Among more elaborate gadgets, basic eReaders remain relevant

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

Owning my first smartphone was an eye-opening experience. Slowly but surely, I was able to get rid of other gadgets I once deemed necessary. My mp3 player was the first to go, followed by my digital camera, and eventually my standalone GPS (which I ended up re-purchasing later, because as a standalone product it was pretty useful). Alongside being able to get rid of certain things, I was also able to eliminate the need for other gadgets I had intentions of buying. Namely, I was able to ward off my desire to purchase an eReader.

To be more specific, it was the Amazon Kindle I had my eye on. I loved the idea of being able to carry my own personal library around with me without the weight of toting physical books, and as somebody with a laundry list of books I wanted to read, a Kindle seemed like the perfect device. As luck would have it, my very first (modern) smartphone was a twofer: my Samsung Galaxy Vibrant came pre-loaded with an Amazon Kindle app.  

I read two books on that phone before the app started virtually collecting dust. Maybe I was just preoccupied with all of the other things I could do with my phone. I had people to text, pictures to take, games to play, statuses to update, and news to catch up on.

But despite all of those things I did on my phone, I still made time to read books – just not on my smartphone. While having a light and convenient virtual library was nice, I found that reading entire novels on a 4-inch AMOLED display just wasn’t as comfortable as reading a book in print.

Thinking that screen size was the main the issue, I continued to try using just about every gadget I’ve owned as an eReader. I’ve owned iPads, Kindle Fires, Chromebooks, larger smartphones, and a Surface Book, all of which I’ve tried reading books on. None of them ever lasted long for reading purposes. After trying screens that ranged anywhere from 3.5 to 13.5-inches, I eventually came to the conclusion that screen size had very little to do with it; I simply did not like such a bright screen for reading.

It would have made sense to just purchase a Kindle. In fact, I had owned an earlier Kindle some time ago, but there was still something about it that I didn’t like. It was easier to read, but it was one of the earlier non-touch, non-keyboard versions that was difficult to operate in regards to searching and downloading books. I ended up giving it to my sister, who was much more interested and less picky about it than I was.

Eventually, I found my perfect eReader when I finally decided to give the eReader thing a try again. It had been years since I owned that old Kindle, and I hadn’t given them much thought since then, continuing to use the library as I always had. For no reason in particular, I found myself browsing the Kindle selection last week. The Paperwhite was on sale for $99, and the backlight and touchscreen were the two features I wished my old Kindle had. For under $100, now seemed like as good of a time as any to give it another try – and I’m so glad I did.

A built-in backlight, 300 ppi, and the touchscreen really did make a world of difference for me. It’s no longer a pain to type in searches, and the “highlight” and “X-Ray” feature have been invaluable (and also something I could never do with a library book). I tossed it in my bag to read while having my oil changed, I use it to read before bed, and, as an added bonus, it’s still boring enough for both of my kids to effectively ignore (as opposed to all of my other shiny gadgets, which are akin to the One Ring for Smeagol). The only thing that could make it better is the addition of a headphone jack and audio support, for audiobooks or songs (I enjoy background music when reading, personally).

Despite my admiration for smartphones to replace so many gadgets, there are still some things that smartphones just don’t do better than other gadgets, and a good eReader is another I’ll add to that list. Between its ability to “read like paper”, long battery life, touchscreen and built-in backlight, I’m happy that I decided to give the Paperwhite chance.