Fahrenheit 451? Status: Cancelled

August 6, 2013 by Christopher Walker

Preface

Fahrenheit 451 is a book authored back in 1953 about modern lifestyle and the constant craving for entertainment. The gist is that books were considered dangerous and that new forms of immediate entertainment (large TVs) were better suited to keep control of the population by making them ignorant. The word “firemen” takes on a different meaning in that instead of fighting fires, calls come in to fire stations for houses reported to have books in them. The firemen then go to the reported house and as punishment, burn the house down with the books inside.

Books are on their way back I believe, especially with modern e-readers. I own the Kindle Paperwhite created by Amazon and have wanted to do a review for quite some time. I’d like to start this review by mentioning that my perspective on the Kindle comes from that of someone switching from a full-fledged tablet device (my iPad). While I will add aspects in about the reading difference between regular paper books, it is mostly based on my dealings with my iPad versus what I am now experiencing with my Kindle.

I bought a Kindle Paperwhite almost 3 months ago and so far I think it’s great. If you’d like to skip the rest just to get to my recommendation, you don’t have to wait, it’s right here. If you read and are a persistent reader, if you like to have multiple books within your reach at any moment but are constantly on the go, or if you are always in need of reference books for whatever your occupation or hobby is, I fully and confidently recommend the Kindle Paperwhite.

What it is

For those of you who don’t keep track of modern day consumer items, an Amazon Kindle is an e-Reader. It holds books that have been taken from print and created digitally for purposes of organization and portability. Most e-Readers, including my Kindle Paperwhite, utilize a type of “electronic paper”, called E Ink, to display the device’s content. While some readers utilize physical buttons to navigate content, Amazon has begun opting for touch screens. The Paperwhite specifically utilizes a capacitive touchscreen, rather than the former IR touch screens used on older Kindle devices.

The Feel

One of the most important aspects of any mobile device is the feel of it. A user has to be comfortable holding it, controlling it, and feel comfortable enough to store it without worrying constantly if it’s going to break. I found the Kindle Paperwhite to score high in the “feel” department. It’s construction is quite sturdy. After you slap a case on it, you feel even more comfortable about it not breaking.

The Screen

Opting for a capacitive touchscreen has allowed the device to become thinner and more portable in a sense. While the technological differences and implementations between the two could fill a book, there are two major differences between both types of touchscreens. Capacitive touchscreens receive signals by detecting a disturbance in the electrical field the screen generates. This occurs from the transfer of electricity from our body to the device. An IR (infrared) touchscreen adds an extra layer above the main viewing screen that has a sensor all around the edge to detect when the field has been penetrated by a foreign object. Then some quick distance math is performed based upon where the screen was struck and that is how the device knows where you touched. The main reason the capacitive screen is skinnier is because the IR edge has been removed. Below is a photo of my Kindle:

My Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

The screen is quite responsive, making the Paperwhite quite a pleasure to work with. If something other than my finger strikes the screen, I won’t lose my page. The surface is comfortable to the touch and there is little to no friction when dragging across the screen, unlike what you may experience with an iDevice or other tablets. Flipping pages is easier than a regular paperback book, obviously. You tap either the left or right sides to navigate your book. It’s definitely more convenient than trying to flip pages on that thick book you maybe reading while laying down at night.

The Weight

Previously I was using my iPad with the Kindle App to read books from my Amazon account. This proved difficult at night sometimes, as the iPad, with it’s case could become quite heavy while I was laying down. When I unwrapped and opened my Kindle, I was amazed at how much it weighed. The weight difference alone between my first generation iPad and the Kindle was enough to make me switch.

I did a little self-research to see the weight difference between:

iPad Weight (1st Gen) Kindle Paperwhite Weight Books Weight
1.5 lbs (680 grams) 7.5 oz (213 grams) 6.72 lbs (3.05 kg)

As you can see, the Kindle wins by a landslide when it comes to only 4 normal paperback books. This was a rather obvious comparison, but just think about your entire book collection and think of the backpack and the back and leg muscles that would be required to carry all that versus all of that same content contained in 213 grams.

The comparison between the iPad and Kindle was a big difference also. The iPad is over three times the weight of the Kindle despite this being expected due to the other things an iPad can do.

The Size

When I first opened up the Kindle, I was taken aback a little bit. While I enjoyed the weight and feel of it, I was unsure about the size. It seemed very small, almost too small to read anything comfortably. After my reluctance I thought about the standard size of a normal paperback book. Then doing a comparison to several of my novels, I found that the difference in actual text viewing wasn’t much different, especially when taking page margins into considerations. The biggest sized novel I have is the aforementioned Lord of the Rings: One Volume. The comparison between the two wasn’t much different. I have provided a picture below:

Lord of the Rings on paperback versus on the Kindle

The Functionality

The purpose for the name of this site was covered very well in my very first post. With that being said, while reading on the iPad, I could very easily become distracted. Just click the “Home” button and I am out of my book and on the web, playing a game, or watching YouTube. With a Kindle, there is one purpose (maybe two if you count the browser.)

Reading

Reading is a delight on the Kindle. Besides the similar touch based controls as you may see on a more advanced tablet device, it is also quite simple to use. Tap in the middle on the right hand side to move up a page, tap in the middle on the left to go back. Touch the top right corner to bookmark a page. Touch in the center at the top to get your menu. Touch back in the middle to continue reading. It’s that simple.

The only distractions you may encounter while using the Kindle would be either external to the Kindle like noise or distractions in the environment or specific hardware related issues (as in, if the battery dies). There is no “Home” button. There is no YouTube. The “Experimental Browser” is all E-ink based, and the output is very basic (no color, grainy). And there are NO games. The Kindle is a one way street, you are either buying a book to read, or reading it.

“Experimental Browser”

The “Experimental Browser”, as Amazon calls it, is a web browser built directly into the Kindle. While it is limited in what it can do, it’s actually surprisingly useful. If you subscribe to an online content source like Safari Books Online or an online newspaper, it can most likely be read in the browser. The browser requires wifi to be turned on (obviously) so I imagine running it would drain the battery quicker than reading a book directly from the device.

The Features

The features are about the same as what you would find in the Kindle app for an iDevice. You can highlight, bookmark, and even share content through popular social sites. If a table of contents structure is included in the actual book file, then that is easily navigated within the Kindle. Just tap on the chapter you want to go to when you are on the Table Of Contents screen. The Kindle store is accessed directly through the device and connecting to your Amazon account, buying a book, and having it auto-delivered is quite easy. This was another big draw for me to switch to a Kindle, especially since Apple decided that external apps were no longer allowed to have internal sales features (thanks a lot Appholes).

Quick tip: It took me a while to figure out how to bookmark a page. It’s actually pretty simple. Just tap the very top right hand corner of the page you want to bookmark and a little symbol that looks like a dog ear (from when we fold the corner of a real book) will appear on the screen. That page is now saved in your bookmarks.

Tap the right hand corner till you see the dog ear

The Battery

Lasts forever (8 weeks while reading 30 minutes a day) </end>

The Light

The Paperwhite introduces a pretty cool lighting system across the screen. An LED board sits at the bottom of the device while a screen called a “light guide” is spread across the capacitve touch screen. The LED light then traverses the light guide across the entire screen, lighting up the whole page, rather than just the bottom. This prevents uneven lighting and having to have more LEDs all the way around the screen, which would consume more battery. The NYTimes did a pretty interesting component review on the Paperwhite. It also explains (simply) how electronic paper works.

The reason I enjoy having this build in LED system is because while it lights up the entire screen, it doesn’t blind you like the iPad may on a brighter setting while you are sitting in the dark. The Paperwhite’s LEDs are unobtrusive and easier on the eyes. If I was reading a normal book at night, I’d most assuredly have to have a booklight or flashlight to read. My wife probably wouldn’t be too happy about that.

The Bad

I’ve reviewed the good so far, now let’s discuss the bad. Don’t worry, it’s a short list.

Technical Books

Sometimes when reading books that contain code, due to the size of the device, a line or two may spill over and cause the code to look messy and unindented. To fix this, I put the device in landscape mode or shrink the text and then continue to read.

Color

This is something you go in knowing you won’t have. Fortunately, they are now developing electronic paper with color screens. Maybe there’s a future for the Kindle (besides the Fire) to have a color reading screen.

In Summary

The Kindle Paperwhite is awesome. I enjoy using it and have used it almost every day since it’s purchase. I mostly enjoy having my entire library at my fingertips. The feel of the device is comfortable. It is aesthetically pleasing and it’s quite sturdy for such a thin device. The functionality is right on par with what I experienced with my iPad, with that added benefit of no “Home” button to tempt me to stop reading and play Angry Birds.

Like I said in the preface, I absolutely encourage you to purchase this device if you are an avid reader or if you are in constant need of any of your reference books. I have zero regrets since my purchase.

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