Is a Kindle device worth buying? That’s probably a frequent question you might ask yourself as a book lover and as someone who doesn’t want to buy an extra service or device they don’t need.
First, what is a Kindle device and how does it work?
Kindles are classified as “e-readers”, and are different from smartphones and tablets because they have a special kind of screen called “e-ink displays” that are designed to mimic the look and feel of physical paper.
The biggest benefit to e-ink displays is that they’re very easy on the eyes, allowing users to read for hours on end without the typical eye strain when looking at a traditional screen.
The downside of e-ink displays is that they’re very technically limited to one function, and do not allow the same kind of resolution, refresh rate and colors as screens found on tablets or smartphones.
Who is a Kindle for?
Kindles are fantastic for people who generally enjoy reading, but just want to have some extra convience that can simplify their hobby. Some of these convenient features include:
- Can store hundreds of ebooks.
- Can convert most other file types into ebooks.
- eBooks are cheaper overall compared to physical books.
- Very compact and very portable.
Overall, a Kindle offers a ton of convenience for book lovers and not that many downsides.
Why a Kindle is worth it
Amazing screen quality that imitates paper
Kindle screens are made with a technology called “e-ink display” and they’re very different from normal screens found on laptops and tablets.
An e-ink display is constructed out of a vast grid of millions of capsules and subcapsules. Each of these subcapsules is filled with a tiny, tiny drop of color pigment (black or white).
Using electrical charges, the black-or-white pigment in the capsules rearranges itself to show letters, UI elements and so on.
Normal screens create images by basically using small light bulbs that emit light in different colors. With prolonged use, this light becomes very tiring and iritatting to the eyes.
E-ink displays, by comparison, emit little to no light. Everything you see on the screen are color pigments on a hard surface – the same as with books. This makes for a very natural and relaxing reading experience.
Finally, some Kindle versions come with a backlight feature which you can turn on or off. This backlight doesn’t do much during the day, but it’s great if you want to read for an hour or so before going to bed.
The light is just bright enough so you can comfortably see what’s on the screen, but not bright enough to bother your spouse if they’re trying to go to sleep.
Kindles are affordable
In an age where half-decent electronics cost $1000+, Kindle devices are, by comparison, very affordable:
- Basic Kindle 8GB: $89
- Kindle Paperwhite 8/32GB: $139/$189
- Kindle Oasis 8/32GB: $249/$279
- Kindle Kids: $109
- Kindle Paperwhite Kids: $159
This product page contains an overview of the biggest differences with each.
In a nutshell though, the basic Kindle & Kindle Kids has a 167 pixels per inch, while the Paperwhite and Oasis has 300 pixels per inch. These 300 pixels per inch really makes the letter and UI elements a lot sharper.
Another big feature of the more expensive Kindles is that they have more front light LED’s which helps to illuminate the screen during night time.
eBooks cost less than physical books (or even audiobooks)
On average, eBooks cost quite a bit less than paper back or hard cover books. As an example, the eBook version of “Shogun” by James Clavell costs $4, while paperback is $16 and hard cover is $23.
This pattern is extremely common, although not as extreme as in the case above. As a rule of thumb though, you can expect eBooks to cost -25% to -50% less than physical books.
You can add eBooks from other sources
Another major benefit is that a Kindle allows you to upload eBooks from other sources.
For example, if you already have a library of 100 eBooks and don’t want to buy them again, you can simply upload them to your Kindle and start reading.
There is however one big downside to this: Kindle’s doesn’t support EPUB files.
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to convert an EPUB file to a Kindle compatible format such as AZW3.
You can use either use free software such as Caliber, or just go to sites such as https://epub2kindle.com/ which does it automagically for you.
Can read PDFs and many other formats
As mentioned previously, Kindle devices don’t read EPUB formats.
However, that’s pretty much the only major eBook format they can’t read. Almost any other eBook format you can think of is compatible with a Kindle:
|File Format||Filename Extension|
|Amazon AZW ebook||.azw|
|Amazon MOBI ebook||.mobi|
|Unprotected PRC ebook||.prc|
|Compressed PostScript file||.psz|
|Microsoft Word document||.doc, .docx|
|Rich Text Format||.rtf|
|HTML page||.htm, .html|
|JPEG image||.jpg, .jpeg|
Finally, you can also convert any of these files into the standard Kindle format, AZW3, using Caliber or other online tools that are specialized for the task.
Small size and very portable
Kindle devices are around 6.5 inches tall by 4.5 inches wide or 17 cm tall by 12 cm wide.
In other words, a Kindle’s footprint is around 25% bigger than a standard iPhone.
The actual screen varies on the model, but it’s between 6.8 to 7 inches. That’s just slightly larger than a modern smartphone.
Because of their small size, guys can carry them around in a pants or jocket pocket, while ladies can just dump one in a purse.
Excellent battery life
Kindle devices have fantastic battery life compared to tablets or smartphones.
In terms of raw numbers, you can expect the Kindle to last you around 25 hours of actual reading time.
So if you read 3 hours a day, the battery will last about a week on a single charge.
There are some exceptions to this however.
Setting up the Kindle for the first time is quite processor heavy, so expect the battery to not last as long during the first charging cycle.
Internet connectivity also takes its toll on battery life, so disconnecting the Kindle from Wi-Fi connections will help in improving battery longevity.
Storage space for hundreds of books
Kindles come with either 8 or 32 GB of storage.
Even the 8 GB versions offer enough space to store 100-200 eBooks, since the average eBook is around 50 MB in size.
32 GB is very generous, and allows you to save almost a lifetime’s worth of books on a single device.
Good integration with your Amazon account
Kindles are produced by Amazon and are deeply integrated into the Amazon ecosystem.
As such, any eBooks you’ve bought under your Amazon account will appear on your Kindle.
If you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, you’ll get access to a feature called “Prime Reading”. This is a collection of 1000 eBooks that are free to read.
However, the eBooks in the Prime Reading collection rotate every month so there will always be something new for you to read.
Another neat feature is called Whyspersync. This feature syncronizes between Kindle and Audible so that it keeps your place in the book when you switch from one to another.
Can share eBooks with friends and family
Kindle allows you to share eBooks with whoever you want by using a “loan” feature. This allows you to give another Kindle user your eBook for a 14 day period.
Can download books from local library
Perhaps one of the greatest features of Kindle is that you can download eBooks for free through your local library.
All you have to do is go to your local library and create a Libby/Overdrive account. From inside your Libby/Overdrive account, you can then borrow eBooks from your local library and send them directly to Kindle for you to read.
Just like with real books however, once the loan period is over the eBook will be removed from your device.
Unfortunately, this is only available for US readers however.
Here is a link that describes how this works.
A no distraction reading experience
Part of the reason Kindles are so nice for reading is because they don’t have any sort of notifications or other annoying stuff that interrupt the experience.
You’ll never get an annoying tweet, message or phone call on your Kindle. It’s not something you notice right away, but over time this aspect of using a Kindle really makes the experience so much more immersive.
Bookmarks, annotations, increase font size & more features
Kindles offer some very nice features that can help make your reading experience more enjoyable such as:
- Adjust font size.
- Backlight strength.
- Night mode.
- Screen warmth.
- Transition effects.
Overall, these kind of features just make the experience of using a Kindle that much more enjoyable.
Why a Kindle is NOT worth it
There’s honestly not that much to dislike about Kindles. The price is alright all things considered, and they offer a lot of features specialized around one thing: reading eBooks.
That being said, there are a few downsides to Kindles that you should take into account before buying one.
Kindles are rather slow
If you’re used to smartphones and tablets, you’ll find Kindles to be a bit slow.
It’s not something you’ll notice when switching from page to page, but typing stuff in, waiting for menus to load, searching for new books is noticeably slower and rather time consuming.
Because of this, most of the time you’ll probably search for books on your smartphone or PC and send it directly to your Kindle or buy it from there.
You can do this on the Kindle too, but it’s just way more time consuming and simply not a very pleasant experience.
A Kindle isn’t quite like reading a book
A Kindle offers a ton of convenience and features that makes the life of a book lover a lot easier.
That being said, a Kindle is it’s own kind of reading experience. You won’t get the same sensation from a Kindle as you would from reading a book.
The feeling of holding a book, touching the page, feeling the ink with your fingertips, smelling it etc. is not present on a Kindle.
This physicality of physical books is part of the reason why they’re still selling so well and haven’t been replaced by eBooks or audiobooks.
This tactile sensation is actually pretty important. Studies have found that readers retain information noticeably better from physical books compared to eBooks.
The apparent reason is that books are much more physical, so readers anchor information in the book to certain smells, pages, paragraph locations on pages etc.
You don’t “own” purchased eBooks
With any digital media whether it’s digital copies of movies, music you buy from iTunes, ebooks you buy from Amazon, or audiobooks from Audible, you don’t actually “own” the item even if you paid for it. You are actually buying a license to use the file.
Thus, if a publisher or author removes their eBook from Amazon or Kindle, then that eBook disappears from your library and you can’t read it again, even if you paid for it.
The only exception is if you downloaded the eBook to your device before it was removed. Kindle won’t touch eBook downloads already on your device so those are safe (until you run out of storage space).
That being said, if you buy a 32GB version of a Kindle you can just keep downloaded eBooks on your device for as long as you want since you have more than enough storage space.