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Amazon’s New Kindle Paperwhite: A More Refined Rival To Paper

More pixels, a better typeface, and–coming soon–seriously sophisticated typesetting.

Amazon’s New Kindle Paperwhite: A More Refined Rival To Paper
[Photo: courtesy of Amazon]

In 2012, Amazon introduced the Kindle Paperwhite, an e-reader with a remarkably bright, white monochrome display. It remained the gold standard in e-readers for a couple of years, until the company released the Kindle Voyage, a model with an even better display, with 300-dpi resolution that finally matched the crispness of ink on dead trees.

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Now Amazon is upgrading the Paperwhite with display and typography improvements that should result in a more paper-like experience–and, at $119, make the device a candidate for the company’s best e-reader in terms of bang for the buck. (The Voyage retains an edge in industrial-design panache, but goes for $199.)

Like the Voyage, the revamped Paperwhite sports a 300-dpi screen, for razor-sharp text and monochrome photographs which, unlike those on previous E Ink devices, really look like photographs. It uses Amazon’s new typeface, Bookerly, which is tuned for on-screen readability. And with a free software update which Amazon says will be available “in the coming weeks,” it will further address a long-standing Kindle deficiency–inexplicably crude typography–by formatting a half-million books (for starters) with improved justification, spacing, hyphenation, and kerning. (My colleague John Brownlee looked at Bookerly and Amazon’s other typesetting upgrades, which are rolling out across the Kindle line of devices and apps, last month.)

I keep worrying that the tech industry will decide that monochrome e-readers designed for reading–and only reading–are an anachronism in the era of splashy color tablets such as the iPad and Amazon’s own Fire models. Amazon’s erstwhile archrival Barnes & Noble, for instance, hasn’t updated its Nook GlowLight in a couple of years. So it’s always a relief when the Kindle line gets a refresh–and it’s nice to know that the new Paperwhite will compete with Kobo’s new Glo HD model, another 300-dpi e-reader which sells (at least for the time being) for $130.

About the author

Harry McCracken is the technology editor for Fast Company, based in San Francisco. In past lives, he was editor at large for Time magazine, founder and editor of Technologizer, and editor of PC World.

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