- E-readers are tablet-like devices that bring you the joys of reading without the hassle of bulky physical books.
- The Kindle Paperwhite is an evolution of the original Kindle, offering features like adjustable warm lighting and waterproofing.
- When considering whether to get the Kindle Paperwhite, remember that you already own a phone with similar features and that buying a new gadget won’t make you read more.
The allure of a brand-new Kindle Paperwhite is palpable if you’re already looking for a new e-reader. It’s one notch above the base model, offers the latest features, and has Amazon’s library standing behind it. Who knows? Buying a hot new device might be a way to start reading again, but that might not be all it’s cracked up to be.
In an already relentless world, juggling work, family, friends, and personal interests is enough of a balancing act. Adding in a brand new toy to give a slice of your already rationed time could rekindle a love for reading, or it could just become another part of your day that you don’t have time for.
A new device dedicated to reading should make it easier, right? Let’s explore why this isn’t a magic bullet solution and how you can see if spending money on something new is even worth pursuing.
What Is an E-Reader?
E-readers are tablet-like devices that bring you the joys of reading without the hassle of bulky physical books. E-readers have been around for the last two decades, originating in the late 90s, when companies started producing devices that display text on an LCD screen.
Later, in 2004, “electronic paper” gained popularity due to its ability to display text without the use of a backlight — something traditional displays still rely on to this day. The main allure for most e-readers is the use of electronic paper for low-power devices that don’t have to worry about dealing with daylight glare, and that let you focus on reading and reading alone.
Over the years, e-readers have become more advanced, and they’ve had a consistent niche among consumers. Now, most e-readers use Wi-Fi to get their content and connect to online libraries provided by digital distributors. Modern e-readers use a variety of screen types, depending on the device and the other functionality offered, but electronic paper still finds its use.
Oftentimes, due to the power of modern computing, if your e-reader has a display other than electronic paper, it will also offer normal tablet functions.
What Is a Kindle Paperwhite?
Among e-readers, the Amazon Kindle has been a major player since its release in 2007, when it sold out in five and a half hours. By 2010, Kindles represented 48% of global e-reader sales.
It’s no surprise that being the first reader to boast Wi-Fi capabilities made the Kindle stand far in front of its competition as most e-readers, even at the time, relied on storage cards and physical connections to update their local libraries. Kindles also had the benefit of Amazon’s extensive library and literary connections, having originally been a book-selling site!
The Kindle Paperwhite is an evolution of the original Kindle. The focus is on being the middle ground between the base Kindle and the more premium options. Jeff Bezos himself described the first Paperwhite as “The Kindle we’ve always wanted to build.”
Paperwhites have improved since their first iteration in 2012, now showing features like adjustable warm lighting and 10 weeks of battery life, as well as waterproofing and anti-glare displays for those on the go.
Reasons to Avoid the Kindle Paperwhite
Now that we’ve gone over what these e-readers are and why they’re great at what they do, let’s look at why you might not want to spend money on a new Kindle.
Reason #1: You Already Have a Phone
With a lot of today’s devices already beginning to fall into the “phablet” class and costing anywhere between $500 – $1500 dollars, it’s important to ensure you’re getting good use out of it. Most over the last five years have used displays with insane clarity, and modern models using crystal clear OLEDs means that crisp e-ink can still look fuzzy in comparison.
Phones also often offer ways to tune the display to feel warmer or cooler and even enable automatic eye-strain reduction methods. Even features such as waterproofing and long battery life are standard for almost all phone manufacturers.
All of these selling points sound similar to the Paperwhite, except your phone also comes with tons of additional functionality. Not only is this device already pocket-sized and portable, but you’ll be used to using it.
You also won’t be limited to the Amazon bookstore, as Paperwhite only has limited support for purchasing or downloading books outside of Amazon’s ecosystem. If you’re planning on buying a Kindle so you can read on the go, consider the device already in your pocket.
Reason #2: Buying a New Gadget Won’t Make You Read
If you’re looking at e-readers because you want to read more, it’s not a great idea to give yourself a sunken cost to do it. Reading is a habit, and even if you do happen to finish a book in the first two weeks of buying a Paperwhite, it isn’t a guarantee that you won’t fall into the same habits again after you feel like you’ve justified your purchase a few books in.
If you don’t already carry a book or alternative e-reader, how are you going to make space for it once you get it? Do you have the time in your weekly routine to take a moment to turn a few pages?
Answering no to either of those questions probably means you’ll be putting in effort just to use your new device. Rather than spending the money, it might be better to keep some in your pocket and think more about how you can start reading again.
Reason #3: You Probably Have Books You Don’t Read
Whether it’s a book you’ve already read before, a gift from a friend, or something you picked up thinking you’d have read by now, you have something you can read now. Why wait? If you’re going to buy a Kindle anyway, why not start reading something on hand?
If you can get through something you’ve already spent money on, then go ahead and splurge, but if you’ve got reading material already taking up space and collecting dust, maybe hold off on buying a new dust collector. I know I have more books on my shelf than I could read in a year. But this might not be true for everyone.
Reason #4: You Might Already Have an E-Reader
As of 2014, around half of American adults had either a tablet or an e-reader device, and with the number of devices sold since then, it’s likely you have something usable lying around. Why not give your potential purchase a pseudo test drive? It’s not like displaying text on a screen requires the latest cutting-edge technology. So, an older device should be fine.
Try seeing if you enjoy reading in a digital format! If you already have something that can connect to a digital library, why not use something just lying around already?
It’s also something you could try borrowing from family or friends since lots of people have one. There’s a very high likelihood you would even be able to get a heavily discounted price from a friend if you end up really liking what you borrow.
Either way, consider getting some extra use out of a device you or a loved one may have rather than creating more e-waste and inflating the sales of a device you possibly won’t even like.
Reason #5: There are Lots of Alternative Options
Amazon holds a powerful presence in the e-reader space, but they’re far from the only player. Companies like Kobo, and even Barnes & Noble, have their hands in the game. Consider a competitor option like the Kobo Clara 2E for built-in public library support to get access to tons of free books, the Kobo Libra 2 for the premium feel and wide support of digital formats, or even an iPad for an increase in general functionality with e-reading support.
On the flip side, maybe an e-reader is too restrictive for what you might actually use a new device for. The Paperwhite lacks general features common to most tablets, and you might want something more tailored to productivity, art, or even notetaking; consider that for a similar price, you might get a device that you can get a lot more value out of.
Reason #6: You Won’t Be Unplugged
This isn’t a concern for everyone, but life without a myriad of screens around us seems impossible. Sometimes, it’s nice to use your eyes for things other than staring at a screen. And with the average global screen time at around 6 hours and 58 minutes a day, it’s vital we try to give our vision a break.
Seven hours looking at something digital is easy enough with work and most ways we relax today, so it might be nice to stick to something more analog in this case. E-readers are designed with eye strain in mind, but most techniques rely on reducing the amount of strain, not eliminating it.
A paperback, however, isn’t emitting light directly into your eyes. Regular old books may not feel as convenient or sleek, but how often do you get the choice to not use a screen?
Reason #7: Your Local Libraries Are Free
Why spend money on a device that lets you spend money on books when you could get books for free? Libraries aren’t glorious all around the world, but most of the time, you can get access to thousands of books without even having to spend a penny.
It could seem like additional work in some cases, but it is a process that is not only very simple to learn but offers long-term benefits and a constantly expanding list of materials to choose from.
Library usage also is tracked and plays a part in how local, federal, and state funding is allocated, so you actually benefit your community and place of living by making use of the resources nearby. By adding your usage to the statistics, libraries can justify more programs and events that you can directly benefit from! Not only that, but you’ll be contributing to those around you just by participating.
Reason #8: Kindle Devices May Not Interface Well With Your Library
In our current digital age, licenses for media are a burden we all have to deal with in some way, but there’s a silver lining in this case. If you have certain e-readers, you can borrow digital licenses directly from your local library. This means you can get all the benefits of using your library with the convenience of an e-reader.
There are several ways to do this, and it varies from place to place. Unfortunately, the Kindle ecosystem is known for being a bit obtuse when using free libraries. Other e-reader options can have better or even direct integrations with free online libraries So, rather than being goaded into buying your books from the built-in store, you could borrow a digital copy instead.
Reason #9: Physical Books Really Aren’t Too Inconvenient
How often have you found yourself reading more than two books at a time? Have you ever even tried to keep up with more than one book? If not, is one book really much bulkier than an e-reader and charger?
Yes, your options for carrying around multiple books might not be as extensive. But it’s not like most people switch books from chapter to chapter. If you have the space in your bag to fit a tablet, you have the space for a book.
Worst case scenario, you finish a book you’ve been reading at the beginning of some trip. Buying a new book won’t be too much of an issue. If you’re anywhere but in the most remote places, there will be a place to buy a book.
Besides dedicated bookstores, supermarkets, and pharmacies, you can count on several bookstores around if you find yourself in an airport. Having to deal with a second unexpected book isn’t going to be too much of a packing disaster.
Reason #10: You Won’t Have a Physical Copy
Sometimes, you just can’t replicate the feeling of a real book in your hands. Some people like to collect, some people like to share, and some might want to resell something they don’t need anymore. No matter who you are, you won’t be able to do any of these things with a digital license.
In fact, you may not even own the book you “buy” from a digital storefront because of a 30-page document of legalese saying you’re paying for the right to be allowed to view content that could disappear at any time. Not all storefronts are the same, but if you have a digital license, there is no guarantee you’ll keep that book if someone decides it should be removed.
Physical property is one of the few things we can actually own today, and giving that up for some convenience can make you miss out. No one’s brought a date home and had a conversation about a book they saw open on your tablet.
Not many people are going to spend time looking through your digital library. So, you’re going to have to shoehorn it into conversation if you want to share some books that way. You also won’t have anything for them to borrow unless you’re giving up your tablet for a while, and that also means giving up your entire library if digital is your main form of consumption.
Reason #11: A New Kindle May Be on the Way
The Kindle Paperwhite 5 launched in 2021. Judging by Amazon’s release history, they’re due to drop an update in 2024. If you really want a new device, why not wait to see if the next one is a little better or save some money buying the now slightly older version?
If you haven’t bought the Paperwhite yet, you can probably stand to wait a bit for the next release. Wouldn’t it suck to buy a new device, only for the updated version to come out immediately after?
Alternatives to the Kindle Paperwhite
Okay, so we may have scared you away from buying a Kindle Paperwhite. But if you still want an e-reader, you still have some options.
- 300 PPI display (glare-free, paper-like)
- A single charge via USB-C lasts up to 6 weeks
- 16GB of storage
- Access to Kindle Unlimited with over 2 million titles
When comparing the Paperwhite to the original Kindle, it is hard to justify getting the Paperwhite unless you have a good reason for doing so. Both devices are similar, but there are a few key differences between base models that might drive you one way or the other.
The base Kindle comes in at $99 with a 6” display, 16 GB of storage, and 6 weeks of battery life. The Paperwhite sits at $139, with a 6.8” display, 8 GB of storage, waterproofing, and an impressive 10 weeks of battery life.
The Kobo Libra 2
- 7" HD E Ink Carta 1200 touchscreen
- Waterproof body for reading anywhere
- 32GB of storage
- You can take up to 24,000 ebooks, 150 Kobo Audiobooks, or a combination of both with you anywhere
Kobo is a fighter in the e-reader space. Amazon is the dominant force. But Japan-based Kobo offers a line of e-readers that sit toe to toe with every Kindle. The Kobo Libra 2 has a hefty price tag of around $190. But it also sits closer to the Kindle Oasis in terms of luxury. Sure, it’s not a direct competitor to the Paperwhite, but it offers lots of features and also plenty of support for third-party booksellers.
The NOOK GlowLight
- 7.8" high-resolution 300-dpi display
- You can set the NOOK to mimic the natural progression of the sun automatically
- Features physical page-turning buttons
- IPx7 rating (you can submerge the NOOK in 3 ft. of water for up to 30 minutes)
- 8GB of memory
Barnes & Noble is well known for its physical bookstores, but struggles to shine among e-readers. Still, it’s worth considering these devices. They’re a bit pricy and, comparatively, their library features might feel limited. However, that doesn’t mean this device couldn’t feel better for you.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©SERGIO V S RANGEL/Shutterstock.com.