Digital wood is paperwhite

31st December 2012 | Comments

Forty days after I've received my Amazon Kindle Paperwhite it's time to write something about it. Not just about the device, also about the digital book era itself.

I've never really used ebooks before. Of course there were PDFs of books on my computer. But I only used them to look up some specific pages or doing a full text search. Also I read a lot on the Internet, short and long, but this is obviously different.

The Kindle Paperwhite

Amazon's latest generation of the ebook readers now comes with touch support instead of buttons and also has a display light for reading int the dark as well for contrast in bright environments. The screen has a higher resolution and 6 inches (15 cm) in size.

The usability is good, the interface quite intuitive and very responsive. The touch input works well for me and, I think, even better than the buttons of previous generations. You could either perform a simple tap on the screen where everything is the next page besides from a small stripe on the left for backwards, the top for the Kindle menu and the status text on the bottom for changing that view. Or you could just use intuitive swipe gestures.

The size is okay, too. It isn't paper weight and even a bit more than the previous Kindle generations. Additionally I've ordered the official Paperwhite case which comes with a magnet mechanism for turning the screen on and off (so you don't have to use the only button, an on-off switch) and the case adds 160 gram to the 210 gram of the device. But still a soft cover book is heavier and the weight could be hold well in your hands.

Get content

Amazon is known as a great online store to look for books. And if an ebook version is available, it is likely listed there, too. Amazon, Apple and EPUB files with DRM (sold in various stores) are the usual ways the publishers deliver with.

Amazon uses its own AWZ format, but the Kindle also supports PDF, TXT and the more common MOBI/PRC (Mobipocket) as long as these files are unprotected. Other files like EPUB and LIT could be easily converted by the popular Calibre application which is Open Source and still in active development.

Files in the supported formats could be transferred using USB or the more convenient email service. The latter option also allows to use the Whispersync service which allows to keep the books on all reading devices (including desktop and mobile apps) in sync. This includes the current page position, bookmarks, notes and highlights.

Beware of pirating

It's a fact that all DRM systems used in this market are already broken. And therefore it's only limiting the users who, for example, can't read a DRM protected EPUB on their Kindle. At least there are Calibre plugins available who could remove DRM and free from such limitations.

The rest could be compared to music pirating. There are hundreds of websites, providing mainly EPUB, MOBI and the less usable PDF, and of course publishers try to take them down. The only difference is the file size. It is easier to bundle books into a big archive for sharing and there are also websites who provide the files on their own servers instead of using one-click hosting.

Missing: Wood upgrade option

And that's totally different from the introduction of MP3 players. An audio CD could be easily converted to digital formats. Even the other way around is possible. In fact the CD is still the easiest and often the only way to get a high quality, lossless codec using version. A book instead could not be converted in such a way. Sometimes you find bundle editions where you get the book and ebook, but you are always paying for the additional version. I only knew one publisher who provides ebook redeem codes within its science books.

The next step would be to get DRM-free ones like it's done in the music market for years now and I would even like to see cloud conversions like Apple iTunes Match offers.

Providing redeem codes or a service that asks you random text positions to claim a ebook version could be easily done. But the publishers fear illegal duplicates, something they not really had to deal with in case of the restrictions of physical books.

People might wonder why to repurchase a book they already own properly and thence just take the free pirated version.


All in all I'm quite happy with the new way to read books. It's easier to have your books with you, in situations where you wouldn't like to take multiple or even only one book with you. And the first time in my life I could do remarks without the fear to somehow demolish the clean book.

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