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The launch of the original Kindle by Amazon was a bold move that disrupted the publishing industry and reinvented how people read. Swept up in the ereader revolution, I purchased my first Kindle in February, 2009, right after the launch of the Kindle 2.
Over time, my Kindle 2 served me well for reading ebooks and for free 3G internet access using the “experimental” web browser-I always thought that this was a fantastic unadvertised feature. A real win-win: smart for Amazon because it meant that you could literally purchase ebooks almost anywhere (I once purchased one on a moving train) and a win for consumers like me because I had free internet access with no monthly subscription.
I read a lot and love eink. I know that eink devices do not compare to tablets in terms of features, but for people who are going to use a device primarily for reading, I think they are perfect because they are kind on the eyes.
Over time, the rechargeable battery in my Kindle 2 kept its charge for a shorter and shorter period of time. Eventually, just the act of turning on the 3G would instantly deplete my Kindle 2 battery. This meant that I essentially lost the ability to use the free 3G unless I was tethered to a plug thereby rendering the 3G useless.
Failing battery life, love of eink and free 3G all pushed me to preorder the Kindle Paperwhite. I paid the extra money for the top-of-the-line version of the version of the Kindle Paperwhite. Why? Because I didn’t want to deal with intrusive ads (an extra $20) and I wanted to have 3G access (an extra $60) so that I could continue to check sports scores and read newspaper headlines while I was on the go. While the free internet access is not the primary reason that I purchased the Paperwhite, it’s an important feature for me because I don’t yet own a tablet or smartphone.
I already shared my initial impressions of my Kindle Paperwhite in an earlier post and spelled out my reasons for purchasing one. I was disappointed right out of the box, and my disappointment only continued as I started to use my new Kindle Paperwhite.
The 3G Access is a rip off. Yes, I paid an extra $60 for the 3G access, but the joke is that there is no 3G access. The 3G access only allows you to access the Amazon store while with the Kindle 2 you could actually access the internet. This isn’t disclosed as a difference anywhere on Amazon’s site that I can find. This makes switching from the Kindle 2 to the Paperwhite a downgrade instead of an upgrade for me.
Review of other features: with a little practice, turning pages with the touch screen was relatively easy. However, attempting to navigate through the titles that are loaded on your Kindle is difficult, slow and cumbersome.
To thumb through the content on your Kindle, you have to touch the next arrow and then a pop up appears-why it doesn’t just take you to the next page, I’ll never figure out. Then you actually have to type in a page number and then click the “go” button before it will advance you. Want to page back? You’ve got to go through the same clunky and time-consuming process.
Searching for a book in Amazon’s shop is even worse. In fact, I’ve yet to figure out how to advance past the first six selections that pop up after executing a search by author or title. The first book that I read on my Paperwhite was Hugh Howey’s Wool (review coming soon). I wanted to learn more about the sequels, and when I search for “Wool” it brings up 139 titles and displays the first 6 including the Omnibus Edition. Wool 5 is not listed on the first page of search results, and there’s no way to page forward to see items beyond the first six listed on the page.
Hey, here’s an idea, why not have the page turning work the same as it does for books, so I can advance through the titles that I own and the ones that I’m browsing for in the Kindle store with no hassle?
Highlighting is a nightmare especially if the section that you’re highlighting continues from one page to the next. I write a lot of book reviews for this site, so it’s important for me to have an easy way to highlight lines. I reference my highlights and notes when I’m writing a review and the Kindle Paperwhite does not make it easy to highlight.
Strangely, it’s impossible to turn off the backlight. I might read in a place where I’d need some sort of lighting 20% of the time, but the light is sucking life from my battery 100% of the time. I can adjust the brightness of the light, but why won’t Amazon allow me to turn off the light? My battery seems to drain much more quickly than advertised, and I find the advertised 8-week battery life very difficult to believe based on the inability to turn off the light.
What happens when I close the cover? Does the Kindle Paperwhite automatically go into some sort of sleep mode? I think it does, but I wouldn’t know because the Kindle Paperwhite comes with no instructions whatsoever-also puzzling.
I was apprehensive about returning my Paperwhite after taking it out of the package, but I’m pleased to report that Amazon made the return process pretty straightforward and seamless. The money was credited back to me less than a week after I sent back my ereader and cover. Keep in mind that I physically had my Paperwhite for less than a week before I returned it.
There is definitely a limited window of time for making returns to Amazon. I couldn’t determine exactly what that window was, and I wasn’t 100% certain that Amazon would give me full value for my returned Paperwhite. Luckily, the only amount that was not credited back was a small amount deducted for return shipping.
What are better alternatives? In hindsight, I should have researched alternatives for getting a new battery for my Kindle 2. This older generation Kindle still offers the free 3G access. While there’s no guarantee that Amazon won’t discontinue this free service at some point in the future, until such time, this makes the Kindle 2 the best option for reading Kindle titles currently available. In fact, I predict the resale price for the Kindle 2 will go up once this becomes common knowledge. Frankly, the other bells and whistles that come with the new Kindle Paperwhite do not justify the price.
I did some quick research and found a few places that sell replacement Kindle 2 batteries. I just ordered one from www.batteryship.com for $18.95 with free US shipping. Kindle 2 batteries are also available at www.newpower99.com but they are more expensive at $24.95 plus shipping $6.87. I even found a helpful video that walks you through the process for changing your Kindle 2 battery. I’ll be sure to write a future post that reviews this replacement battery.
If you’re looking for a device to use for reading ebooks, then a used Kindle 2 is currently the best option available for books available in the Amazon universe.
For me personally, I suspect that the Kindle Paperwhite is my last Amazon ereader purchase ever.
I’m no longer as enamored with Amazon as I was after I purchased my first Kindle. My view of Amazon as the benevolent giant of content is gone. Now that I’ve discovered the limitations associated with DRM and found great sites like Smashwords where I can purchase DRM-free ebooks for any device, my tie to Amazon has been greatly loosened.
More than just price and convenience, it comes down to trust. Recent articles like this report that show how easy it is for Amazon to wipe your content make me realize that as much as I’d like to think that I own the content, Amazon is really the one who owns it. This view is further supported by many authors like Cory Doctorow whose opinion is summarized in this recent post, If You Can’t Open It, You Don’t Own It.
Buy a tablet: For the amount of money that you’d spend to purchase a Paperwhite, you should probably invest a little more money and buy a proper tablet like an iPad or Android based device. This probably seems obvious, but as a heavy reader and current Kindle owner, this was not an obvious choice for me.
While it would be nice to have a single device, armed with a Kindle 2 and a tablet, you should be able to do just about anything in terms of reading and internet surfing.
What are you using to read your ebooks and why? Please share your comments below.