Kindle Paperwhite: Love it, returning it


Updated to include pictures of Fire/Paperwhite screens shot and a print edition book.

** Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this review are based solely on my personal experience and observations. No outside influences have played a part in this review. This a also the first dedicated e-reader I’ve returned for any reason **

I love my Kindle Paperwhite (KPW) but I’m going to return it. Now you’re wondering why I would return a product I love. It’s really very simple: KPW isn’t the lighted e-reader for me. Frankly I don’t believe any of the lighted e-readers on the market would work for me but I haven’t given all of them a test drive so I can’t legitimately say that’s a true statement. I’ve wanted a lighted e-reader for a while now. When traveling it means not having to pack an external light source (yay!). And I don’t always read in ideal lighting conditions.

This is a lengthy post but I believe well worth your reading time. At the end of this post you’ll find pictures of the Kindles I’ve referred to here for comparison purposes.

A little history: My entire work day is spent in front of a computer, all 11 hours of it. And I read for an additional 2-3 hours daily. On the days that I’m not working I’m reading, using my Kindle Fire or laptop. I can devote hours of leisure time, sometimes in a single sitting, to reading. Consequently a large chunk of my week is devoted to staring at some sort of screen, lighted or not.

I’ve owned all generations of Kindle e-readers and I own a first generation Kindle Fire. Plus I own a Nook. So yes I’m dedicated e-reader. I prefer e-readers to print edition books.

First the things I truly love about KPW:

  • It’s lighted. Yes I know I’m returning it for that very reason but if you stick with me you’ll under my reasoning.
  • I love seeing the covers of my books. I don’t mind a list view but I’m a very visual person so having book covers is a nice feature.
  • Time-to-read. I love this new feature. While I can easily gauge how far I have to go within a chapter and book using the bar on the bottom of the Kindle e-reader screens I like the reading stats provided by time-to-read. I’ll really miss this feature when I return my KPW.

Maybe someday when Amazon releases software updates for their other e-readers they’ll include book covers and time-to-read.

And now why I’m returning my KPW: my eyes are very sensitive to light conditions. I’m the person wearing sunglasses when no one else is. Not all light conditions work for me. Some light systems give me migraines and ‘sandpaper’ eyes. I’ve spent the past week playing with my KPW in various light conditions with various KPW light settings. On day two I thought I had things figured out. As the week progressed I continued to be plagued with low-grade headaches and eye strain. Finally came the great experiment – I traded reading on my KPW for reading on my Kindle keyboard. Within the hour no headaches, no eye strain. So back the other way just to make sure it was what I thought. Reading with the KPW was the culprit. And here’s the one unfortunate thing about KWP – you can’t turn the light completely off. Even on its lowest setting it’s still ‘on’.

Lying in bed last night composing this post my head I realized why the light system used by KPW bothers me. Literally the light bulb turned on (yes I intended that). It’s the color spectrum used by the KPW’s light not how system is set up. KPW’s light system is set up to direct light away from the reader unlike most/all other like tech devices(?).  I can’t be sure why this exact color spectrum was chosen because I’m not a lighting expert but I can make a very uneducated guess based on marketing alone. There could be lots of science behind the decision that I’m now aware of. But using a ‘cool’ based light provides a crisper, cleaner, clearer contrast when looking at black text on a ‘white’ page. Much like a print edition book. Though I don’t believe I’ve ever read a print edition book where text was printed a true ‘white’ page. The KPW looks beautiful when the light system is set to 24 (highest setting) I’ll give it that. The contrast is incredible. And for me it ends there.

How did I come to conclude that ‘cool’ versus ‘warm’ lighting was the cause of my problems? Something I remembered when we were experimenting with light bulbs in our reading lamps a couple of years ago. We needed to replace burned out light bulbs. There are gazillion light bulb choices on the market. As we were wandering the aisle trying to make a decision I spied ‘cool’ based light bulbs. I figured they would be better for reading as they’d provide a brighter light then the traditional soft lighting. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Based on my logic we bought a package and installed them in our reading lights. Within a half hour of installation we both had roaring headaches. The beautiful, brighter light was too bright. We couldn’t trade out bulbs fast enough.

Another experiment last year with my Kindle Fire has led me once again to the ‘cool’ versus ‘warm’ light conclusion. I didn’t buy my Fire with the intention of doing any long term reading on it simply because of its light display. Too much like my laptop’s and not comfortable for long periods of time. But the days at the gym when I have read on my Fire I turn to the background to a gorgeous soft cream color with black text. I realized last night that reading for an hour on my Fire is much more eye friendly than reading even 15 minutes on my KPW at any light setting.

So the perfect lighted e-reader for me would be a cream colored background (think Kindle Fire) with ‘warm’ based light. If Amazon ever goes that route I’ll be first in line, again. I still want a lighted e-reader just not the current KPW.

~ Marcia

Kindle Fire screen shot taken with phone camera
As you can tell from the picture the ‘page’ isn’t white when compared to the chapter number
It really is a cream color which doesn’t show very good in this particular picture
Kindle Fire screen shot taken with phone camera/ you can tell by lookingt the chapter number that the basic reading screen isn't white.

Kindle Keyboard and Kindle Paperwhite side x side
Screen color comparison picture
Kindle keyboard and Kindle Paperwhite screen shot taken with phone camera

Picture shows a Kindle Fire screen on left with a cream colored screen and KPW on the right with it’s white screen.

Granted the KPW is turned to the highest setting to show off the contrast between the screen and the text. But even the print edition book’s pages aren’t ‘white’. They are closer to the cream color of the Fire’s background. When you turn down the light on the KWP the pages ‘gray’ out appearing much like the other Kindle e-readers backgrounds.

16 thoughts on “Kindle Paperwhite: Love it, returning it

  1. Good to know. I feel like we have similar work conditions and reading habits, but I don’t do a ton of reading on my Kindle Touch. I’ve been thinking about getting a lighted reader just because it would be so convenient, but my eyes are so sensitive! Thanks for the advice

  2. Great post and it will definitively help me make up my choice. I agree with you that warm lighting is much more pleasant for reading. The “cold” choice is actually, to my knowledge, limited by the technology used to produce “white light” using LED – white light is actually produced by using blue-colored LED (using a semiconductor material named sapphire) that have been coated with phosphorus – the actual light spectra is white/blue-ish, definitively not warm white. So at of today, warm light can’t be obtained using LED technology. I will therefore buy the “old” $69 Kindle and use an incandescent bulb to lit the room I am reading in!

  3. Thanks for this review. While I don’t get headaches from different light “temperatures” I have found that they affect my mood all the same. I absolutely HATE most fluorescent lighting which somehow manage the impossible feat of simultaneously being bright and dead-looking (sometimes labelled euphemistically as “cool”). In general I also dislike LCD displays for their garish, completely inorganic nature.

    I bought a Kindle DX some time ago, and I realized after multiple attempts at liking it that it was so unpleasant to read from it. It’s been sitting around for months now and I don’t even look at it. What they don’t tell you before buying is that the background is not in fact about as bright as a newspaper, but much dingier and grayer than that. It was like this dirty, greenish/cyan hue. It was a depressing experience to try to read on it. I even bought some thing yellow-tinged transparency sheets with the intention of placing them over the screen. Unfortunately the screen was already so dark to begin with, this only made reading more difficult.

    When they first announced the concept of the Paperwhite, I thought I’d definitely buy one. After all, with a brighter, sunnier screen, it would be closer to reading a real, physical book than all previous Kindles, right? And since this was a light pointing inward, it wouldn’t have the garish nature of an LCD screen.

    But no dice. After reading your review and seeing many pictures to confirm what you say, it sounds like I’ll have to wait a while more for my ideal reader. Why would I want to stare at a screen with the same cold dead lighting as a fluorescent bulb?

  4. Thanks so much for your post. I bought a KPW today, an ‘upgrade’ from my Kindle 2, so I could borrow books from our digital/eLibrary. My eyes started to water right away. So I started Googling to see what I could find out, given all the ‘glowing’ reviews. And I stumbled on your post. Like you, I’m returning my KPW. And I’m going to try reading on my Droid 7″ tablet with the background set to Sepia. It may help with the warmth factor, something I had never thought about. The next decision will likely be whether to get a Kindle touch or Kindle keyboard, as my best reading experience is still with e Ink, and the digital library book selections seems to be getting more expansive with each passing day. Thanks again, for your well-written and thoughtful post.

  5. At last ! This is the first I’ve heard of this and I’m so relieved to read I’m not the only odd ball with similar experience. I got my first
    Kindle Paperwhite for my Christmas 2012. I was so very excited, I had deliberately waited for the PW, as it sounded perfect. But after reading for 30 minutes my eyes felt a hey and I had a very mild headache located in my forehead. I didn’t twig, just turned it off each time and thought it was likely just me being too busy over Christmas. But I soon realised its definitely the Kindle. I’ve left it it 2 weeks at a time and each time I try its the same result. Maybe I should have waited for more reviews of the PW, it just never occurred to me I’d have a problem. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, perhaps I should have considered it, as I too have very sensitive eyes. When you see photos of me as a kid, I’m always the one squinting at the camera in outdoor shots, my Dad always was shouting “Open your eyes” I always carry sunglasses in my bag winter too, as if the sun comes out after a shower I can’t even drive as tears literally stream down my face, I’m not crying, I’m happy they just flood! I went to the optician about it years ago, fed up with the neighbours jibes early in the morning with me wearing sunglasses on a white sky but bright day, they kept joking I’d a hangover. Optician checked my eyes, said they were fine, but that it wasn’t rare, often blue eyed people are ultra sensitive to light. So to sum up, I have a new kindle I can’t read. Off to Mexico in 2 weeks and I have had to go out and buy paper books, much to my hubby’s annoyance, as we have stingy luggage allowance form here in the UK and I will read at least 5 books on holidays. I so wanted my kindle PW to be a success, but sadly it’s not for me.

  6. I am so glad I stumbled upon this post. My Kindle Keyboard died after going through airport security in May. Not sure why this time it happened as previous times it was just fine. I was upset the Keyboard version was no longer available. I have been going back and forth between the Fire and Paperwhite. Felt I did not need all the added features of the Fire. I, too, have issues with eye sensitivity, knew what you were talking about, understanding the paperwhite would not work for me. I do not like reading on my phone because of its size, but may keep doing so because it does not cause eye issues! Thanks so much.

  7. I too am a “warm light” kind of girl. I’m interested in the KPW, but not until it has warm lighting. I currently read on my Kindle Fire HD and absolutely love it. I read with sepia tones and I even have an additional app that allows me to further dim the screen (called Screen Dim). There’s also an app called “Sun Filter” that allows the screen to be even warmer than Kindle’s default sepia tone. Warm colored light people unite! Ha! 🙂

  8. I got a Kindle without special offers last Christmas. I told my wife I just wanted the original Kindle and not the Kindle keyboard because it is smaller and would do everything I wanted. She got me the Kindle without special offers which costs a little more but I am so glad she got that one because all those offers would drive me crazy and you can still go online and see the offer if you want to. I love my Kindle and I use it a lot. I have been considering getting a Kindle paper white because I have been in places where I want to read and there is not enough light. I am so glad I decided to look on line to see what other people were saying about the paper white. Based on your great detail review I will wait until they get smart enough to fix the lighting problems you outlined. Thank You.

  9. I wish I had read this article shortly after I’d purchased my KPW. Like the writer above, I’ve had every version of the kindle, loved them, but travel a lot so thought the downlighting KPW would be the perfect e reader (not to mention I’d just broken my last generation Pearl). Like the writer, I work on a computer for the majority of the day and have very light sensitive eyes (dry eye syndrome).

    My immediate reaction to the KPW was, “I don’t like it,” but I was leaving town for two weeks so I took it with me. Well, it’s been months now and I still don’t like it, but I’m sure I’m well past the return period, so I’ll give it to someone after I find an e reader replacement.
    My ideal e reader?
    -shows the cover (preferably in color) every time I open the book
    – has the book and author name on every page
    – easy to go to different section and get back to whet you were
    – lightweight

  10. I just got the new Paperwhite 2 that recently came out. I’ve had it for only 2 days, and it’s already boxed up to return. The light was so bad that it gave me nausea and dizziness as well as a headache. It’s blue-white and harsh like those really, really bright headlights. Turning it down as far as I could was ok in the daytime, but in dim light, even that lowest setting bothered me, and of course there is no way to turn the light completely off. I think there also might be more going on than it being blue-spectrum light; I think it is also the intensity of the light or somehow the way it is built/focused. I suspect a a combination of all three: blue light, LED intensity, and front-lighting. I use blue-blocker sunglasses in the evening (and they truly block all blue spectrum light) while using the computer, but even using those while reading on the KPW didn’t help that much. Anyway, I wanted to love it too, and really enjoyed all the other features, but I just couldn’t tolerate the light.

  11. I just spent several hours a day reading my Kindle Fire for the first time. I developed a headache behind my left eye which eventually spread to behind both eyes and is a real doozy. My wife and I had no idea what the cause might be and thought it could be blood pressure related since I had run out of Cozaar. But our research said there was no result from Cozaar “withdrawal,” so now I am wondering if the source is spending so much time on the Kindle Fire. I would have thought switching to the newest Paperwhite is the solution, but now that I’ve read your post I no longer think so. Hmmmm. I don’t look forward to experimenting with possible headaches like this one, but I guess I will try the screen dimming app suggested. Any other suggestions – such as whether the Kindle Fire HD is a better option – are appreciated!

  12. Have you tried using the black screen option on the Kindle Fire? The background is black and the words are white. It seems even better than the sepia/tan you recommend.

    Re the KPW I can not stand its refresh –the way all the letters fragment into black and
    then rejoin as you turn a page.

    And, back to the Kindle Fire, I find that even tho I like reading on it, I still get a neck ache no matter what position I hold it in and also have developed dizziness at times when I am not using it. So far I have not found a really satisfactory ebook reader.

  13. I need to read before going to bed otherwise I don’t sleep well. But since I got my Kindle Basic, I don’t sleep well as if I had not read. I don’t really understand why since it has no frontlight.

    The kindle basic has a low contrast, the background is gray. The first night I tried reading it in the same low lighting conditions as usual but my eyes started to cry: it was too dim. Then I brought a more powerful bed lamp to get a reasonable contrast on the screen but that’s when my sleep trouble started.

    I consider buying a Kobo Glo HD since it’s screen is more white than the Paperwhite and you can completely turn down the backlight unlike the paperwhite. Nevertheless, I have never seen a Paperwhite. Despite what you say, it seems to me that paper is quite white even on novels so a non-lit whiter Kobo seems better to me.

  14. The issue is not front lit, back lit, or the tint of the light. LEDs and florescent bulbs shine a lot of blue light. Blue light is energizing and keeps you alert. Lighted electronic devices use LEDs for the light so regardless of which device you are using, your eyes will get a lot of blue light. If you use an LED or florescent lamp with a non-lit Kindle (or read in daylight), you’ll be getting blue light reflected back to your eyes. Candles and Incandescent bulbs have less blue light. To avoid blue light, either block the blue light from your eyes with special glasses/goggles, block the light source with filters, or use a light source that doesn’t shine much blue light. Red LEDs, for example, emit little to no blue light.

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