My new Kindle Paperwhite arrived in the mail yesterday and since I have had a chance to play around with it for a few hours last night, I thought I would share my first impressions.
I decided on this e-reader ultimately, even though I knew it would lock me into Amazon, because as I looked at the other e-readers out there, there was slim selection and not many had the features I wanted.
That said, I’m not an Amazon fan; I will make that clear from the start. I know this makes me sound like a hypocrite, because I have subscribed to Amazon Prime, I buy products from Amazon and I now just bought a Kindle. But in truth, I hate the Amazon monopoly, and especially how authors feel that it is their only option, because it’s got the largest market. Sometimes, it feels like the only option, even though there are alternatives, which I patronize also. I hate how I could spend a fortune on Amazon if I let myself and that is how Jeff Bezos has made his money. If I were self publishing, and that’s not an option that interests me right now, I would not only make my book available on Amazon, but other platforms as well.
I mean, look at this: $10 a month for Amazon Prime. $10 for Kindle Unlimited. $14 for Audible. And the list goes on. But this wasn’t supposed to be a scathing diatribe about Amazon; I would boycott it completely, as I do Wal-Mart, if I found it completely disgusting. I think as with many things in American capitalism, I have simply made my peace with it. I also shop at independent bookstores, I don’t do much online shopping (until now) and (until now) I have resisted buying a Kindle.
I digress. I shall now move on to the review, but that in truth is part of the review. Physically, the Paperwhite is so thin, it shipped in an envelope. It’s extremely lightweight and sleek. It’s a modern, beautiful-looking product, with a pleasing feel to the touch. It’s got a decent sized screen, bigger than my iPhone, which I was looking for. However, the size of this device is a bit awkward to fit into the palm of your hand, so it is a little challenging to hold it comfortably if you read lying in bed a lot like I do. But I’ll trade that discomfort for a bigger screen.
Another perk is the low brightness of the screen. It has a matte finish, so it conveys less eye strain than reading on a phone. When it sleeps it looks almost like darkened plastic. This is not to say the product feels plastic; far from it. It just looks strange when it sleeps, as if it is not really real. It has almost no buttons or keys like a tablet. It has one button next to the charging port that you use to wake it up.
I found out you could use Overdrive to check out library books on the Kindle but the process of checking out a book is not intuitive and somewhat obtuse. However, the option to do so is why I wanted an e-reader, so I am glad it is possible. Otherwise, I would be spending a fortune on a $5-10 book every week, which is what I was trying to avoid. You first go to the Overdrive website, sign in using your library card information, and then you check out the book through a redirect link to the Amazon website, which then downloads the book to your Kindle as if you have bought it. You cannot, however, do this on the Kindle; you must do it on a device that can download apps. The Kindle is not a tablet, so it does not have apps, other than Goodreads.
Speaking of Goodreads, I now understand why Amazon was so interested in Goodreads. Searching for books on Kindle is quite clunky. Kindle gives you top-rated and bestselling books. Usually these are books that do not interest me, if they appeal to the masses. Goodreads is a site where people rate books. I can see now why authors like these reviews. Reviews only seem worth it to attract Kindle readers since its algorithm is built on a ratings system. Quite ingenious, really, but challenging for people like me with more discerning tastes.
I searched through the Kindle store for at least two hours before I gave up and just looked on Overdrive. Which brings me to Kindle Unlimited. So you know how you can tell immediately if a book will have trashy writing quality just from its cover? You didn’t? Well, I can. My formula never seems to fail. If the cover is trashy, the book blurb is usually poorly written, and then the book itself is mass-market tripe. I searched through Kindle Unlimited and I was unimpressed with the selection. Lots of vampires, steamy romances and other sorts of mass-market topics that seem favored by Twitter authors as their one-stop ticket to quit the misery of their day job and lead a glamorous, creative life as a bestselling author. Almost always, I hate those kinds of books.
I got three months free of Kindle Unlimited along with my purchase of the Kindle, but because of those reasons, I’m going to let that subscription lapse after that time. I think I’ll find more interesting and better-written books via Overdrive.
The cumbersome search feature brings me to my other disappointment with Amazon and Amazon products. When you have literally thousands of options, I would say 80 percent are options that don’t interest me and are of poor quality. The more quantity, the lower the quality.
Ultimately, I prefer going into an indie bookstore that is well-curated, and getting to hold and touch books and flip through a few pages. Even introvert me prefers talking to a human who has read X, Y, and Z authors and can tell you if you might like A, B and C. It’s much better than “customers who bought this item also bought” or “based on your purchase history you might like the next book in a series you hated.” But that world is fading fast and was always a labor of love, a vanity of the privileged, even in good times. The world is changing.
In conclusion, despite my reservations about Amazon, I am still glad I made this purchase. As long as I restrain myself from spending money as if it is iTunes, which is easy to do since it is a click away, the e-reader experience is the most comfortable I’ve had yet. I also appreciate how you can increase the font size, making books easier to read for those of us with poor vision. I’m looking forward to using this e-reader more. I just wish there was a better way to find people who share my tastes, among the sea of reviews. Reviews and ratings do no good if it’s yet more “steamy vampire romance on a moving train with car chases” which everybody else likes except me. That’s why I continue to post my reviews, even if only five people read them.