Last week, my beloved Kindle finally died. Axa was getting ready to read The Princess and the Goblin aloud to all of us from the back seat of the car. She opened up the case, flicked the power switch and . . . . nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. Faint lines on the screen, and tantalizing ghosted images of what we were last reading, but nothing really useful.
The poor dear thing has been well loved, and well used. And although I always kept it in its case and treated it well, you might say it’s been well abused too. I read it for hours nearly daily, carried it around in a purse wherever I went, and charged it in three different countries. That last one is a big deal because it’s basically every electronic device’s nightmare: dealing with 220 volt electricity in Italy, 110 here, and varying/surging volts in Tunisia.
Actually, that was Kindle #1. Kindle #2 was sent to me free when Kindle #1 died shortly before we left Tunisia. Kindle #2 was probably a refurbished model, but between the two of them, they’ve lasted me for two wonderful years and hundreds of books. Eventually, Kindle #2 was beginning to develop some eccentricities. Page turns were getting longer, and battery life was getting shorter. Sometimes it would take heart-stoppingly long to come back to life when I flicked the power button.
When it finally died, I can’t say I was surprised, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t in mourning. In fact, it was ironically the very day I’d just finally branched out and checked out my first Kindle book from the library. I didn’t even get to read a word. To say nothing of the project I was about to embark upon of reading I Promessi Sposi simultaneously in English and Italian. And the several times since my Kindle’s demise that my children have asked to read The Princess and the Goblin. And missing my Anthony Trollope fix for the week. And the fact that I didn’t have my scriptures at church on Sunday. And those papers on international development that I downloaded as pdf’s last month and haven’t gotten around to reading yet. And the American history curriculum I was reviewing for homeschool. And, and . . .
O.K., I do have a life outside my Kindle (and I even read books outside my Kindle. A lot of them.), but apparently it’s kind of a sad shell of a life. Fortunately, my mother-in-law loves me. She happened to find out from my husband that I was Kindle-less, and last night I got a super-awesome surprise early birthday present: a Kindle Paperwhite!
I am in love with it already. To be clear, I had no complaints about my old Kindle. Not even the dorky, virtually functionless keyboard really bothered me. But the Kindle Paperwhite is even more lovable, as well as more stylish and sexy in every way.
I’ll start with the most obvious difference: it glows in the dark! The front-lit screen is awesome. I stayed up late in bed reading last night and woke up early to read this morning, just for fun. The lighting is perfectly even, and can be adjusted from flashlight-bright to off. I thought it was weird at first that the Kindle counter-intuitively suggested using lower lighting in a dark room and higher lighting in a bright room. But then I turned it on at 5:30 this morning and the sudden flash was a bit blinding (sorry Tony).
So yeah, lower lighting in a dark room is the way to go. It works perfectly for reading in the dark–way better than a reading light or even a bedside lamp. And I’ve taken it out in bright sunlight too, and can confirm that the lovely matte screen is also perfect for reading outside–no glare at all.
The difference in screen contrast from the Kindle 3 (the model of Kindle #1 and Kindle #2) is quite noticeable. True to its name, the Paperwhite background looks refreshingly white instead of grey, making for an easier reading experience even when the light is off.
Just like before when my Kindle was replaced, all my books and things are still floating up in the Amazon Cloud. They show up as available on the homepage, and it’s a matter of seconds to download one for reading. And instead of just a list of books, they show up in their pretty covers right on the homepage. When I booted it up initially, my Paperwhite gave me the option to connect to Facebook and Twitter, which I declined. If they had offered Goodreads, though, I would have done it.
One strange thing about my old Kindle was that instead of page numbers, it would tell me my “location” in the book. But since a normal book has several thousand Kindle “locations,” and I have no idea what a location even represents, I never found this a very useful feature. But the Kindle Paperwhite is even stranger. At the bottom of every page it tells me how many hours and minutes of reading I have left before I finish the book. Because when I’m reading a novel, what I really need is a visual representation of my life slowly ticking away as I give in to the temptation of compulsively reading just one more page.
The touch-screen does take a little bit of getting used to. The main weird thing is not having the page-turn buttons. I found it a lot more difficult to read one-handed. With my old Kindle, I would normally rest my thumb on the page-turn button as I was reading, but resting your thumb on a touch-screen can cause all sorts of unexpected effects, like random dictionary entries appearing, involuntary highlights, and turning ten pages at once. I think with some practice I’ll be able to get the hang of it, though, and I think having a case will also help.
You can look a word up in the dictionary with just a touch, and a much more sizable portion of the dictionary entry pops up. It drove me crazy that my previous Kindle would only give me two tantalizing lines. I always had to click through to the full entry. For even more detailed research,the new X-Ray feature gives you a list of important people, places, and concepts in the book, and links to the appropriate Wikipedia article for each one. So basically they’ve added on easy access to an encyclopedia as well as a dictionary. X-Ray has been poo-poohed as useless and esoteric in some reviews I’ve read about the Paperwhite. But I have actually wished for this feature multiple times while reading my previous Kindle, so I guess my nerdy wish is granted.
In fact, it seems that in the soft white glow of the Kindle Paperwhite, pretty much all my nerdy wishes have come true.