The Kindle Paperwhite has finally shipped out and reactions are coming in quite rapidly. While there are many customers who will be unable to get their orders until later this month due to the overwhelming demand for the new Kindle, it’s clear that the eReader side of Kindle products is hardly a thing of the past.
Since this was essentially Amazon’s big move to catch up with Barnes & Noble when it comes to front-lit eReading, it was somewhat difficult to see how things would go. Once you’ve established a way to light up the screen without major problems or backlighting you’re basically set. It turns out that I wasn’t the only one wondering and some of the reviews that have gone up so far make the comparison explicit:
“I cannot emphasize enough how brilliant the screen is and encourage you to find a display model to look at if you’re on the fence about it. I’ve used the Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight and the Paperwhite display blows it out of the water.” – Scott
That isn’t to say that there are no problems. While the majority of users report a nearly perfect experience with the lighting so far, some of these Kindles appear to be flawed:
“After all the raves about how invisible the LED light sources were, it was disappointing to spot them immediately out of the box at the bottom of screen. And then, as others have noted, the lower screen is also marred by shadowy areas between the LEDs that might be described as smudges or banding. This was definitely NOT the beautifully even glow of light across the screen that Amazon product photos have shown and which I was expecting.” - charlesn
If you have a similar experience, I strongly recommend getting in touch with Amazon’s customer service. While it is possible that these flaws fall within acceptable ranges as far as the production is concerned, Amazon has spent a lot of time talking up the evenness of their new lighting and is likely to replace as needed should the problem on a particular unit be unusually bad.
In terms of general screen quality, the consensus seems to be that the blacks are blacker, whites are whiter, and everything is both crisper and faster. Not unexpected to be hearing such things, but it doesn’t hurt to get some confirmation that this is a noticeable improvement for most people over the E Ink Pearl display that has been the standard for some time now.
The lack of speakers has not gone unnoticed (and who really thought it would be?) but it hasn’t come up much so far as a major problem. Those reviewers who comment on it at all, however, are quite unhappy:
“The Paperwhite has no sound whatsoever. That means no text-to-speech, no blind-accessible menu options, no playing your audiobooks from Audible. I am incredibly disappointed that these features have been gutted” – Joan
It’s likely that Amazon is making an effort to get their accessibility features set up on the Kindle Fire in order to take advantage of the more powerful device’s ability to handle such things. Does that excuse removing these standard features after once having tried to define the whole eReader line with things like Read-to-Me? Nope. The decision might make sense in some ways, but it’s not a good thing for customers.
Fortunately for Kindle fans, since that particular feature removal is unlikely to be reconsidered any time soon, there are enough positive impressions to indicate that an upgrade is worth the money.
Things like the progress bar enhancement seem to be going over really well, for example. It’s gotten an overall better response, based on these first couple days’ worth of impressions, than X-Ray did when the Kindle Touch was announced:
“My favorite new feature is the “Time Left” calculation at the bottom left of the page. While you are reading, the Kindle calculates how long it will take you to finish the book or the current chapter based on the speed with which you have been turning pages. You just touch the bottom left of the page to toggle the different selections (also shows which location you are on).” – R. Toro “Tech Junkie”
The only real software-based complaints, in fact, seem to center around the inclusion of book recommendations on Kindle Paperwhite models with the Special Offers disabled. Despite the toggle being off, only paid advertising is removed. This means that book recommendations are still showing up on the home screen. For some people that will be a valuable asset while others will find it obnoxious. Personal preference will be the deciding factor since it’s a relatively unintrusive feature, but excluding that from the advertising opt-out on the Kindle Paperwhite is somehow more obnoxious than the similar recommendation section on the Kindle Fire HD. Possibly just because the Kindle Fires cover a wider range of content and can genuinely offer you something you might not have thought of while the book recommendations are unlikely to surprise and impress with any regularity.
All told, I have yet to find a review on Amazon or any other site that claims the Kindle Paperwhite is second-best compared to the competing Nook Simple Touch w/ Glowlight. That puts Amazon back on top in terms of hardware again. Since they already had the best content selection, that’s going to be a huge advantage when it comes to holiday sales.
Is this upgrade enough to be worth buying a new Kindle if you already own an eReader? For once, it just might be. While E Ink screens have largely offered fairly small changes from generation to generation, the Paperwhite is the most extreme improvement we’ve seen since the first Kindle and the front-lit reading capabilities are amazing. Assuming that there is an interest, it’s hard to argue against this upgrade.
If you glance around the site here for any length of time, it becomes pretty obvious that we’ve had good experiences with our Kindle Fire testing. Different people will probably assess the quality in different ways, though, especially given the variety of uses that it tries to make available. As such, let’s take a look at what people are saying over at Amazon.com in terms of the pros and cons when it comes to their new $200 media tablet. Many of the more helpful reviews are quite extensive, so feel free to click on the links for a more detailed view of what these reviewers had to say. I’ll be avoiding outright pre-launch reviews and complaints about spec comparisons to the iPad, of course.
As far as video, I have always disliked Amazon’s Video services. The prices are very reasonable and they now have a huge selection, but obtaining the videos [was] a huge pain due to Amazon’s terrible Unbox player. That changes with the Fire, as everything is native and streams/downloads beautifully.
The video app is real snappy and I had no issues streaming video at home over wifi. I can honestly say that the Amazon video app is as good as the Netflix app on the Ipad.
The biggest “unfinished” feature of the Fire is the Cloud integration; the Cloud doesn’t work hand-in-glove with the Fire in the way you think it might. In order to access features like the video or the docs, you basically have to go through a browser the way you would from any other device.
Kindle Fire’s weak spot, imo, and the reason I give it four stars. But to be fair, it was never going to compete with my Kindle 3. E-ink really is just that much more comfortable to read versus a (relatively low resolution) LCD screen
I initially bought an iPad with the idea of using it as an eReader but after 15-20 minutes the 1.5lb iPad feels like it’s ten pounds and simply becomes too uncomfortable to hold like a nice light paperback. The Fire is much more realistic an eReader.
Michael P. Gallagher:
Speed of the apps as well as reading a book is VERY fast and responsive. I haven’t tried a a challenging spreadsheet or Word document with the Open Office app yet, but then again I can’t think of too many times where (based on my guesstimated usage) I will be doing those kind of tasks on my Fire: I like to keep my work separate from play.
I put this at 5 stars because it MET MY EXPECTATIONS. I read all about this device before buying it, so I knew exactly what I was getting for $199 dollars. It has met all of my expectations of a small form factor tablet that is intuitive, media friendly, and has great processing capabilities. I did not expect an iPad, so there is no comparison in my mind.
None of the so-called limitations of the Fire detract from my using it. Yes it has limited onboard storage but with the way the Cloud is integrated, I’ve not had any difficulty using that as a way of storing content. Plus, when Amazon stores it, they deal with the issue of backup. I also don’t miss the 3G connectivity. Sure, I’d love to be able to connect anywhere, but I will not pay the prices charged for data connectivity.
I’ve had a chance recently to do a sort of follow up on a previous story looking at the experiences of college students who use their Kindle in academic situations. I got noticeably positive responses from the majority of those I talked to, though there were a few people with problems I simply would not have guessed about, going into it. As before, here’s some of the more interesting stuff I got:
No Good Kindle Annotated Editions?
Alice, an English Grad Student, said:
I picked up my Kindle because I was getting ready for my Comps and figured it was an easy way to save some hassle on Inter-Library Loan stuff and maybe even a bit of money, in the long run. As far as that use, I don’t have a thing to complain about. Pretty much everything I needed was either free or cheap, and I found some cool stuff I didn’t expect to have along the way. What makes me kinda regret the decision though is that there’s no real equivalent to something like a Norton Edition that I’ve been able to find. Annotation and an applicable set of secondary sources can be an amazing help when you’re looking at something new, but now I find myself weighing that against the price difference in a way I never did before. It can be a pain. I hope they fix that soon.
Nook Color means Kindle Color Soon, right?
Melissa, a Sociology Undergraduate, said:
I got my Kindle DX from my mom at Christmas last year. It’s been great for classes where teachers think they’re going to save us loads of money by putting all sorts of articles online. I hate reading on computers, but nobody wants to print off a thousand pages. What I’m looking forward to is the Kindle Color. I figure, it’s only a matter of time now that the Nook got there first. It’s not like Amazon would want to be the second-best book reader, would they?
A TN Professor who prefers to remain unnamed said:
Ok, I love the Kindle and all those others in theory, but they only give me some of what I need. I want to convince my department that we need to get these kids buying their Kindles as freshmen so that it’s worth the money by the time they graduate even if not all of their books are available for it in most classes. So far, no luck. When more Kindle textbooks start becoming available, I think I can see a change happening. Until that happens, the school bookstore just integrated somehow with a Barnes & Noble ebook thing so I guess we’re going to have to go with them.
As I mentioned, the overwhelming majority of those I talked to really loved their Kindles. Did some, like these, want more? Well, really, who doesn’t? One thing that I did notice, however, was that even for those we thought that the Kindle was only somewhat useful for school loved it for personal use. Call that added value, maybe? Anyway, I love the fact that there’s finally a growing segment of the population at colleges who are pushing for the use of eReading devices. Did we really need a new edition of that 30lb, $140 biology textbook every single year?
This week finds the Kindle 3 back in stock and available for immediate shipping. As a result there are more reviews than ever from new users and old ones deciding to make the switch. If you are one of those unfortunate customers who ordered their new Kindle while it was backordered, you have my sympathies for any delay you might be suffering. Apparently Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) is taking their time catching up on those many orders. In the meantime, fresh orders are going out immediately even in instances of Super Saver Shipping, by many accounts.
Wondering what this new influx of Kindles will mean for the reputation of the popular eReading device? I was too. Here’s what people are saying:
The Positive Experiences
It appears that many people were put off of eReaders as a whole due to public displays of the Nook’s early poor functionality at Barnes & Noble(NYSE:BKS) outlets. While this is understandable, given the bumps in the road that the Nook had to make it over to be worthy of a place at the top, it’s good to see people giving these things another try.
Chibacat “Chibs” wrote:
“I enjoy reading so much but my home was being overrun with books! I waited, did not let my friend talk me into buying a Nook last December and I’m glad I did. The Kindle 3 has many aspects I like…books download in seconds, so many books to choose from, free books and books self-published authors on Amazon, I can use the Internet, shop the Kindle store, not be carrying around a ton of books and so much more.”
William J. Mcgaffey wrote:
“I almost was completely turned off on purchasing an e-reader from my experience with the Nook, sure it looked pretty, it had the cool color touch screen at the bottom and a few other nice features but it felt so slow, whenever you turn the page it would flash black and a second or two later the next page would show up. Even the touch screen activity at the bottom of the device felt slow and buggy to me.” As for the Kindle? “I pre-ordered it, got free shipping and received it the very next day after it was released! I had already purchased some books for it and when I got it and set up the wi-fi the books were instantly downloaded to the device! As for the actual performance of the device and am very happy with, the page turns are extremely fast, hardly even noticeable! Wonderful battery life, have only had to charge once since I have had it! The new Kindle is an amazing e-reader and would suggest it to anyone who is looking for a superb device and experience!”
There are also some words about the potential use of the Kindle as an Academic tool, something that has often been disregarded due to the highly noticeable differences from working with a paper book or pamphlet.
“As a PhD candidate who travels a lot and has tremendous amounts of reading to do, I gave the Kindle 3 a shot as a way to be more productive. I was hesitant at first, given what other reviewers had said about difficulty with PDF files. However, after trying it myself and tinkering with the features, I am head-over-heels in love with my Kindle.”
There’s plenty more, of course, but what’s the point of simply quoting over and over again things along the lines of “I love it, I love it, I l0ve it”? I’ll admit to some surprise that the upgraded web browser is not more commonly reviewed. Personally, I can’t help but take note of how great it performs and how much of an improvement I’ve noticed over the old version. That’s just me, however.
Of course, if we’re going to highlight the good reviews then it only stands to reason that some of the bad ones might be relevant as well. This week’s complaints:
The Negative Experiences
There are two distinct categories that I’m not going to touch on here.
First is defective units. Yes, there are some. Fortunately, Amazon seems to be doing a great job getting replacements out. If you don’t panic, chances are that the worst that will come of any damage in transit or malfunction in your unit is a day or two of waiting.
Second are those reviewers who are blindly lashing out against the product by reviewing something they’ve never even seen in person. There are plenty of these people to be found on the Kindle review page complaining about everything from lack of informative commercials to not being an Amazon version of the iPad, but you can usually pick them out because they don’t list as having “Amazon Verified Purchase” under their name. If that’s not there, chances are the person has no real right to be reviewing any given thing on Amazon.
So what are the real complaints? Well, first and without any surprise is the PDF crowd. PDF conversion is tedious and complicated at the best of times, and the Amazon automated conversion only works well when you’re really lucky. Naturally there are complaints.
W. Hall wrote:
“Only problem is my existing PDF books. The text is really small. You have to zoom and navigate. Doable, but not ideal. PDF loading is very easy.”
“I initially looked into getting a Kindle because I wanted a device to read my PDF text books on other than my net book or printing and binding them.” “First I e-mailed the PDF file to my Kindle e-mail to have it converted to Kindle format. None of the text came over correctly, it was a bunch of mixed up letters. Then I tried downloading a free converter. While this worked better, the text was super small and you couldn’t really enlarge it to a readable size. (Please note that I can read small print.) Finally I transferred my book to my Kindle using the USB cable”
Long Yang “laolang” wrote:
“I received my order happily. I mainly wanted to use it for reading pdf, science/technology papers and books, which usually have a lot of figures and tables and formula.” “Perhaps I need to revisit my thinking about DX and IPAD to see whichever is better fitting my reading need.”
There are also concerns about the WiFi. Many users seem to be having trouble grasping the concept that WiFi-only means that you will not be able to access Whispernet except at hotspots or on your home network. This can hardly be considered a fault in Amazon or the Kindle, but many are trying to cast it in that light. Other WiFi complaints revolve around network security. There IS a known issue wherein WPA2 protected mixed-mode routers will be unable to connect to the Kindle. In general, if this is a concern, switching to a WEP setup or connecting via USB to your computer seem to be the only options available.
Peter C. wrote:
“It’s a great device but it won’t work with my Cisco E1000 wireless router.” “I had to return this device and spring for the extra $50 to get the 3G version. I love Kindle. This is my second one – I gave the first one to my lovely wife, who is delighted. Pity about the WiFi.”
Then we have those pleasant individuals who seem to be unable to understand the differences between the traditional LCD screen and eInk. While I do not personally consider the lack of backlighting as anything but a positive, it is important to be aware of. This is usually a feature, rather than a failing. It saves on eye strain and it increases battery life significantly. That said, word is not quite out yet, apparently.
“I don’t remember reading anything about the fact that you couldn’t use it in the dark or I never would have gotten it. There is no way to adjust the brightness or contrast at all. I do 99% of my reading indoors, so being able to see the screen in bright sunlight is irrelevant to me. They sell a lighted cover for it for another $50 – it doubles the weight and runs the battery down fast – two of the pluses I liked when purchasing it (light and one month of battery life). I wouldn’t recommend this over a regular book to anyone.”
And so, that’s where we stand at the moment. Again, the positive reviews outweigh the negative in number, length, and clarity without it even coming close. There are shortcomings, of course, and no device is perfect. People sure do seem to like their Kindles though!
Even now, weeks after the initial release of the Amazon’s(NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindle 3 began to arrive on peoples’ doorsteps, there is certainly no unanimous opinion on the quality of the release. It’s worth taking a closer look at what precisely is being said, in both the highly positive and highly negative reviews, to determine how much they are likely to effect you. As is my habit when shopping for new products on my own, I’ll start with the negatives. After all, it’s always nice to know the potential pitfalls in any device, no matter how unlikely!
Kindle 3 Negative Reviews
Beginning at the bottom and working our way up, there are clearly some trends. One-Star reviews on the Kindle page seem to center on just about three areas, assuming that we’re safe in skipping the complainers who write negative reviews for a product based on it taking too long to get to their house or the fact that they forgot to check to see how much international importation would cost in customs.
1. Defective Units
As with any product launch, we can expect some problems. The most vocal will always be those who were the most disappointed. In this case, it is definitely true that dozens of people received their Kindles in only semi-functional condition due to broken antennae, battery issues, and even broken screens. What seems to be universally true, however, is that reviewers who have taken the time to follow up have confirmed that Amazon gladly took the bad units back for either refunds or replacements after walking through a small number of steps to troubleshoot and confirm the problems.
2. Korean Font Issues
It seems that Amazon didn’t choose the best possible option in its default Korean font. It has been described as blocky, childish, hard on the eyes, difficult to read for any length of time, and just plain ugly. To the best of my knowledge, this complaint has gone unaddressed as of yet. It seems likely that it will take at least until the next software patch to get any work done here, so Korean users might be sadly out of luck for the moment as far as default Kindle software goes at the moment.
3. Software Shortcomings
I’ll be honest, most of this could well come under the category of defective units. There are a number of users, though by no means a majority, who have been experiencing issues with frequent locking and rebooting for no apparent reason. These are likely unit failures, given how many reviewers have been offered exchanges, but it’s a pattern to be aware of just in case. Also, many seem to feel that the PDF support remains insufficient. Long load times of image-heavy and/or large files have been reported, as well as unwieldy navigation of zoomed documents. My personal experience does not bear this out, but different people have different expectations or even perhaps still more malfunctioning units given that many of these reviewers simultaneously complain of frequent reboots being required.
Kindle 3 Positive Reviews
In spite of these issues, there is no shortage of praise to be found. Even without filtering out the many people who have marked down the product for simply not shipping fast enough, the Kindle‘s favorable(4-5 Star) reviews stand at just short of four times the number of all the rest put together as of my writing this. We’ve already touched on some of these here on the site in our earlier “Kindle 3 Positive Reviews Summary“, but there are a few things to add that really bring it home for a lot of people.
1. Advertised Features
Yeah, I know, they were right on the packaging. What did we expect? The fact is, however, that many people have been taken aback by how much better things like the new screens and WebKit experimental browser are than were originally expected. I won’t go into this, there are enough ads floating around to find out many details and we’ve certainly talked about new features here enough so far, but these reviews bear out the idea that exaggeration was not a problem on the new Kindle.
2. Setting a New Standard
For many eBook enthusiasts, especially among the early adopter crowd, the Sony PRS-505 set the standard for eReaders until this time. In terms of weight, durability, screen quality, software, etc, it was simply the best to be had. Ignore later Sony models, seriously. According to many reviews, including at least one very well written direct comparison, the only remaining point of shortcoming for the Kindle is the lack of ePub compatibility. These sorts of comparisons are amazingly valuable for both eBook fanatics and newcomers since they tend to pare down the block of seemingly new and amazing features to what is really going to end up being important over the course of years of use. If a functional Kindle is now noticeably better than the device that has long been the fallback for users “in the know”, it’s impressive.
3. The Feel
Now that it’s shrunk down, in terms of size and weight, the Kindle is even more like your average paperback in terms of size and experience. People are noticing. If you’ve been on the fence because you’d miss the feel of your favorite book too much, it might finally be time to give it a try. No more wrist strain, page turn delay that is far less than turning an actual page would be, and a screen that is no longer significantly distinguishable from a paper book in terms of contrast? Little room for complaint.
Honestly, I’ll leave that to you. It is definitely possible to say that this is the best time yet to be buying an eBook reader. Is the new Kindle sufficiently great to be worth upgrading from the previous generation or your Nook? Dunno. Is it good enough for a first eReader? I’d say it’s an obvious yes, but I’m writing a blog about eReaders so there’s an implied partiality in what I have to say anyway. Click a link, check the reviews for yourself, maybe ask a few questions if you need to. I think most people will be pleased.
Well, it’s been a week now since we got word of the new Kindle 3 release date and the details that go along with it. Most regular consumers won’t have a chance to get one in their hands for a while yet, given the “On or before Sep 4th” updated release date and the fact that those who didn’t jump right in must now wait a bit longer, since Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) has already sold out their initial stock. In the meantime, there are a few reviewers who have been given a chance to get to know their new Kindles a bit in advance and a huge number of people wishing they had as they examine every detail they can get while they wait. What exactly is being said so far?
PCWorld’s Melissa J. Perenson gave us a good look at the new features. The expected highlights are all there and duly noted as a greatly improved experience. She liked how the darker border accentuated the screen, the more comfortable button layout, an improved keyboard, faster page turns, etc. Things that might not have stood out to most potential users, but that seem to be a big deal in practice, are: the lighter weight of the new design(15% lighter than the Kindle 2, which was itself noticeably lighter than the competing nook device), the rubber backing which greatly increases the comfort of reading one-handed(assuming no case, of course), and the ability to change your preferred typeface. This last might seem like no big deal to the majority of long-term Kindle owners, but it is a feature that most every other eReader, from LCDs to the nook, has had for a while now. As far as this review goes, she found absolutely nothing worth listing as a significant downside.
ZDNet’s Larry Dignan also managed to get his hands on one and was kind enough to present some opinions. One of the things that readers will be pleased to note is that the page turn speed is now, according to this description at least, a complete non-issue. As he describes it: “Simply put, the Kindle turns pages faster than I can. It’s instant book gratification.” In addition to this, the 50% higher contrast and the improved design of the physical interface were both deemed worthy of mention as major selling points. A somewhat surprising note was the improved Webkit browser. While the convenience of a Kindle‘s browser has occasionally been useful, I don’t think many people would consider it a vital feature for improvement. Maybe Amazon will surprise some people here. Dignan’s cited negatives as far as the new Kindle goes concentrate on the format(and really who doesn’t want Amazon to at least support third-party EPUBs at this point?), and lack of apps. Since we’ve started to see some KDK projects in the form of games become available for public consumption already, it’s fairly safe to say that the latter point is becoming moot. Is the lack of open format going to be enough to turn most people off of the device? It seems rather doubtful. Another reviewer with a very positive look at things.
CNET’s David Carnoy takes a bit of a more speculative view on the device, observing its potential for the future, as much as what it offers at the moment. As usual, note is made of the improved screen, both in terms of contrast and refresh speed. The brief note that Amazon has advised their customers that they can return their Kindle 2 purchases for the new model, assuming those purchases were made in the last 30 days, should be fairly useful for some. He also, fortunately, provides us with some details that have not seen as much attention as perhaps they should. First, the new Kindle software will, it appears, allow for the reading of password-protected PDF documents. This will, of course, have an effect on a fairly narrow range of users at the moment, but it will also open up a number of new potential business applications. Second, the new browser, in addition to being faster and easier to use, will have something called “Article Mode”. This viewing mode will allow users to cut away everything but the text content on a page for ease of reading and to minimize the necessary page refreshes. While Carnoy once again cites the arbitrary $99 price point as something Amazon has thus far achieved, this is the only negative he seems able to come up with at this point.
Try as I might, and I did, to find a counterpoint to all this unbridled positivity, nobody seems down on the new release for anything rational. There’s a small crowd of people complaining that $139 isn’t $99, so Amazon is bad. There’s also a similar contingent claiming that since it isn’t a color touchscreen tablet, the $500iPad renders it worthless. Overall, however, this is clearly the most positive, most anticipated, and most affordable addition to the eReader market so far.
Nobody is going to claim that there is nowhere left for eReaders to go, but this is clearly a high point for consumers, with an accessible price point, strong hardware that does its job well, an incredible selection, and the whole Kindle platform as it spreads across nearly every computing device one is likely to get an urge to read on. It will be worth checking back when the device starts hitting homes and people have more first-hand experiences to talk about, but nobody seems at all hesitant to be impressed.
In case you’ve missed out on our own Kindle 3 review, you can check it out before making up your mind.