year in review

The Best Thing I Bought in 2018 Was an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite — and It’s More Useful Now Than Ever

A technology that’s not trying to do the most. Photo: Courtesy Amazon

Update: I first wrote this ode to the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite in 2018, but I still consider it one of my best purchases, particularly in this time of self-isolation. One feature that I didn’t mention in this ode — and has become especially convenient now that I don’t leave the house — is that I’m able to buy a new book and start reading it immediately without waiting for a delivery. Most recently, I “picked up” My Dark Vanessa, and as soon as I finished that, I downloaded Binary Star, by Sarah Gerard. And though it’s going to be a while before I take it on any trips, I still appreciate my Paperwhite’s long battery life and simple, easy-to-read screen.

In a world in which regular people have access to miniature drones that take movie-quality videos, smart doorbells that can scare off home intruders, and even an Alexa-compatible Big Mouth Billy Bass, a handheld tablet for reading books sounds really boring. But the Kindle Paperwhite is, hands down, the best thing I bought this year.

I may be behind the curve on this one, since the Kindle Paperwhite has been around since 2012. But I haven’t really thought about Kindles since I abandoned mine in 2015 or so; the version I used had a full keyboard at the bottom that was hard to navigate, and no backlight, so reading in the dark was impossible. So in my mind, Kindles were ancient relics, but I was convinced to reenter the Kindle universe after seeing one of my most stylish friends using his Paperwhite this summer. It was still a Kindle, but it looked so cool in his hands, much smaller and sleeker than the one I remembered, with only one button at the very bottom to turn it on. He loved it, he assured me, especially for travel, and at the time, I was also starting to feel overwhelmed by the piles of books collecting on my floor. So when I saw the Paperwhite on sale on Prime Day, I figured I might as well give it a shot, and I’m so glad I did.

Many of the issues I had with the earlier generation of Kindle have been entirely eliminated with the Paperwhite. It’s super light, with a responsive touch screen instead of buttons. I can hold it and flick to the next page all with one hand; I can read even when I’m holding onto a pole for dear life and getting smushed between my fellow subway commuters. It’s also much easier to pop into my already-stuffed work backpack than a 300-page book, meaning that I’m reading more because I just always have my book with me.

Plus, it’s actually a pleasure to use. As I wrote back in July, “The backlight and matte finish don’t make me feel like I’m staring at a computer screen, which I appreciate from my ‘books.’” Unlike my phone screen or even laptop, the Kindle screen has no glare, which is surprisingly relaxing when I’m reading in my bed before falling asleep. And the backlight means that I can read it even if all of the lights are off. The newest model is even waterproof, protected for up to 60 minutes of immersion in two meters of water (though, unfortunately, the one I bought back in July is not).

What I like best about the Kindle Paperwhite is that it’s a technology that’s not trying to do the most, and that simplicity is especially refreshing when it feels like every other gadget in my life is trying to connect to more. Ultimately, I can do one of two things on my Kindle Paperwhite — read a book or buy a new book to read — and the experience of doing so is easy and pleasant. At the end of the day, that’s all I really want from my tech: for it to be something that does exactly what it says it will and makes it a little easier to do the things that I enjoy, like get sucked into a good novel, no matter where I am.

Kindle
$70
$70

The exact version of the Kindle Paperwhite that I own has been discontinued — but the now-standard Kindle has many of the same features, including a light and one-handed swiping.

The newest generation of the Kindle Paperwhite is waterproof, with more storage and higher screen resolution, meaning it’s ideal of reading outside (be it on your stoop, your roof, or in your backyard).

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My Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Is More Useful Now Than Ever