Amazon’s announcement of a new and improved Kindle Paperwhite is excellent news for fans of the dedicated eReader.
I actually had worried that the next generation of devices from Amazon might leave the E Ink Kindles untouched, with all the emphasis going to a new line of thinner, lighter, faster, and brighter Kindle Fire models and maybe a Kindle phone. Up till today’s letter from Jeff Bezos on the Amazon landing page, I have not seen a single rumor about updated E Ink Kindles.
But we needn’t have worried. Bezos over and over again has emphasized his commitment to the dedicated eReader, and the E Ink Kindle team has clearly not been resting on its laurels.
The dimensions of the new Paperwhite, which will begin shipping September 30 for the WiFi-only model and sometime in November for 3G, appear to be exactly the same as the current Paperwhite–6.7″ by 4.6″ by .36″. But somehow Amazon’s Lab 126 has managed to trim two-tenths of an ounce in weight. The WiFi model will weigh 7.3 ounces compared with 7.5 ounces for the current one. The 3G will weigh 7.6 ounces compared with 7.8 ounces for the current Paperwhite 3G. I doubt we’ll notice the difference in actual heft, but I very much like the idea of a slightly lighter Paperwhite. It testifies to Amazon’s relentless improvement of the details.
Another improvement I like very much is Page Flip. A paper book is still easier to navigate than an eBook, by flipping through pages and chapters via the physical pages. From the graphic above, taken from the new Paperwhite page, it looks as if Page Flip will bring up a new view of the book without leaving the page you are reading. You will be able to flip through the Page Flip graphic as you would the paper pages of a print book. And there will also be a slider at the bottom enabling you to skim chapter by chapter.
If Page Flip works smoothly, perhaps taking advantage of the new Paperwhite’s overall speed improvement, it will be a significant advance in eBook technology.
I am impressed that the Goodreads integration is close enough to be announced with this new Paperwhite. But if you read the details at the product page, you’ll note that the Goodreads features apparently won’t be up and running when the Paperwhite Wi-Fi begins shipping on September 30. It says “COMING SOON” in bold type next to the Goodreads description.
From the graphics, it looks as if the Goodreads integration is going to be robust. You’ll be able to add all your Amazon book purchases, eBook and print, to your Goodreads shelves, with ratings. And you will be able to see books recommended by your Goodreads friends.
There are other smart, modest improvements of the reading experience, including inline footnotes and an improved lookup window that includes dictionary, Wikipedia, and X-Ray.
Also in the “Coming Soon” category is Kindle FreeTime capability on the Paperwhite, a benefit if you have been thinking of getting a Paperwhite for your child or, as in my case, a grandchild. You will be able to personalize a profile on the Paperwhite for an individual child, and kids will be rewarded with achievement badges for their reading progress. Up till now Kindle FreeTime has only been available on the Kindle Fire tablets.
It is unusual that Amazon announced this new Paperwhite on the web page, instead of giving Jeff Bezos the chance to hold one aloft on the stage of wherever the upcoming, as-yet-unannounced press conference will be held in a few weeks or so. I think this is smart, because it will let the spotlight fall exclusively on the new Kindle Fires, which are, if we can believe leaked reports, going to be dramatically improved devices.
Today’s online Paperwhite announcement might also indicate we will get to meet the much-rumored Kindle Phone at the press conference. If you have two big things to announce, you might want to get a third pretty big thing out of the way early.
I’ve ordered the new Paperwhite Wi-Fi, of course, and I can’t wait to get my hands and eyes on it.
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And if you will be looking for a home for your current Paperwhite, please consider clicking here to donate it to E-Books for Troops, and we’ll make sure it gets into the hands of a U.S. Soldier deployed overseas.