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Kindle Paperwhite (2013) review: The best e-book reader money can buy

Kindle Paperwhite (2013) review: The best e-book reader money can buy

Top Features
1.Excellent e-ink screen
2.New software features
3.Responsive touch panel

Overall Rating: 3/5

Amazon's Kindle has been the tech savvy bookworm's favourite reading device since the time it was first launched. The reader's e-ink display and light weight form factor coupled with long battery life offered an experience that could at times be better than reading a real printed book. The only disadvantage was that just like a real book, it wasn't possible to read without ambient light.

While Amazon also offers its e-reading apps on computers, smartphones and tablets (including its own Kindle Fire) allowing users to access their complete e-book collection, these devices don't offer the same experience as Paperwhite and there's much more screen glare straining the eyes.
Amazon tried to address the issue with Kindle Paperwhite, a front-lit e-book reader that features the same monochrome e-ink display, but just adds a white light to allow you to read in the dark without causing much eyestrain.

The device was a sell-out in the US market when it launched in late 2012. Amazon took its own sweet time to extend it to other markets as it was difficult to cope up with the demand in the US market. It quickly established itself as one of the best e-book readers available in the market.

The argument has now shifted from how real books are better than ebooks to whether one should consider an e-ink reader or a tablet, given that the latter is capable of doing a whole lot more and means buying/carrying one device less.

Amazon also regularly updates its tablet range, but the company still puts a lot of focus on its e-ink devices, with Kindle Paperwhite being the top of line e-reader.

It released the second-generation Paperwhite in the last quarter of 2013 with support for an improved e-ink technology, a better LED front light, 25% faster processor and enhanced touch response in addition to new software functions, including flipping directly to any page.

Amazon has now started selling the new Paperwhite in the Indian market. We find out if it's worth your money.

Look and feel
The Kindle Paperwhite (2013) does not look very different from its predecessor. The device is more or less a light weight rectangular slab with a 6-inch display. The display is placed between the black bezel. The screen is slightly sunken like a photo frame but this doesn't really affect usage.

You'll find a micro-USB port, an LED indicator (for charging) and a physical Power button at the bottom edge. There are no other ports or buttons on the device. The back of the Kindle Paperwhite sports a soft-touch matte finish. It feels good to hold and the surface offers a good grip. At just 206 gram, it's easy to hold the device for a longer period of time.

The Kindle Paperwhite(2013) sports a 6-inch 212 ppi e-ink display. The display is free of glare, making it easy to read outdoors under sun light. The Paperwhite's display offers 16-level grey scale and offers great contrast. The high pixel density makes text look crisp and sharp, and close to a real paper book.

Unlike tablets, the Kindle Paperwhite's display is front-lit. Amazon claims that the second-generation Paperwhite features a better front light. We felt that the lighting was uniform across the display.

Amazon also says that the touch grid on the Paperwhite is 19% tighter. We found the touch panel to be very responsive though the implementation of touch in the user interface remains quite limited compared to tablets.

Overall, the Kindle Paperwhite's display is impressive. It's the best among all Kindles.

Software and UI
The Kindle Paperwhite second-generation more or less runs the same software found on its predecessor with a few new additions.

The home screen features three most recently read books though you can also re-arrange them by recency, title and author. The book covers also feature a bar that shows how far you've read. You can also see books that you've purchased and have not downloaded by tapping on the 'Cloud' option. It's very easy to download books that you've purchased. You just need to tap on the book cover icon and it will synchronise!

The other part of the home screen features four suggested book titles from Amazon that you can buy. Recommendations are an integral part of Amazon's ecosystem.

The top menu bar features the Home button, a back button, a toggle for the frontlight intensity, a search button, a button to invoke Goodreads (an online network of book lovers), a shortcut key to the Kindle store and a drop-down menu that offers shortcuts to Kindle FreeTime, Vocabulary Builder, web browser (experimental) and Settings.

Opening a book is pretty simple. You just need to tap on it and it'll open the page you were reading, the last time.

You just need to lightly tap or swipe on the right edge of the screen to turn to the next page, tap on left to turn back a page and tap the top edge for the secondary and main menu. The secondary menu lets you change the fonts, font size, line spacing and margins; Go to a particular page, chapter or annotation, use the X-Ray feature, bookmark or share an annotation on social networks.

The bottom left corner features the page number and time left in the book and chapter while the right corner displays the percentage read. This makes it easy to track your reading progress and improve the reading speed.

The Paperwhite also includes a Dictionary (Oxford English) and a Vocabulary Builder. The latter saves the words that you look up while reading and offers them as flashcards. Students and language enthusiasts would find this feature quite useful.

When you select a word by tapping and holding it, the Kindle brings up the Dictionary offering its definition. The same pop-up also offers tabs for X-Ray and Wikipedia. X-Ray is a reference tool that brings up the biography of a character, compiled by Amazon, while the Wikipedia tab brings up the Wikipedia page. Of course, you'll need an active internet connection for the Wikipedia feature.

One can also highlight, add a note, share, translate and report an error through the menu. Those options pop to the front if you highlight more than one word.

The new Paperwhite also includes FreeTime, that allows parents to create profiles for their children and encourage reading with the help of gamification. FreeTime lets parents create personalized profiles for kids and give them access to titles from their collection of books. Children can be rewarded with achievement badges keeping track of their personal reading accomplishments. The utility creates a progress report that keeps parents updated on total time spent reading, number of words looked up, badges earned and books read.

It also offers access to the Goodreads social network where book lovers share their reviews and recommendations. It evenoffers integration with Facebook and Twitter for sharing quotes and annotations.

The Kindle Paperwhite offers an experimental WebKit based browser that lets you browse the web over WiFi. There's a reason why it's called 'experimental' - you'll not be able to open graphics-heavy, complex web pages, and the browser kept crashing for us most of the times.

It's worth pointing out that the 3G-enabled version of the Paperwhite comes with a crippled 3G connection though it comes with unlimited access without the user incurring extra monthly charges. Over 3G networks, it only allows access to the Kindle store. You won't be able to browse the web or access Goodreads without connecting to WiFi.

Battery life & storage
Amazon claims that a single charge lasts up to eight weeks if used half an hour a day without connecting, but even with moderate to high usage, it'll last for more than a week or even two.
Paperwhite comes with 2GB internal storage out of which 1.2GB can be used for books. It's estimated that you can store about 1100 books at a given time. We feel that is more than sufficient for most users. Also, with access to the cloud, you can remove or add titles easily from Amazon's servers.

Should you buy a Kindle Paperwhite over a tablet?
With the market flooded with tablets, it's a hard decision if you're not a voracious reader. The tablet is a multi-utility device with access to thousands of apps including the Kindle app (or apps from e-book providers like Kobo and Flipkart), multimedia content, and a bright colour display.

Having said that, an e-book reader offers an experience closest to reading a physical book. It won't strain your eyes even if you're reading at a stretch. With the Paperwhite, you can even read in the dark, making it your bedtime companion, and since there's no glare it won't strain your eyes.

Another factor that might matter to some is that the e-book reader is less distracting. With multiple apps and games, and unlimited access to the internet, tablets can often move you away from reading.

If you're an occasional reader, we'd recommend you opt for a tablet. However, if you're a bookworm than the Kindle Paperwhite is highly recommended.

Kindle's India store claims to offer over 2 million books priced in Indian Rupees with over 450,000 titles that are exclusive. Amazon's library of fiction and self-help e-books is the biggest compared to other e-book providers. It is safe to say that you'll be able to find e-books (or Kindle editions) of most popular books in the Kindle store.

The store also offers books from Indian authors like Sudeep Nagarkar, Ramachandra Guha, Amish Tripathi, APJ Abdul Kalam, Rashmi Bansal and Chetan Bhagat, in addition to books from international authors. However, specialized books, text books and regional language books are not that easily available.

It's worth mentioning that e-books are mostly priced lower than physical books and Amazon's India store pricing is competitive when compared with the likes of Flipkart and Kobo.

The Kindle Paperwhite WiFi version is priced at Rs 10,999, while the 3G+WiFi version retails for Rs 13,999. Unless you're always on the road, we'd recommend the WiFi version.
You can also buy a leather cover for Rs 2,399. It features a magnetic clasp and automatically wakes the Kindle Paperwhite upon opening and puts it to sleep when closed.


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