Monday, December 31st, 2012

Kindle Fire or Kindle Paperwhite?

Our anniversary and my birthday are less than a week apart, with Christmas in between. Sometimes that means one larger gift that covers all the occasions. I guess I wasn’t very subtle about what was on my wish list this year for Christiversaday–a replacement for the Kindle I couldn’t find when I returned home from a trip a while back.

I’d played around a few minutes with a friend’s Kindle Fire 7Kindle Fire and was impressed by the colors and apps. So that’s what I was crossing my fingers for. And that’s what my husband blessed me with on our anniversary. We enjoyed getting acquainted with it together.

Though the apps and games would be fun, my main use of a Kindle is for reading. So my heart sank when I realized that reading on the Kindle Fire is missing the same 2 important features that are lacking on the Kindle app for various devices (iphone, android, iPad, PC, Mac, Blackberry,Windows Phone 7)  –features that were a normal part of my earlier Kindle experience:

  • Unbroken continuation of a highlight from one page to the next.
  • The ability to organize my books into Collections.

Highlighting. On my earlier Kindle, to continue a highlight to the next page, I just kept the cursor moving to the bottom corner of the screen and the page automatically turned and the highlight continued. By contrast, when I’m highlighting in the Kindle app on my phone or on an iPad, I can’t drag the highlight beyond the bottom of the screen. That means if the passage continues on the next page, I have to start a new highlight on the next page. So when I go later to my notes and highlights, I find it saved as if it were two highlights rather than as one passage. That’s the way the Kindle Fire does it too.

Collections. Some people keep only a few books at a time on their Kindles and store the rest in “the cloud” until they want them (I know that’s an accepted term and shouldn’t need quotation marks, but it sounds like a nebulous–pun intended–metaphor to me.). But I keep pretty much everything in my device. So I want a way to organize my books and not have to page through several hundred hoping to find the one I want. The Collection feature on my earlier Kindle let me create categories that are most useful to me–fiction, Christian living, China, biography, etc. That feature is not available in Kindle apps or in the Kindle Fire.

I had made the big mistake of assuming that every new Kindle product was an upgrade–keeping the great features and making them better. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. It was too subtle for me that the Getting Acquainted with Kindle page was showing a Kindle Fire Family of devices and a Kindle E-reader Family. I thought Kindle meant Kindle.

Kindle Paperwhite, 6I returned the Kindle Fire and ordered instead a Kindle Paperwhite E-reader. Now that has what I wanted and more.

What I wanted:

  • Collections.
  • Highlighting that continues to next page.

And more:

  • Noticeably smaller size and lighter weight than the Kindle Fire and earlier Kindle e-readers.
  • Touch screen.
  • On-screen keyboard that pops up as needed.
  • Higher resolution (62% more pixels)
  • Adjustable built-in light that is not a backlight  (page down here for a more technical description).

When it comes to reading, the Kindle Fire is in competition with iPad, not with Kindle e-readers. If you want color and don’t care as much about the reading features, a Kindle Fire is probably what you want.

But if you’re like me and want the possibility of 1000 books in one 7.5-ounce device you can drop in your pocket, purse, or carry-on, go for a Kindle e-reader (Kindle E-reader Family on this page). My choice is the Kindle Paperwhite.


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10 Responses to “Kindle Fire or Kindle Paperwhite?”

  1. You nailed it. I have both an iPad with Kindle app and an older Kindle eReader. I really miss those two features (collections and continuous highlighting) on my iPad. When traveling, I take my “regular” Kindle. Perhaps soon we’ll see these features added to the newer versions, I hope so. Thanks for the insightful post!

  2. Hello Noel,

    I had thought about upgrading to the Paperwhite this Christmas and letting my daughter read from my Kindle Keyboard 3G. Thanks for your review! I was able to try a Paperwhite recently, but I miss the page turn buttons too much to trade up just yet. I wish they hadn’t done away with them, even when adding the touch screen. However, the new Kindles also have page numbers – a feature you may not have noted, yet – which makes discussing a book in a group setting much easier!

    I am going to hold onto my Kindle Keyboard one more year, if it holds out. Amazon currently still carries them, but I am not sure how long they will continue to manufacture them.

    Here’s to a year of happy reading . . . on any platform!

  3. Glad I read this. I thought that I wanted a Kindle Fire until I read your article. I have and older Kindle that I love but I was thinking of upgrading it to get some of the new features. Like you, it never dawned on me that the old features wouldn’t carry over. Thanks for the heads up!

  4. I actually have both a Fire and one of the older (with a keypad) Kindles. I do my reading on the older model, for the reasons you list. The Fire is treated more as a mini-tablet – reader, yes, but documents, e-mail, web browsing, e-magazine reading.

    I adore having my library in my purse.

  5. I agree, Noel. We have 2nd Gen Keyboard, Fire, & Paperwhite. Kids use 2nd Gen for reading and Fire for reading & all the other stuff. The Paperwhite is my choice for reading. Frontlit with eInk (and without the distractions of playing games or checking email, etc) make the Paperwhite superior.

  6. I got the no frills $69 dollar Kindle for Christmas and love it! No “distrapptions” like my iPhone and other stuff like that. Collections, highlights and very easily transportable. Enjoy!

  7. Hi Noel. I’m a pastor and sometimes I like to preach from an electronic device. I have used an ipad before, but I wear glasses and the reflection from the ipad is a little bit distracting. I have thought about the Kindle Paperwhite. Is the page turning fast on that device? Fast enough for a turn in the middle of a sermon? Thanks so much for your great thoughts!

  8. I LOVE my Paperwhite!! I had the Keyboard and was finding that I was using it with the lighted cover all the time because of my eyesight (which isn’t even that bad but it was enough with the Keyboard that I needed a light all the time even in bright light) so I saved up and got myself the Paperwhite. What a difference!! Now the battery life is just as long as the Keyboard without using the light – but I have the light on at about 40% all the time. It’s smaller and much lighter than the Keyboard – even with the cover on it. I’m totally loving it and am SO happy I made the purchase!!

  9. I have so appreciated your shopping tips. Thank you for sharing this stuff with us. I don’t have an e-reader, but have been thinking of purchasing one, and this helps a lot.

  10. Hi, Noël

    These are great tips for anyone who is planning to purchase a Kindle and doesn’t know which one to purchase. My favorite Kindle feature is being able to make notes and highlighting passages and being able to access these when I need to. It can be hard to do so online though and also a bit time-consuming.

    An iOS app will be released this November 2013 called Snippefy ( It will be easy for Kindle users to read and share their notes and highlights and export them to Evernote, Dropbox and email.

    I just wanted to share this resource with you and hope you will find time to check it out.

    Thank you

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