Amazon this morning announced a brand new version of its flagship Kindle, the Paperwhite, available for pre-order now with shipments beginning June 30.
They’re calling it “New Kindle Paperwhite.” Its screen resolution is 300 pixels per inch (ppi), an impressive upgrade–more than twice the pixels– from the current 212 ppi screen. At 300 ppi, the new Paperwhite has the same laser-quality text as Amazon’s top-of-the-line Kindle Voyage.
The new Paperwhite is priced the same as the old–$119 for WiFi only with special offers, $189 with WiFi/3G and special offers, and $209 with WiFi/3G and no special offers.
Welcome to Paperwhite 3.
The first Paperwhite was introduced on October 1, 2012, followed by Paperwhite 2, with a higher-contrast display and faster processor, on September 3, 2013. You can tell the difference in these models by looking on the back. The original Paperwhite has “Amazon” on the back; Paperwhite 2 says “Kindle.” From the advance press information I received yesterday, I can’t discern how we will tell a Paperwhite 3 from its older siblings.
In addition to the big improvement in screen resolution, Paperwhite 3 will offer new typography and layout features. Warning: these changes will be subtle, boring, and incomprehensible for most civilian readers, involving terms like “kerning” and “ligature.”
For example, the “all-new typesetting engine” will nudge the tail of the letter y under the l in the word “quietly,” to make the letters fit better together. This is the ancient art of typesetting, brought forward to the digital age in eBooks, and it’s actually pretty cool.
It makes sense to me that these very small improvements in character placement–combined with updates in word spacing, the addition of hyphenation and drop caps to emphasize the first word of a chapter–will add up to better readability for the Kindle 3.
The new Paperwhite will also have Bookerly, the font that Amazon created from scratch and that is already available on Fire tablets and other LCD-screen devices. I like Bookerly a lot and agree with Seattle’s PR team that it looks “warm and contemporary” on my iPhone 6 Plus screen and Fire HDX tablets.
Another feature of the improved typesetting will be of interest to those of us whose eyesight is failing, which, as I understand it, is everyone over the age of 40. On the Paperwhite 3, when you choose a larger font size your Kindle will automatically adjust the margins, columns, indents, nested lists, borders, and drop caps to make the page as easy to read as possible.
As I read the advance press release yesterday, I was struck by how much the Kindlesphere has changed in the seven years I have been doing The Kindle Chronicles. In the early days, the improvements came in big, fancy product releases. You didn’t need a blog or a degree in typography to know that the Kindle 2 was a whole new animal compared with the clunky but lovable original Kindle. The “wow” factor was part of the fun of those days.
What followed–and we should have known it was coming from a company whose secret web address remains relentless.com–has been unending improvements in the Kindle. The big ones get you easy “wows.” The small ones bring you to total domination of the market, which is where the Kindle sits today, accounting for more than half the U.S. market.
I see the hand of Jeff Bezos behind the letter y dropping below the letter l in “quietly.”
When I interviewed him in Seattle three years ago, he expressed his passion for reading in terms and body language that convinced me he wasn’t fooling around. He started his company selling books, and he is married to a novelist. With all the amazing innovation that Amazon is doing–from web storage to state-of-the-art warehouse robots–I bet the boss checks in with the Kindle team enough to keep them on the hot seat, driving innovation every day of the year.
You can tell that this new Paperwhite is not just a tweak, because of whom the PR team quotes in the press release. It isn’t Dave Limp, the senior vice president for devices. It’s Jeff, saying this:
We love inventing for readers. The new Kindle Paperwhite obsesses over the details that matter most to readers—we’ve added our highest-resolution display so the words are crisp and clear on the page, a new font that is crafted exclusively for reading Kindle books, and a new typesetting engine that makes pages beautiful. Together, these details help you read faster and with less eyestrain, so you can lose yourself in the author’s world.
If you’re still reading on a Kindle 2 or Kindle Keyboard, today might be a great day to upgrade to the newest member of the Kindle lineup.
If you love reading digitally, it’s a good day to feel some gratitude for Team Kindle and its top-to-bottom obsession with details that matter most to readers. Bravo!