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Kindle Paperwhite review: Ebook reader gets warmer, faster

Scott McNulty | Oct. 7, 2013
The new Kindle Paperwhite is like the old one, but with a better backlight and upgraded software.

As with all Kindles of recent vintage, you use the touchscreen to both navigate around the interface and turn pages in books. I'd like to see Amazon bring back physical page forward and back buttons. Having dedicated buttons allow you to rest your finger on the button and press down when you need to turn the page, instead of moving a finger to tap on the screen. A minor detail, but one that would make for a more pleasant reading experience.

Software upgrades, too
In addition to the hardware tweaks in this version, Amazon has added a few software features that have a significant impact on the Kindle reading experience.

Page Flip addresses a constant frustation of mine: Flipping to a different part of a book is easy when that book is made of paper, but on a Kindle it's always been problematic. To flip to a new location, you had to tap forward (or backward) until you found the other part of the book, and then you'd need to navigate back to where you were. Page Flip solves this by opening a window in the middle of the screen, floating above your current page, containing the contents of your current book. You can navigate from chapter to chapter with a slider, and tap within the window to turn pages. When you're done, just tap the X in the upper right corner of the window and you'll find yourself right back where you were. Bookmarks also now use Page Flip to display the bookmarked page in situ as you read.

Page Flip's slider is a bit sensitive, which can make jumping to a particular chapter in a book rather hit-and-miss. You can also forgo the slider entirely and tap chapter to chapter using the arrows on either side of the bottom navigation.

Reading footnotes on a Kindle used to require a similar amount of jumping around. Since a Kindle page doesn't have a "foot," all notes in a book were treated like endnotes. Tap on the number indicating the note, and you'd jump to the end of the book with the text of the note. You had to hit the back button to return to reading, like a barbarian. The new Paperwhite introduces a long overdue feature: in-line footnotes. Now when you tap on a footnote's number it is displayed in a little window, like the Page Flip interface. Tap anywhere on the screen and the footnote closes and you're right back to where you left off.

Looking up words has also been improved with tighter integration with X-Ray. X-Ray, available in select books, tells you additional information about terms, characters, and places mentioned in the book. Now when you look up a word by tapping on it, the definition is displayed, along with any information from Wikipedia, and X-Ray information that gives you book-specific information about the term/word you tapped.


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