Kindle Paperwhite

I finally broke down and bought a Kindle Paperwhite this week. When I bought it, it was on sale for $40 off, for Prime members. (It looks like that deal has ended now.) The “regular” price on the Paperwhite is $120, but it’s frequently on sale for $100 or $90. This was, I think, the first time it’s been marked down to $80. There’s been some talk about whether or not this means that a new version of the Paperwhite is imminent, but the consensus seems to be probably not.

I actually bought the version with free cellular connectivity, which was $150, down from $190. My last two Kindles both had the cellular connectivity option, and it does come in handy often enough that it’s worth a few extra bucks for me.

I bought my last Kindle in 2011, so I was due for a new one. The old one still works, but there are enough new features in the Paperwhite, and it’s cheap enough, that upgrading made sense. I’ve though about getting a Paperwhite a few times in the past, but never quite talked myself into it. I guess the low price is what finally got me to plunk down some money on it.

So far, I like it, though I haven’t done any serious reading on it yet. The obvious feature of the Paperwhite that sets it apart from my old Kindle is the light. (I want to call it a backlight, but it’s not actually a backlight. Here’s an old NY Times graphic that shows how it actually works.) I’ve been using a clip-on light with my old Kindle, and that works, but it’s a little clunky and inconvenient. The light on the Paperwhite should be much better than that, but I won’t really know until I’ve used it for a bit. The general consensus is that it’s very good, and doesn’t mess with your eyes or your ability to fall asleep the way an iPad screen or laptop screen would. (There’s some interesting discussion on this topic at Quora.)

I was also curious about the Goodreads integration, and hopeful that it would be useful. Here’s a write-up from Engadget, from when they first added the Goodreads stuff in 2013, and something from the Goodreads blog from 2016, when they made some changes. I’ve been using Goodreads for the last couple of years, and I’ve got several hundred books in there, all tagged appropriately with both the standard tags (Want to Read, Currently Reading, etc.) and some custom tags (Kindle, library book, ebook, etc). Goodreads lets you view your books with multiple tags applied, so it’s easy for me to pull up a list of, for instance, unread Kindle books.

The Kindle/Goodreads integration is OK, and somewhat helpful, but not all it could be. First, it treats your “Want to Read” tag more like a wishlist than a queue. I only put stuff into Goodreads once I’ve actually bought the book, so my “Want to Read” list is basically my pile of unread books. (Currently at 255 books. Sigh.) Second, it doesn’t always recognize that you already own some Kindle books in your Goodreads account. I guess that’s due to me adding the wrong edition of the book or something like that. Third, it only lets you see (and work with) the standard tags and not your own custom ones. So there are enough little issues with the Goodreads integration to make it less useful than it could be.

Similar to Goodreads tags, you can now create Cloud Collections of your Kindle books, either directly on the device, or on Amazon’s web site. My previous Kindle supported collections, but they didn’t sync at all; they were just on the device. And they were hard enough to create that I didn’t really use them. It looks like the ability to manage collections from the web was added in 2016. I went through and created some collections on the web site last night and it was pretty easy. So now I have a collection of all the Harry Potter books, and one with all my Star Trek novels, and a few others like that. That should be helpful. I’d really like to be able to auto-create collections from my Goodreads tags, but there doesn’t seem to be any way to do that.

So now I’ve got some organization applied to my extensive list of Kindle ebooks, but not quite as much as I’d like. I think I’m still going to use Goodreads on the web, combined with some notes I keep in Evernote, to keep track of which books I’ve read and which I haven’t, and to figure out what I want to read next. And the Kindle itself will mostly serve as a reading device and not really for organization and discovery of books. (Which is pretty much the same way I use my current Kindle.)

I’m also thinking about how to handle ebooks that I didn’t buy from Amazon. I have a fair number of those, mostly from Humble Bundles, old public domain books, and free books given away by publishers. Some of those show in my cloud library, since I’d previously emailed them to my old Kindle. Those that I loaded onto the old Kindle via USB, though, don’t show up anywhere. So I don’t know if I want to copy them over to the new Kindle or punt on that and just copy them over when and if I decide to read them. (Probably the latter.) I may play around with Calibre a bit, and see if I can use that to organize my miscellaneous DRM-free ebooks, but I’m not sure if it’s worth the trouble.

So this has turned into a pretty long post that’s more about ebook organization than the Kindle itself, so I should probably quit here. After I’ve actually read a book or two on the new Paperwhite, I’ll post some thoughts on its usability as a reading device.

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