Kindle Paperwhite

I love reading. My mom tells me I’ve been reading since I was three years old. She would catch me reading when I should have been sleeping, and my kids were the same way. Now it seems my grandkids are picking up the torch and carrying on in this tradition.

Too Many Books

As a veteran of 20 years in the Air Force, I have many moves under my belt, and I can tell you as someone who loves to read, and consequently accumulates books, moving a hundred or more boxes of books is no picnic.

However,  you can’t just throw away books! You’ve spent good money on those books, you’ve spent hours of your time reading them, they are more than friends. They are part of your family. Like family members,  you would be happy to see them move on to other lives with other people who love them, but you don’t just discard them.

We currently have ten bookcases in our house, and still have boxes of books in random locations.

Goodness, what do we do with all these books we’ll never read again?

Ebooks – Aaahhh!

Curiously,  ebooks predate personal computers, dating back to 1971, when Michael Hart at the University of Illinois started Project Gutenberg (cite | site).

The Glassbook e-reader launched in 2000, opening the current age of making ebooks available to everyone. Microsoft quickly followed in August of that year with the Microsoft reader, lending “big corporation” credibility to the idea.

Nearly a decade later, I bought an Amazon Kindle (keyboard edition) as a gift for my wife, and she enjoyed reading it for a while, but within a couple of years, it was gathering dust on a shelf.

Why? She got a iPad, and liked reading books on the iPad much better.

Meantime, I had also gotten an iPad, and found I very much enjoyed reading books on the iPad.

I really liked the fact that I could change font size, I really liked it that the device contained its own light source, and I really liked being able to switch back and forth between regular mode and nighttime mode – white print on a black page.

As it turns out, with the years creeping upon me, paper-based books were becoming harder and harder to read. I needed brighter light, and books with smaller print were becoming more and more of a strain. So the iPad was a true blessing, allowing me to truly enjoy reading again.

Reading In Bed

One of my favorite times to read, and I bet it’s the same for you, is in bed, just before going to sleep. This is where reading on my iPad truly became a pleasure. With the internal light, I could turn off my bedside light, so when my eyes began to slam shut, I just closed the cover on the iPad and put it down. With the nighttime mode enabled, the iPad’s light was not too bright. With the adjustable light level, I could make it a comfortable level of brightness. And finally, with the iBooks app, the Kindle app, and another app that has since gone defunct (Stanza), I had plenty of options for reading.

The biggest drawback to reading on the iPad, especially at night in bed, was the weight of it.  At over two pounds (2.15 with the case), it makes my hand cramp if I have to hold it up for any period of time.

Kindle Owners’ Lending Library

Meantime, I’d been hearing and reading about the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which is a deal in which people who own a Kindle device and are members of Amazon Prime can check out one book a month for free, and read it on their Kindle device.

That was very appealing to me, but it wouldn’t work on the Kindle app on my iPad, or even on my computer, because neither is an actual Kindle device.

We were already members of Prime, because my wife loves their free two-day shipping, especially when ordering things for the grandkids.

So all I needed was my own Kindle device. However, I wasn’t all that eager to get one of the original models, because it needed an external light source to be able to see it.

I thought about getting a Kindle Fire, but since I already had an iPad, I didn’t think it would be worthwhile to spend the money on another tablet computer.

Enter Kindle Paperwhite

Then I heard about the Kindle Paperwhite. When I heard it was a standard Kindle device with their e-ink display and its own light source, my ears perked up.

About Amazon

First, I’ve always liked Amazon – they don’t seem to want to milk their customer for every penny they can get, unlike the majority of sellers. A few years ago, my wife’s Kindle died, so I called Amazon’s support line. At first, they said i could replace it for (about) $130, since it was out of warranty. When I said I’m sorry, we just don’t have that in our budget right now, the rep put me on hold for no more than half a minute to talk to a supervisor, then came back and offered to replace it at no cost. Sure, I understand they were counting on me buying lots more ebooks from them, but still, this is outstanding customer service, and greatly reinforced my liking of the company.

That liking of the company took another elevator ride when I saw Jeff Bezos (Amazon’s founder and CEO) 60-minutes segment (December 2013). It was fun to watch, but the part that put a smile in my heart was when Bezos said,  “We do price elasticity studies, and every time, the math tells us to raise prices.” The interviewer asks, “Well, why don’t you do it?” and Bezos replies, “Because doing so would erode trust, and that erosion of trust would cost us much more in the long run.”

Here’s the 60 Minutes segment, if you’d like to see it. It’s 14 minutes long. There’s a good comment about Amazon introducing the Kindle Fire at cost at 6:46. Bezos says they will make their money when people buy the extras. This is similar to Gillette sellling razors at near cost and making their profit on the blades, or computer printer makers selling their printers for $50 then making their money on the ink.

If you want to see just the Octocopter segment, go to 10:57 in the video below; if you want to see Bezos’ comment on prices, go to 7:17 – if you watch this part, you’ll see why I want to support Amazon and keep them in business.

About Kindles and E-Ink

First, a Kindle reading device is very lightweight.  My Kindle Paperwhite weighs less than half a pound. This makes it very easy to hold, even while falling asleep in bed. I like to joke that the device doesn’t get any heavier even when I load 150 books in it.

Second, Kindles have excellent battery life. One of the biggest hassles with owning electronic devices today is the need to recharge their batteries almost constantly.  With my Kindle, I frequently go a month between charges.

Part of the reason for this is the e-ink technology they use.  If you want all the details, go to this page and scroll down until you see “E Ink 101.” But in a nutshell, e-ink is a high-resolution binary (black or white) technology that only uses power when it changes, such as when you turn a page. On a page turn or other screen refresh, power is used to set every pixel on the page to either black or white, then it stays there, not using power, until the next change.

This technology allows you to read your device in bright sunlight without it being washed out as it gets on my iPad.

Paperwhite Versions

The Paperwhite version of the Kindle has its own built-in light.  It comes in two versions – one with ads for $119 and one without ads for $139. I understand the ads only show on the “sleep” screen, so they don’t bother you while you’re reading.

The light has adjustable brightness, and the device includes a dictionary, so if you see a word you don’t know while you’re reading, you can touch and hold it for a second, and a box pops up with a definition of the word, and the option to highlight the word or place a bookmark for future reference.

The device even includes an internet browser, but  it isn’t very good.  If you want an internet browser, use a computer or tablet. This is a reading device.

Millions Of Available Books, Including Cheap and Free

At first I thought I’d get frustrated having to spend ten bucks a pop to get the books I wanted. I justified this, saying even at $10, that’s a lot less than the $25 or so you’d spend for a hardback of the same thing.

However, it didn’t take long for me to find the FREE section in the Kindle Store on Amazon, and the UNDER $4 section as well. There’s a daily newsletter called Pixel of Ink, which tells us every day about four free ebooks, and several more reduced-price ebooks, some of which are today-only specials. For me. better than 90% of what they list doesn’t interest me. But I have gotten enough books from the few that do interest me to keep me reading for years into the future.

CAUTION: some of these free ebooks are worth exactly what you pay for them. But others have been wonderful jewels of delight.

The bottom line here is I’m extremely happy with my Kindle Paperwhite, and am ecstatic to be enjoying reading once again.

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