so clear; the font resolution is as close to ink on paper I’ve ever seen before. Second, the front-lit screen is not hard on the eyes. I can read in bed with the lights off and not feel eye strain like I do when I read on a tablet or on my phone.

Third — and this is the most important to me — annotating on this Kindle is a wonderful, easy experience. I thought typing on a multi-touch e-ink screen would be a chore, but it’s very easy. I find myself annotating and writing notes on more books than before.

The hardware itself is nothing amazing, but that’s the point: Amazon wants you to ignore the hardware and immerse yourself in a book or article. Even with the front-lit screen turned up all the way, I am not paying attention to the hardware, only the words on the screen.

Using these three criteria, I’d like to give my reasons for why I am switching to the Kindle Paperwhite. Sure, the Kindle Keyboard is a great option for those readers who don’t need a built-in light or need the accessibility functions like text-to-speech, but the Kindle Paperwhite is a better option for readers who want the best reading experience.

1. Screen Resolution. Technically, the Kindle Paperwhite has a better resolution and pixel density than the Kindle Keyboard. When dealing with text on an e-ink screen, this is fairly relative. The most recent Kindle Keyboard update improved the font resolution significantly, but the Paperwhite is good enough that you don’t see much pixelation on any of font sizes. Also, the Paperwhite has better font options. While I got used to Amazon’s Caecilia font, the Paperwhite has more standard book publishing fonts, like Palatino and Baskerville (my favorite is Palatino). Caecilia is still available, but not the best choice. Images look much sharper as well, which was a complaint I had about all Kindle models pre-Paperwhite.

2. Front-lit screen. When the Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight came out, many reviewers said that the front-lit screen made for a better reading experience, but the light was uneven and came out from the top of the device. On the Paperwhite, the light shines up from the bottom and disperses evenly. There is a bit of dead light near the bottom, but on my model, this does not affect the content areas at all (some reviewers, however, have complained about “dead spots”). I was concerned that even with a front-lit screen, I’d suffer from eye strain at night, but I find it to be unobtrusive and easy on the eyes. And, I don’t disturb my wife while reading in bed at night like I did when I read on my Kindle Fire. For that reason alone, this device is worth it for me.

3. Annotating, sharing, highlighting, and clipping content. I’ve mentioned several times before on this blog that I am an active reader. I annotate, note, and highlight almost everything I read. When I read on e-readers or tablets, I have a very specific system to keep track of all these notes: I use services like Instapaper and Longreads to find and save content, then I back up my notes to Evernote and Google Drive. The Kindle Paperwhite makes this process easy. The experimental browser, for example, seems a lot faster than in previous Kindle models, so I can archive or like articles in Instapaper quickly and don’t have to do it on a different device. Also, the clippings.txt file is still there as it was on previous models, so all my notes get saved to a central file that I backup to my computer regularly. Tweeting book highlights seems quicker, and access to Wikipedia isn’t as clunky as it was on the Kindle Keyboard. Overall, I’ve become quite the power-reader thanks to these features.

Complaints: I have a few complaints about the Kindle Paperwhite, and most are hardware-related. First, I’d like physical page forward and page back buttons. Even if I don’t use them, it’d be nice to have the option. This is one advantage that the Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight has over the Kindle. Second, I’m not impressed with the battery life. While it’s comparable to the Kindle Keyboard, I’m not getting the battery life that Amazon promises on their Website (8-weeks is what they claim). This might be because of my usage: I read a lot, and I read with the light on at half-power and with WiFi running in the background. Still, even with tweaks, I’ve had to charge this twice and I’ve only owned it for 3 weeks.

Even with these complaints, I’m convinced that the Paperwhite is one of the best e-readers available. The Kindle Keyboard is still a good choice, but I recommend the Paperwhite at this point.

I’d love to hear what my readers think about the Paperwhite: have you made the switch, or will you stick with your current e-reader?

Kevin Eagan (@KevEagan) is a freelance editor and writer living in Central Florida. He edits book manuscripts and articles for local and national publications. Critical Margins is his place to share his interests. You can also check out his professional website,