Is a Kindle Paperwhite worthwhile?

I’ve wanted a Kindle reader for several years, but was dissuaded by early negative reviews; later the price of the device. But Amazon and YouTube reviews indicate that most of the initial bugs have been worked out, and most reviewers seem happy with their purchase. So, a few days ago, I bought a Kindle Paperwhite while it was on sale for half off.

I’ve been using the Kindle app on my iPad. However, the two reading experiences—iPad vs Kindle Paperwhite—are completely different.

How big is the Paperwhite?

When my Paperwhite arrived, I was surprised at its size. I didn’t pay attention to the dimensions, and thought the Kindle would be similar in size to the iPad. Instead, the Paperwhite was half the size of my original device—about the size of a standard paperback book. I wondered whether enough words would fit on the smaller page, since I planned to enlarge the font. And would such a small device be difficult to hold?

I found that the screen holds one long paragraph or two shorter paragraphs—normally what I read at a time on the iPad before scrolling down.

And the Paperwhite, being roughly a third of the iPad’s weight, is easier to transport and hold. And when I read on the couch, I can balance it on a knee. So now I don’t have to grip the device all of the time.

Is black-and-white better than color?

I wasn’t sure I would like the Kindle’s black-and-white format, since I’d become accustomed to highlighting in different colors on the iPad. But this turned out to be a minor issue.

I found that the simple black-and-white screen makes for easier reading, especially when one can easily adjust the brightness and warmth of the screen by clicking on an arrow at the top of the Home page or Library page. This pulls up a menu that easily allows one to adjust the lighting with two sliding bars. One bar adjusts for brightness and the other applies a faint sepia-tone to the screen.

Are there advertisements?

When I close the Kindle cover, the device goes into sleep mode. And when I reopen it, the book is right where I left off. Except I must first swipe an opening advertisement. These advertisements can be removed for a fee, but so far I’ve found them unobtrusive. Usually, they show a book I’ve shown interest in but haven’t bought.

When one first opens a Kindle, they find themselves on the Home screen—a bunch of advertisements for books the reader may or may not be interested in. “Suggestions.” I don’t find the Home page helpful at all, since it’s much easier to search for new books using a PC. Note that, even if one pays for ad removal, the Home page remains filled with purchase options.

However, at the bottom of the Home page, there is something that is helpful—the Library tab. The Library contains all of the books one has purchased/downloaded.

Can I organize my books?

Once within the Library, the reader can create “Collections.” Collections are basically folders which allow the reader to sort books into different categories. My categories are: 

AA Now in Progress
Biography
Fiction
Nature
Psychology
ZZ Biography
ZZ Fiction
ZZ Nature
ZZ Psychology.

I put all of the books I am currently reading in AA Now in Progress. I usually have six books going at once, since I like to read different genres during different times of the day. The “AA” slug assures that this folder will be at the top of the Categories list when folders are sorted alphabetically. I currently have 15 additional books downloaded and ready to read. I’ve placed these in appropriate folders (Fiction, Nature, Psychology, etc.). When finished, the book is then shelved into a ZZ folder. The “ZZ” slug assures that these folders will be at the bottom of the Collections list once alphabetized.

To add a book to a collection, simply press and hold the book’s icon and choose Add to/Remove from collection. Then select and deselect as desired.

The Library contains one oddity. It contains a non-functional scroll bar. The bar only indicates where one is in the list being scrolled. To moves the scroll up and down, the reader clicks the arrows at the top and bottom of the bar. Or swipes a finger up or down in the center of the screen.

Can I create and erase bookmarks easily?

While reading, pages can be bookmarked by pressing the right-hand corner of the screen. A white bookmark appears, but is not yet set. To set the bookmark, press the plus-icon next to the listed page number. Once set, the bookmark changes from white to black.

Bookmarks remain until erased. To remove a previous bookmark, press the upper right-hand corner of the page to view a list of bookmarks. Then press the X beside the bookmark no longer needed.

There is one annoying aspect to bookmarks. Once a bookmark is selected and the reader goes to that page, a footer appears at the bottom of the screen. And it stays there until the reader tells the device they want to stay on this particular page or return to the one they just left. I mean, if I wanted to return to the previous bookmark, couldn’t I just select Bookmarks again?

Can I highlight text and add notes?

I like to highlight text as I read. To do this, one simply drags a finger across the words to be highlighted.

There is one thing that the reader must get used to when highlighting passages. After highlighting, one must tap on the page to exit the highlighting menu. Even if one is immediately advancing to the next page, the page surface must first be touched. It seems as though the device should anticipate that, when one taps the side of the page, the task is finished and the reader wants to go to the next page. Not a biggie, but it creates an unnecessary step.

One can also take notes, which would be easy if the font for this was larger. The font for note-taking is quite small—tiny even. While I can read a Kindle book without my glasses, to add a note I must put them on.

The reader can scroll through their Notes by accessing the Table of Contents. There is a tab at the top of the Table of Contents that says Notes, and this is where all highlighted sections of text and personal notes are found. Although scrolling through these notes on the Paperwhite is slow and cumbersome, one can send their Notes to the email listed in their account. (It may be a fluke but, when I did this using the Kindle device, I didn’t get the message normally received when exporting from my iPad, indicating that the author or publisher only allows the export of a small percentage of the book’s content. I’ve always found this frustrating because I take lots of notes and do lots of highlighting in my books—even though I rarely use these notes later).

Note that, when a document is uploaded to the Kindle (not purchased through Amazon), this export feature is unavailable. One can still take notes, but the notes can only be read on the device. They cannot he saved as a PDF.

What other helpful features does the Paperwhite have?

I like that one can place a finger on an unknown word to call up a dictionary. And, by scrolling horizontally, the same word can be translated into a foreign language. All words that are looked up are saved for later review.

At the top of every page is an arrow. Tap this to open a menu which allows one to view a time clock, exit the book, change font size and page layout, and access the book’s Contents and the reader’s personal Notes. Click the three dots and select Vocabulary Builder to retrieve a list of unfamiliar words. Unfamiliar words from all books read will be included in the list.

While the menu is open, the bottom of the screen shows which page the reader is on, how many pages are in the book, how many minutes are left in the current chapter (which varies from reader to reader according to calculated reading speed), and what percentage of the book has been completed. This percentage calculation is also shown in the bottom, right-hand corner as one progresses through the book. I find this reminder particularly helpful. It gives me a sense of accomplishment as I see the percentage rise and, when nearing the end of a book, it gives me an incentive to finish.

Is it true; I can read the Kindle outside?

Now one of the Kindle Paperwhite’s biggest features is that it can read in sunlight. I have tried reading outside in the past, but was always frustrated. The pages in a physical book were too bright when reflecting sunlight. The screen on my iPad had too much glare. Would the Kindle perform any better?

I took the iPad and the Kindle outside to compare them side-by-side—and there is no comparison. The iPad becomes unreadable in bright sunlight. Although it’s possible to capture glare with the Kindle, it is easily removed with a minuscule shift of the device. The Kindle is easier to read in sunlight than is an iPad; than is an actual book.

The Paperwhite is also water resistant, which also makes it easier to use for outdoor reading. Where I live humidity can be quite high and leave films of moisture on objects. I am assuming that my Kindle can handle that, but I’m not going to test it quite yet.

How much does a Paperwhite cost in 2022?

I paid $119 for a package that consisted of a Paperwhite, an official Kindle book cover, and a charger which I really don’t need. And I do think that price is somewhat fair.

However, I might have felt cheated had I paid the $200 that this Kindle normally sells for. I mean, there’s nothing fancy—nothing distinctive—about the technology (beyond the fact that it can be used outside).

If someone asked me what I would consider a truly fair price for a Paperwhite, I would say maybe $79 plus $15 for the cover. So $94 for the set. The device is plastic and, again, old technology.

What is the storage size and battery life?

I bought the 16 GB version, but actually got about 13.8 GB of storage. No biggie. Apparently this amount of storage will hold thousands upon thousands of books – – likely many more than I will ever read.

The battery life is pretty good. I’ve been using it for three days and it’s at 76%. Mind you, I’ve spent a lot of time playing on the device, figuring out how it works. I also interact with it while reading, I’m constantly highlighting, looking up words, and taking notes, and all of this consumes energy. So I am happy with the battery life  thus far. Odds are, I will have to recharge it less often once use of the Paperwhite becomes routine and I’m experimenting less.

Can I use my Paperwhite for audiobooks?

Without asking, Amazon uploaded icons for all of my audiobooks to the Paperwhite. Apparently, one can connect a wireless headset or earbuds to the Kindle and listen to audiobooks. However, I normally use my cell phone for that.

All of the audiobooks were thrown into an automatic Uncollected file, and this cannot be changed. I do wish that one could make subfolders within this collection so that these might be sorted.

Is a warranty offered?

When purchasing a Kindle, one is asked if a warranty is desired. The claim will be that it covers all breakage—up to three events in three years. But what it doesn’t tell say is that it only covers up to the purchase price. So if one buys a  Kindle on sale, like I did, once the purchase price is met, that is the extent of the coverage – – even though a replacement device might cost $200. And of course, like most such warranties, one may be sent a refurbished product.

I did take the coverage, but am thinking about canceling it after reading the fine print. If I did break my Kindle, would I pay $200 to replace it? Probably not. I would wait for another sale or go back to using my iPad, in spite of its deficiencies.

Would you recommend the Kindle Paperwhite?

Overall the Kindle Paperwhite is a recommend for me. The flaws are minor compared to the primary benefit—I am able to read much longer before experiencing eye fatigue. The page is easy on the eye—more comfortable than the pages of a book; more comfortable than pages read on the iPad’s shiny surface. In addition, the software is easy to navigate; not too loaded down with features few people would use. But a note to Amazon… The ads are pointless. They only frustrate and distract. And the very reason many people choose a device dedicated to books is to avoid the distractions posed by modern technology.

Published by cafsamsel

Carol Fullerton-Samsel is a nearly-native Floridian who lives with her husband of 25 years and three rescue animals. She has a passion for day-hiking and nature, and also enjoys writing. Be sure to visit the TenPaths YouTube channel, which is still in its infancy.

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