The Kindle Paperwhite is the most commercially successful eBook reader ever. It’s also the best eBook reader ever, at least in our opinion. So it would have been easy for Amazon to leave the Paperwhite alone.
We’re thrilled they didn’t.
The new version of the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite eBook Reader, aka the 6th generation, manages to improve on an already stellar product. The three new features Spot Cool Stuff especially likes:
1. Improved Display & Performance
While we would quibble with Amazon’s claim that the text on the Paperwhite’s screen is “virtually indistinguishable from a physical book,” the display renders text as close to how it looks on dead tree paper as any eBook reader ever has. With the new higher contrast screen and the easy-on-the-eyes built-in reading light, you could argue that reading on a Paperwhite display is better than a physical book.
Thanks to a new processor that’s 25% faster, turning pages on the new Paperwhite is as fast a physical book too. The scree touch responsiveness is also improved. Altogether, the new Kindle Paperwhite is the zippiest eBook reader we’ve ever used.
2. Improved eBook Navigation & Software
As far as the software goes, the most significant improvement is new navigation functionality, which Amazon has dubbed Page Flip. It lets you skim through a book, page-by-page or chapter-by-chapter, and gives instant access to reference pages (like a map, for example; see pic to left).
Eventually, the new Paperwhite will include Goodreads integration1 (because these days it seems like every device, from cameras to radar detectors, has to involve some form of social media). Goodreads is a platform that let’s Kindle users share their reading lists and get book recommendations among other features.
Also new: a smart dictionary lookup and inline footnotes.
3. Parental Controls
For those who have kids who love to read — and especially for those who love to travel with kids who love to read — the Amazon Kindle is a godsend. All Kindles have basic parental controls that limit access to the internet browser and Amazon’s eBook store. The new Kindle Paperwhite adds to that with strong features:
Kindle FreeTime lets you create a customized profiles for children. For each profile, parents can share books in their library and get progress reports on the total time each kid spends reading, the number of words looked up and the books finished. Kids get reading goals and badges for completing them.
Vocabulary Builder not only let’s young readers look up words in a kid-friendly dictionary but also sets up a flashcard-style quiz to help children remember their new vocabulary.
Not incidentally: Schools are increasing incorporating the Kindle into classrooms and homework assignments.
Our Kindle Paperwhite Buying Advice
For those in the market for a new eBook reader — that is, for a device that’s exclusively designed to read books on, as opposed to a tablet that doubles as an eBook reader — we wholeheartedly recommend the new Amazon Kindle Paperwhite. At $139 for the wifi-only version or $189 for wifi plus 3G, the Paperwhite is a strong value. But it isn’t exactly inexpensive. If you plan to be an infrequent reader of eBooks, or if cost is a prime concern, consider the $69 non-Paperwhite Kindle or the decent and remarkably low-cost $29 PanDigital Personal eReader.
If you already own the previous version of the Paperwhite, you face a difficult choice about whether to upgrade to the new one. The battery life, weight and screen size of the two Paperwhite models are virtually identical. And, of course, the same eBooks are available on each. On the other hand, the new Kindle has noticeably more display contrast — place an old and new Paperwhite side-by-side and you’d instantly notice the difference. If you are an especially avid reader of eBooks, that difference might be enough to spring for the newly upgraded version of the best eBook reader on the market today.
1 The new Paperwhite will not ship with Goodreads but it will included in a future free firmware update.