Has the Kindle Paperwhite pushed e-reading devices over a tipping point?

Kindle Paperwhite, e-book cover

Kindle Paperwhite, e-book cover

Over the years, I’ve owned several incarnations of the Amazon Kindle e-reader, and though I’ve found it especially useful while traveling, ultimately I’ve been happy to return to the real things. However, the latest Kindle offering, dubbed the “Paperwhite,” has crossed a major technological line in terms of clarity and lighting. It won’t replace the books in my library, but it’s a darn good Plan B.

Basically, it boils down to the reading experience. The Paperwhite stands out with the sharp clarity of its text and its excellent lighting feature, the latter so good that you can read in bed with all the lights off. This photo of the text screen doesn’t do it justice, but maybe it’ll give you an idea:

Kindle Paperwhite text

Kindle Paperwhite e-text

Currently the most inexpensive version of the Paperwhite is selling for $119. That’s not exactly a cheap initial investment, even for an avid reader. But this is the first Kindle upgrade that, at least for me, provides a reading experience good enough not to make me long to have a book in hand. And with all the traveling I sometimes find myself doing, it’s a treat to be able to bring a few dozen books with me via an e-reader that makes reading a pleasure.

I know that many regard the printed book as sacred and the e-book as a sacrilege. I’m not out to change anyone’s mind on this question, other than to say that all things being equal, I’d still rather have an actual book at my side. Nevertheless, I’m currently on an extended out-of-town visit with some friends, and the new Kindle has proven to be very handy.

Plus, it is pretty cool to turn the lights off and still be able to read. It’s sort of the grown up edition of reading a book under the covers with a flashlight.

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