Image: Hugh Threlfall
February 07 2013
It is perhaps because I have kind of reached terminal velocity myself – seriously, in most fields, I’m already about as good as I’m going to get – that I have become interested in the idea of gadgets getting to the point where they can’t be significantly improved. Computers, cameras, phones – all are reaching their zenith. The next few years had better be a good time for new genres of technology, or I’m out of a job.
This latest Kindle, the Paperwhite, extends the terminal velocity notion to eBook readers. I have never been a great fan of the Kindle, even the Touch model that I reviewed last July, which was all right, but still seemed a bit military/school-issue. Not the Paperwhite. Faster and slicker than previous Kindles, this eReader has a gently lit screen that is, in its quiet way, sensational – partly because it barely uses any power, so it can glow away for weeks between charges.
OK, iPads have a lit screen, too, and using the Kindle app on them you can enjoy this seamless eBook ecosystem in the dark. So when the iPad Mini, which I reviewed in Technopolis TV, came out just after the Paperwhite, it gave me cause to wonder if I was still so excited about the new Kindle. However, back-lit iPads do stress eyes after a while, whereas the front-lit Paperwhite doesn’t. The iPad also only has a 10-hour battery life and you can’t use it in bright sunshine, whereas a Kindle thrives in it. Plus it can slip into a jacket pocket, while the Mini is a centimetre too wide.
If I were being picky, I could point out that the Paperwhite’s minimal but effective lighting is slightly uneven. You should also know that its rivals – the Kobo Glo, the Nook SimpleTouch with GlowLight and the Cybook Odyssey HD Frontlight, all launched within a few weeks – are very similar. Personally, I would go with the Paperwhite, although if for some reason you prefer a rival eBook catalogue, it’s unlikely to be a bad choice. This is a whole technology that has matured, not just the leading brand. Terminal velocity, then? Well, if tomorrow’s eBook readers had everything here and a colour screen…