Kindle Paperwhite pushes ads at you but is still the best e-ink Kindle to own

When I got my new Kindle Paperwhite a couple of days ago, I couldn’t understand why Amazon had made it so that every time, after I switched the unit on, I had to ‘activate’ it by swiping up the screen with my fingertip. Why not have it start up immediately I pressed the on/off switch like other Kindles, and appliances generally?

I saw the point (at least Amazon’s point) last night when I went online to look for a protective case. At eBay, most cases had automatic magnetic start/stop switches that operated when you opened/closed the case. This system has been around for a year or two in Apple and Google tablets, and now Amazon has added it to its new top of the line Paperwhite e-ink reader.

The Kindle Paperwhite e-ink reader

The Kindle Paperwhite e-ink reader

My Paperwhite is ‘Special Offers’, as are all US-sourced Kindles nowadays. Special Offers is the company’s euphemism for containing advertisements. You can pay extra, later on, to remove the ads.

One advantage I could see, with the case turning the unit on or off, was that it might shield my eyes from the ads that appear when you turn the unit off.

I should be so lucky. The second, swiping stage of the startup, seems designed to make sure you see the ad after all.

So far the ads haven’t been objectionable – they’ve either been for book specials or an electric shaver. Not the endless diaper ads that pissed me off so much on my earlier Kindle Touch, and finally made me spend US$30 to remove all ads.

But the magnetic cover should hide the ads most of the time and I may not bother coughing up to lose them. Losing them was quite a performance anyway – I had to temporarily spoof the Amazon system into thinking I was American-resident, because these Kindle models are not for the likes of us Downunder.

If I actually lived in America, I’d keep the ads anyway, because they include some great deals. But none of the deals are available outside North America.

Another saving grace for these ads is that they don’t appear on the pages of a book you are actually reading. They fill the screen when the Kindle is turned off, and small versions of them are at the bottom of filing and administration pages.

As far as the Paperwhite Kindle itself is concerned, I’m delighted. It’s definitely the best Kindle e-ink reader yet – a step up from the earlier premium model, the Kindle Touch. I particularly like:

  • Improved screen – much better contrast, with a whiter background. This is partly achieved with a built-in light that is best left on, even during the day.
  • Higher screen resolution, which makes text more readable – especially smaller text in the Kindle Store.
  • Greater choice of fonts. Books are best read with serif fonts and other Kindles only have one rather ugly thick font. That font wouldn’t win aesthetic awards but it’s very legible on screens with lower contrast and lower resolution. Now I am using the more elegant Baskerville font. Sometimes also Palatino.
  • Nicer touch operation with a capacitive touch screen.
  • Generally faster operation – though still sluggish compared with the Kindle app on a tablet or smartphone. But the sluggishness is really only a problem during filing and search operations, not when a book is actually being read. I still greatly prefer to read books on my e-ink Kindle than on my backlit iPad or Nexus 7.

    The Paperwhite's brightness setting.

    The Paperwhite’s brightness setting.

Amazon won’t ship the Paperwhite to New Zealand, but I had them send it to an American friend, who then posted it to me. The cost, including his postage, was US$130. Say NZ$160. It’s not sold officially in New Zealand, but pricespy.co.nz lists five parallel importers who are happy to fleece you for $295-$316.

[Follow-up: the new magnetic cover arrived in record time (five days) via eBay/Hong Kong, for about NZ$12. It works just fine, looks and feels good. I wouldn’t waste money on the expensive official Amazon case. My exposure to Amazon’s ads is now greatly reduced. It takes only a moment to swipe from the ad and into the book I’m reading, after the cover is opened and the device turns on. Did Amazon score an own-goal in putting a magnetic on-off switch in the Paperwhite?]

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2 Responses to Kindle Paperwhite pushes ads at you but is still the best e-ink Kindle to own

  1. Reblogged this on Bill Bennett and commented:
    Amazon’s “Ad-supported” approach would quickly wear thin with me. Mind you paying US$20 to remove advertising seems reasonable – it’s only a 15% premium over the free version.

    It brings up an interesting point. If the lifetime value of ads on a reading device is worth just US$20 to Amazon, which is in the business of flogging stuff online, it says a lot about the what’s going on in the world of advertising supported online newspapers and magazines.

  2. jmacg says:

    It is an interesting point. Not sure what the answer is. I wonder the same thing about iOS and Android apps. Sometimes it’s only about a couple of dollars to buy the ‘full’ version without ads.

    Amazon has actually reduced the cost of making the ads go away. US$20 now, but it was US$30 for my Touch model.

    I thought I had put a note on Evernote about how I spoofed the system last time, to lose the ads. Can’t find it, unfortunately. I think it included temporarily changing my residential address and phone number to that of my American friend. I think I’ll wait to see how much the case, with its magnetic switch, will reduce the amount of ads I have to see.

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