“I miss the smell of the new book”; “the page turns just don’t feel as good”…
Sounds familiar? Even if you’re an ardent bibliophile and have muttered something similar when considering a move to an e-reader, there’s no denying the convenience (and space savings!) of switching. Amazon’s Kindle devices have, by and large, been the gold standard for this category, and the Kindle Paperwhite has repeatedly earned an easy recommendation, relegating the entry-level Kindle to, well, the entry level.
The latest 11th generation Kindle (Rs. 9999) is a whole different story, though. It’s got enough upgrades to justify its “Paperwhite Junior” tag — a new 300ppi high-resolution screen that bids farewell to the blurry text the base Kindle was known for, USB-C charging and a bump in storage space to 16GB — but what’s it like to use, what’s to like (a lot!) and does it justify the slightly steeper price tag, particularly as it narrows the gap, both in features and price, with the waterproof Paperwhite (Rs. 13,999)?
Retaining the smaller six-inch display on the new Kindle may seem initially at odds with the recent Paperwhite decision to ship with a larger 6.8-inch display — the larger screen afforded the Paperwhite more content per screen with fewer of the energy-consuming screen refreshes when you turned the pages. At a diminutive 6.2x4.3x0.32-inches though, the smaller size allows the Kindle to easily slip into a jacket pocket or disappear into a backpack, and because it weighs just 158 grams, it’s lighter than most phones and you often forget it’s with you.
The design isn’t too fresh though — it’s got the same somewhat dated-looking raised bezel around the e-ink screen, and one would have preferred physical page-turning buttons on the thicker bottom bezel, instead of all the screen-tapping. New this time is a USB-C port for charging and PC connectivity (a USB-A-to-USB-C cable is included), a welcome upgrade from the micro-USB that literally no one uses anymore. It still sips power, so despite using it with brightness cranked up and flipping between several books, the Kindle should go for weeks on casual use without having to plug it in.
Reading in the dark
What’s certainly more noticeable is the jump up to the higher pixel-density (300 pixels per inch) display, up from the 2019 Kindle’s 167ppi, which lines it up alongside the Paperwhite and brings the base Kindle’s reading experience finally out of the less readable, budget category experience that had held it back all along. As soon as I finished setting it up, I pulled down a book I was reading on the Paperwhite some weeks prior, and picked up right where I left off.
Much like any other Kindle that came before it, the reading experience is easy on the eyes, with the text looking just like ink on paper, especially when you use it with the backlight off. Text is crisp, and even comics with their tiny fonts were quite readable. As it was nearing the end of the day, one did note that in lower light conditions, say when one is turning in for bed, the four LEDs that light up the Kindle screen aren’t a patch on the Paperwhite’s 17-LED, white-temperature-adjustable display.
The Kindle only offers one hue of white with a relatively cool temperature, and you can brighten or darken the intensity — but there’s none of that warmer white lighting that’s easier on the eyes when reading on a Paperwhite. Redemption comes via the inclusion of dark mode on this Kindle, which inverts the colors (with white text on black) for easier reading at night.
The rest of the experience is in line with any Kindle you may be familiar with — you tap the screen to flip pages, use the top of the screen for the navigation menu, and change fonts/size, margins and spacing from the settings. You use either Amazon’s store to buy and download ebooks, and if you have a lot of public domain books downloaded, you can use a software like Calibre to convert to any of the Kindle supported formats and transfer over USB. Stuff you buy from Amazon is categorized neatly on the home screen (along with recommendations based on your reading habits), but your mileage may vary with books you import manually. If you’re a social reading fan and a Goodreads regular, the service directly integrates into the Kindle. You can have books read back to you over audio/Bluetooth, but that functionality exists only for English titles.
A solid upgrade
When you factor in the additional storage in the base Kindle, the Kindle does present itself as a compelling alternative to the pricier Paperwhite, if you’re not hung up on the waterproofing and the adjustable warmth display. At Rs. 10,000, it represents a not insignificant bump in pricing (the previous Kindle retailed for Rs. 7,999/8GB), but it delivers a better, take-everywhere reading experience and more storage than the previous model, while delivering most of the features of the Paperwhite for a lot less. Buying this may not feel like the steal older Kindle fans would remember them to be, but it’s also gotten a lot better along the way.
If you’re picking up your first ereader and want something that checks the boxes (if not all the frills), this is the one to buy.