This January, I finally caved to e-books and bought a Kindle Paperwhite — it was time to let go of prejudices I’d been holding on to for way too long. For most of my life, I was a book purist, a print-or-nothing snob. I bought stacks of hardcovers and paperbacks from favorites like Neil Gaiman, Alice Hoffman and, of course, J.K. Rowling, and brought home more from the library.
Then around 2015, I leveled up in the realm of modern storytelling: I hit play on my first ever digital audiobook — "As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride," with actor and author Cary Elwes (the movie’s Westley) narrating. And I became obsessed with my new literary freedom. Sporting my iPhone and a pair of earbuds, I could wash dishes and read, knit scarves and read, or walk the dogs and read. Hooked into my car speaker, I could commute and read. Multitasking hit a new level — I more than doubled the number of books I finished each year.
From e-reader aversion to Kindle attachment
I’ve avoided e-books for many reasons: Primarily, I’m on a computer all day for work and the last thing I want is to stare at another screen during my downtime. Plus, I was feeling a bit like Goldilocks when it came to tech. I owned an iPad but it was too heavy and bulky to hold up for long. I had an iPhone but it was too small for sinking into 400 pages of the latest Louise Penny mystery. Other e-readers I tested usually fell somewhere in the middle, but still felt more like computers than books. The original Nook was too slow for me — cutting into reading capacity. And tablets billed as e-readers were still functionally tablets — keeping me from escaping social media and other distractions.
I can read whatever I want, wherever and whenever I please.
But things are different with Kindle’s e-reader. Just seven weeks into this new Paperwhite relationship, my reading stats are climbing steadily from an average of two books a week to three. I can’t deny it: I’m smitten. While the Kindle does sport Bluetooth connectivity and lets you stream Audible content from it, I tend to use other services like library-centric Libby (Overdrive) so I can’t efficiently double-duty with a Kindle the same way I can with my phone. But that’s OK.
Amazon's All-New Kindle Paperwhite
Having hundreds of books in a thin, 4-ounce package is still pretty (and plenty) cool. And having a product that not only feels and reads a lot like the real thing but ups the reading experience in less-than-ideal conditions — from bright skies to dark nights and sandy or wet beaches — is pretty magical.
Kindle Paperwhite specs, put simply
Reviewers laud the latest Paperwhite for its tech stats — more than 31,000 reviews have earned it an average 4.4-star rating.
With print books, you read what’s in front of you and you make it work. There’s joy in simplicity. But my aging eyes also appreciate the Paperwhite for its versatility.
- It’s slightly slimmer than it was, coming in at less than a third of an inch (versus the previous generation’s 0.34 inches).
- It’s lighter (6.1 ounces versus 6.4 ounces).
- It’s highly water-resistant — I can’t tell you how many paperback print pages I’ve soaked and ruined through bathtub mishaps.
- Its resolution is sharper (300 pixels-per-inch versus 167).
- Its built-in light means I don’t have to rely on the sun or my hiking headlamp.
- Its glare-free screen and flush-front design make each page look more like a traditional book page (and help keep crud and dust from collecting).
- And its battery lasts weeks (this last not being as much of an improvement as previous generations boasted similarly long battery lives) — I read daily throughout January and into February before finally succumbing to plugging in it.
I can Kindle everywhere — and anywhere
I can read whatever I want, wherever and whenever I please. In the past 30 days, for example, I’ve pulled out my Paperwhite while in line at the grocery; to share a poem from U.S. poet laureate Joy Harjo while teaching a restorative yoga class; and to pass a half-hour between meetings, getting started with “The Bird King,” the latest from G. Willow Wilson.
I’ve warded off insomnia in the middle of the night without disturbing my husband on the other side of the bed. On a patio underneath a full sun, I flipped through a few chapters of Gail Carriger’s oldie-but-goodie “Soulless." I’ve exposed it at three coffee shops across town already, during a few meals out by myself and at a recent monthly meeting of the local Silent Book Club.
Making the Kindle Paperwhite my own
With print books, you read what’s in front of you and you make it work. There’s joy in simplicity. But my aging eyes also appreciate the Paperwhite for its versatility. With a few taps, I can increase or decrease font sizes, line spacing and page margins. I can select different font styles — from serifed options to sans and back again, depending on my mood. If I prefer to read in landscape for some reason — which I find helpful when I’m laboring on a treadmill — it’s a click away.
Even better? You can save all of these modifications as themes. So far, I’ve got one theme for everyday reading (that’s the Bookerly serifed font in size 4, vertical alignment, and the minimum margin), another for reading in bed when light is sparse and a third for when I can’t find my glasses.
On top of that, the Kindle lets me organize collections — like I do on my shelves. My home page features one folder for fiction, one for nonfiction, another for poetry and a fourth for miscellaneous (like the Kindle user guide and various dictionaries).
Print still makes my heart patter. And I don’t believe it will ever be dead — at least not until the day we run out of paper. I also still adore audiobooks and how I can check off to-dos while a talented narrator like Julia Whelan or Rebecca Lowman entertains me. Thankfully, though, books are pretty open, because my love affair with words and how I engage with them has now turned polyamorous.
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