Amazon has just released a new e-reader and it goes by many names. Some people are referring to it as the 7th generation Kindle, while Amazon has dubbed it the all new Kindle Paperwhite, while still others are calling it the Paperwhite 3. It can be a tad confusing for people wanting to buy one, but the only model available on the main Amazon site for Canadian and US residents is the latest edition.
The main selling point of the Kindle Paperwhite 3 is that it has the same e-ink screen and high resolution display as the Kindle Voyage. It also features the brand new font Amazon designed for e-readers, Bookerly.
The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 3 has a e-ink Carta display screen with a resolution of 1430×1080 and 300 PPI. This is a huge upgrade from the 2013 model which only had 1024×768 and 212 PPI.
When it comes to the visual aesthetics the new Paperwhite is virtually indistinguishable from the 2nd generation model. The only change on the hardware is very subtle, the Kindle logo on the front is piano black, while the older edition had it in pure white. The retail packaging also makes reference to 300 PPI, so this should aid you if you are looking to buy he latest edition and can’t really tell what model you are looking at.
Underneath the hood is a 1 GHZ processor and 512 MB of RAM. There is 4 GB of internal storage and the majority of your content will be held in the cloud. There is certainly enough space to have a thousand e-books on your device at any given time.
People love their Kindles, which is odd in a world of smartphones and tablets. Amazon currently enjoys a dominant position in the US, controlling 75% of the entire e-book market and 95% in the United Kingdom.
Why is the Paperwhite 3 better than your smartphone or tablet? e-Readers do not emit blue light, so is way easier on your eyes and you can also read digital books in direct sunlight, whereas a tablet looks like a giant mirror. The Kindle is also a singular purpose device, its aimed at people who like to read a lot of books and eliminates the constant barrage of status updates, notifications and emails that multipurpose tablets inundate you with.
When you start the Kindle Paperwhite 3 for the first time you are taken on magical step by step tutorial of the key features of the e-reader. It shows you how to change the size of the font and how to use the built in lighting system to read in the dark. It also demonstrates how to access the online bookstore.
The home screen and overall design of the UI is a carbon copy of the 2013 Paperwhite and no new enhancements are really evident. Amazon is promising that very soon this model will receive a firmware update that will introduce an all-new typesetting engine that lays out words just as the author intended for beautiful rendering of pages. With improved character spacing and the addition of hyphenation, justification, kerning, ligatures, and drop cap support. There will also be support for larger font sizes without compromising your reading experience. Page layout and margins will automatically adapt to work well at even the largest font sizes.
Amazon doesn’t control the digital book market because it makes great hardware, but it has software elements that no rival can match. X-Ray is a great example because it allows you to get a sense of the people, places and things in a book and how often they are referenced. A few years ago Kobo tried to do their own system similar to this called “Beyond the Book” but publishers were resistant to the idea of optimizing their e-books for it and it was quietly discontinued.
Amazon also has Wordwise, which basically gives you a list of synonyms and homonyms in a book, great for learning a new language. If you normally share your e-reader with multiple family members, Family Sharing allows you to share the same content using different Amazon accounts. You can also take advantage of the translate capability by tapping any word or highlight a section to instantly translate it into other languages, including Spanish, Japanese, and more. Translations are provided by Bing Translator and you can even do it with PDF files, which is totally awesome.
Likely one of the biggest selling points is the social book discovery site, GoodReads. Placed right on the navigation bar you can talk about your favorite books with a community geared towards discussion and reviews. You can form or join a book club and bring a little bit of socialization to a otherwise solitary reading experience.
The new Kindle Paperwhite has a new font that was exclusively developed to make reading on a Kindle much more intuitive. Bookerly has replaced Caecilia as the new default font their e-readers, tablets and Amazons fleet of apps. Bookerly is a serif style of font that has been custom-made by Amazon to be as readable across as many different types of screens as possible. Like Google’s Literata, Bookerly is meant to address many of the aesthetic issues surrounding e-book fonts.
Does Bookerly make a big difference while reading an e-book? According to Amazon’s internal tests, that means it’s about 2% easier on the eye. That may seem like a small improvement, but spread that 2% across millions of Kindle users and billions of pages of e-reading, and it all starts to add up. In real world conditions though, this font is a big improvement. There are fewer large spaces between words, something that has been my bane for awhile, but in order for it to really shine Amazon needs to launch their new typesetting engine.
Like all Kindles, Amazon has their own propitiatory format that makes other e-books from other companies incompatible. For example, if you buy something from Barnes and Noble or Kobo, they use EPUB which cannot be loaded or read. This is somewhat of a mixed blessing, Amazon could laser focus on providing a great reading experience and make dramatic improvements, while the EPUB format languishes.
Reading on the Kindle is great, there are enough options to optimize your experience but doesn’t overburden with a ton of advanced features. You can adjust the margins, line spacing, choose between 7 fonts and have great control over the size of them.
When reading a book, page turns are fairly quick, but there are noticeable flickers when each page refreshes. This is likely going to be solved when Amazon starts to employ the new Freescale IMX 7 dual core processor, which has a new hardware dithering engine that will make flickers, ghosting a thing of the past.
One of the most lackluster elements about the Paperwhite 3 is the PDF rendering engine. It really struggles with complex documents with a ton of images and big files and there tends to be a huge delay when pinching and zooming or quickly turning pages. For simple documents, that are all text it is more than fine. You even get a small mini map in the top left hand corner that renders the page and shows you where you are in the document, to assist you in orientation.
Overall e-readers have been fairly stagnant the last few years and each generation of the Kindle has very small and incremental updates. The only things that are different from the 2013 Paperwhite and this one is 4GB of memory vs 2GB, 1440 x 1080 resolution vs 1024 x 758 and the new Bookerly font, that’s it.
I like to refer to this new e-reader as a mini-voyage. It gives you the same screen for $120 vs the $199 that the Kindle Voyage costs.
Should you buy this e-reader? There aren’t that many high resolution devices currently available. The only others on the market with any sort of availability is the Kobo Glo HD and Kindle Voyage. If you read a lot of e-books, this new device is worth it.
High Resolution Screen
Fast Page Turns
Lots of bells and whistles
great front-lit display
The hardware looks exactly the same as the Paperwhite 2
No audio functionality
Kobo offers a better PDF experience
Your locked into the Amazon walled garden
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.