Reading is fundamental. Or, at least, it should be, and the advent of mobile tech has changed forever how we, as a culture, consume the written word. Phones and tablets are fine for perusing your favorite websites and news outlets, but for serious reading something gets lost in the translation from paper to LCD screen. That’s why for any book lover, e-readers are the best paper alternative by far.
There have been a lot of competitors in the e-ink arena, from Barnes & Nobles to Sony, but the dust has largely settled in this particular tech battle leaving, unsurprisingly, Amazon’s Kindle as the clear winner in the e-reader market. Say what you want about Amazon at large, the Kindle is a superb device that essentially does one thing really well. Over the years, the Kindle family has gotten a little crowded and it can be hard to figure out which is the best for you.
There are basically four different Kindles at the moment: the basic Kindle e-reader ($79.99), the Kindle Paperwhite ($119.99), the Kindle Voyage ($199.99), and the Kindle Oasis ($289.99). That’s an amazing price difference from the lowest to highest tier, but each serves a place in the market.
Of course, before going over what you should buy, you might be wondering why you would need yet another device. As a single use device, the Kindle provides a distraction-free reading experience. It won’t alert you to Facebook updates, new email, or text messages. The e-ink screens are easier on the eyes than LCD screens and the closest you can get to actual real paper. Also, unlike your average tablet, you can read a Kindle easily in full sunlight or (with the exception of the base model) total darkness. E-ink screens are incredibly energy efficient, so even the lighted Kindles offer a battery life of weeks instead of hours.
Another important factor, depending on your reading habits, is the problem with nearly any light source—blue light. It seems that spectrum of light really screws with our ability to sleep, so tablet usage before bed can actually cause insomnia. Since the lighted versions of the Kindle actually use a method that aims the LED lights inward (instead of backlighting the screen), it exposes users to far less pesky blue lights than standard screens. In other words, you can read with your Kindle in the dark and it won’t unnaturally keep you up.
So, with that out of the way, which Kindle works best for you depends largely on price point. The bare-bones Kindle lacks the backlight, but still sports an easy to use touchscreen and Wi-Fi to browse for new books in the Kindle store. The screen resolution isn’t as high as the upper models though, but it has some very specific functionality for vision impaired users thanks to its inclusion of Bluetooth support for headphones and VoiceView screen reading software. Oddly, this functionality is thus far only included in this year’s basic Kindle model.
But since a lot of people enjoy reading in bed and also have spouses that might not appreciate the intrusive light of a bedside lamp, the Paperwhite is the perfect marital saver. Like all the Kindle models currently available, it sports a six inch screen and has the same 300 dpi (dots per inch) resolution of the upper tier models. The Paperweight is a little larger and heavier overall than the rest of the line, with four built-in LEDs to give the screen a soft easily readable glow. If you’re looking for the basic, but most functional e-reader at the cheapest price, this is the best choice since you can read it in any light.
If you want to step up to attain Maximum Kindleness, there are two choice: the Voyage and the Oasis. Both offer the 300 dpi six inch screen, but are lighter and smaller. The Oasis is absurdly tiny in comparison to the rest of the line, with a battery packed leather cover that lets it go for a couple months on a charge and it can be flipped for right or left hand users. It also has 10 LEDs for the most even lighting, while the Voyage offers six.
That said, the Oasis is likely overkill for most users. At nearly $300, it’s the highest end Kindle and the smallest, but it’s not worth the nearly $100 premium over the Voyage. The Voyage is noticeably faster, smoother, and lighter than the Paperwhite, and provides an all-around more pleasurable reading experience than the cheaper models. The Oasis is absolutely a great e-reader and super portable, but it’s hard to justify the price tag.
You should read more. You should have a Kindle. So, get a Paperwhite or splurge and get the Voyage. It’s a good thing.