One of the questions I’ve been asked frequently lately is what the point of a Kindle eReader could possibly be now that it’s lit up. Obviously this has been addressed before, but maybe it’s worth going over again now that the Kindle Paperwhite finally pulls off a positive reading experience that includes a light.
First off, the main attraction of the Paperwhite is that it retains the E Ink display’s advantages while still allowing the user to read in the dark. Unlike the LCD you’re likely to find on a tablet, including the Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD, the lighting used in the new eReader is not coming from behind the screen. Instead it is reflected through a layer on top of the print which spreads illumination evenly from the lights on the bottom of the screen. Many people, perhaps even most, find that this causes significantly less eye strain during extended periods of reading because the light is not being directed outward at the eyes.
The E Ink screen underlying this lighting layer is not your typical display either. E Ink has been around for a while, but since I still get some questions it is worth explaining.
The premise is simple enough. Each pixel on your Kindle’s monochrome screen has two settings. It can be either dark or light. This state is only changed when there is reason to change it. This means that unlike constantly refreshing displays like the monitor you are likely reading this on, the Kindle’s E Ink uses practically no power. It also reflects light much like paper does, which helps provide a pleasant reading experience.
There are downsides to just about anything, of course. E Ink eReaders in general are known for showing a flicker each time a page is turned. This relates to the same behavior that provides these devices with such amazing battery life.
Remember that the screen only refreshed when needed, so it clears the current selection this way before putting up the next page. The flicker has gone from a 1-2 second annoyance in early eReaders to a barely noticeable flicker that takes a fraction of the time turning a physical page would on the Kindle Paperwhite, but it does still exist.
Specific to the Kindle Paperwhite and Nook Simple Touch w/ Glowlight is the problem of uneven lighting. While not nearly as obvious as the Nook’s, the Kindle Paperwhite’s lights are visible at the bottom of the display in some situations. This is especially easy to spot when holding the Kindle at extreme angles or when reading with the light turned up particularly high in a poorly lit room. Few people seem to be troubled enough for this to be a major problem, but it is common enough to be worth noting. In certain situations the lighting will not be 100% evenly distributed.
Overall, the advantages of the Kindle Paperwhite are basically the same as those the Kindle has enjoyed over tablets all along. It costs less than a tablet, doesn’t use a light source that is hard on the eyes, runs for weeks at a time without charging even when being used regularly, and provides a better overall reading experience. While it isn’t nearly as bad to read on a tablet as it used to be, the Kindle Paperwhite is highly recommended for anybody who reads frequently or for extended periods of time.