Friday, September 21, 2012

Kindle News: Kindle Paperwhite e-reader display-light and glass system said to be less fragile than earlier front-lit reader

Kindle Paperwhite intro

Glimpses of font darkness

Paperwhite book covers projected onto hall screen

Paperwhite, WiFi (no 3G)

Five Generations of Kindle

Showing "9 mins left in chapter" estimate

This time, a bit about the coming Kindle Paperwhite, which was to ship Oct 1, but current product page ship time is Oct 22, partially because of demand.  I've included some photos I took at the press event, as these illustrate some of the points they stressed.

  Much has been written about the Paperwhite, because few of us expected the light to be so evenly distributed, with a soft, diffused quality.  It's easy on the eyes, with no obvious source for the lighting system and no unevenness like what we've sometimes seen with the Nook Glowlight.

  However, my own concern with what the new e-Ink Kindle model would be like has been a result of two disappointments (for some) with the Nook's front-lit reader:

  1.  possibly lowered contrast relative to older e-Ink Kindles.  Even the Nook reviews that were very positive tended to mention there was a loss of contrast as a result of the additional layer that houses the eight LED lights at the top edge of the e-Ink display, resulting in "certain lines of text looking slightly darker or lighter than others."

  2.  many reports of fragility of the lighting portion of the display so that a very light scratch on the surface, although not producing an indentation, can cause what Nook fan Kyle Wagner of Gizmodo describes as a "frightful little light tunnel that popped up" after he accidentally dropped a TV remote control about six inches onto the screen, and he excoriates himself for doing that.  The title of his piece was the sane advice that "You Really Don't Want to Drop the new Simple Touch."

The concern over fragility of front-lit eReaders
    Then TheDigitalReader's Nate Hoffelder drew attention to Wagner's article, and titled his take a bit more severely.

  Most of us have inadvertently dropped our readers or tablets a short distance to carpeted areas or even onto harder surfaces.  Hoffelder decided on a casual test (but one matching real-life scenarios), dropping his keys on his Nook Glowlight from a height of four inches.  Then he posted his photo of the results, with 4 points on the surface that now have bright light coming through, not very pleasant for reading.
  With the front-lighting off, the screen doesn't show any sign of damage otherwise.  Only the lighting system is harmed.

  There are 50 comments to Hoffelder's article.  One pointed out that this is not a reader meant for young ones.  Others at first felt he was too harsh.

  But quite a few are confirmations by readers that their Glowlights have seen this damage to the light display more than once, even while protected.

  And others expressed dismay with Nate's testing methodology.  So he decided to do another test, this time dropping his keys "from a height of 5 to 6 inches on the following devices:  Asus Transformer, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Kindle DX, Innosoul Android tablet, Kindle Touch."

  His results: "None were damaged in this experiment."

  A suggestion was made to use a screen protector, but another commenter said he'd tried that but it made the touch screen much less responsive.

  That's probably because the Nook Glowlight's display screen uses an infrared touch screen, while the Kindle Paperwhite has a capacitative touch display

  Commenter fjtorres presciently muses that
' Of course, now everybody will be doing their own “Hoffelder test” *before* releasing their product so the Nook glow might just be the end of *that* experiment. '

  In fact, I asked Kindle Team Staffers at the press event about my concern over fragility of a 2nd layer that houses lights over the text display, as I'd read so many reports on mild encounters of the screen with even-soft surfaces that resulted in damage to the lighting mechanism.  I mentioned reading information from Nook owners at Barnes and Noble's tech support site.

  One Kindle Team member actually gave me an answer (blow me down! as they tend to be so non-commital about everything).
He said that the Paperwhite light-system layer (it has only 4 Led lights) is "strong" and can handle quite a bit.   I asked if they had done tests that involved dropping objects onto the screen of a Paperwhite, and he said that they had, and that it had survived all manner of drops onto the surface.  I asked him if they'd dropped anything heavy on it, and he said, yes, and mentioned a rather heavy "brass" object and that it survived that too.

  So, Nate, if you're reading, you've probably had an effect (along with Wagner).

  Now, this is just off-the-cuff information received casually at the post-announcements demo-stations, and they'll not be guaranteeing their Paperwhites against this type of drop!  But obviously they would want to distribute something stronger than we've seen with the Glowlight so far and actually did do this type of drop-test.

  I'm interested in why the Paperwhite lighting layer would be stronger -- maybe its physical properties?  Or something about the lighting system that is more resistant to breakage?  At any rate, he was quite proud of the degree of resistance to damage from drops onto it.  Again, they won't be likely to do any kind of warranty on this, but it was reassuring to hear they were concerned with the strength of the lighting mechanism.

Other aspects
I'll be writing more about the Paperwhite, but this blog article is already too lengthy,as usual.

A few things to remember
  Like the Kindle Touch, the X-ray feature (in X-ray enabled books) gives you -- for characters mentioned on a page -- a bio plus excerpts from, and hyperlinks to, those characters' appearances in the book.

  The battery life is said to be about 8 weeks, "even with the light on."
    It's worth noting that Amazon used to base battery life on one hour of reading per day, but Barnes & Noble used a half-hour basis in their marketing and reviewers started saying the Nook had double the reading time.  I don't know any book type who reads only 1/2 hour per day though.

  The new "Time to Read" feature 'uses your reading speed" to let you know when you're likely to finish your current chapter.

  With 62% more pixels than on the last e-Ink model, it has the highest resolution of any 6-7" e-reader currently and the fonts are hand-tuned to present even complex fonts clearly at smaller sizes.   Having tried these a few times at the demo stations, I can confirm the unit is really clear and the touch screen very responsive.  The black flash page-turn of e-Ink has a default setting of one per 6 pages and I didn't notice any ghosting of the last few pages of a series.

&nbps; For families with students or for the curious of any age, the Paperwhite 3G model not only allows downloading of Kindle books anywhere but also has AT&T cellphone access (so that you don't need to rely on finding usable WiFi spots), and you can also access Wikipedia for free, 24/7 using that 3G cellular network access.  This is one of my favorite features, and it isn't found on any e-reader from other makers.

Current Kindle Models for reference, plus free-ebook search links.
NOTES on newer Kindles.
Updated Kindle Fire Basic  7" tablet - $159
Kindle Fire HD 7" 16/32GB - $199/$249
Kindle Fire HD 8.9" 16/32GB - $299/$369
Kindle Fire HD 8.9" 4G 32/64GB - $499/$599
Kindle NoTouch ("Kindle") - $69/$89
Kindle Paperwhite, WiFi - $119/$139
Kindle Paperwhite, 3G/WiFi - $179/$199
Kindle Keybd 3G - $139/$159, Free but slow web
Kindle DX - $379, Free, slow web
Kindle Basic, NoTouch - £69
Kindle Touch WiFi, UK - £109
Kindle Keyboard 3G, UK - £149
  Keybd: w/ Free, slow 3G WEB
OTHER International
Kindle NoTouch Basic - $89
Kindle Touch WiFi - $139
Kindle Keybd 3G - $189
  Keybd: w/ Free, slow 3G WEB

  For daily free ebooks, check the following links:
Temporarily-free books - Non-classics
USA: by:
   Publication Date  
   Bestselling   High-ratings

UK: PubDate   Popular

The Kindle Daily Deal
What is 3G? and "WiFi"?       Battery Care
Highly-rated under $1,  Newest: $1-$2, $2-$3
Most Popular Free K-Books
U.S. & Int'l (NOT UK):
   Top 100 free
   Top 100 free

USEFUL for your Kindle Keyboard (U.S. only, currently):
  99c Notepad 1.1,   99c Calculator,
  99c Calendar,   99c Converter

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  1. "you can also access Wikipedia for free, 24/7 using that 3G cellular network access. This is one of my favorite features, and it isn't found on any other e-reader."

    What about for example kindle keyboard w 3g? I can have not just wikipedia but all web 24/7 right now. Or am I missing something in your claim above?

    1. Iraya, Thanks for catching my poor wording. I meant that no e-reader from any other vendor provides anything like that. (Now I'll make it clearer.)

    2. I don't think you answered his question. Can this new kindle 3g surf other webpages other than wiki and amazon. The keyboard kindle 3g can surf gmail, google...other webpages

    3. Anonymous, Iraya didn't have a question (except "Am I missing something in your claim above?" because Iraya's KK can do free 24/7 web. That's of course correct.

      And I said that I had meant Amazon is the only one with free 3G e-readers for downloading books and Wikipedia and that I would make that clearer.

      Now, if you're asking for yourself, no the touch Kindles have direct access to hyperlinks and also they have faster processors, so probably for those reasons, Amazon didn't put (expensive) free 3G web browsing on the touch devices last year and they're not on the ones this year either.

      If you want to know more about the Kindle Keyboard's 3G, the reference section here has an article with a lot of detail on it:

      Hold onto that KK :-)

    4. hello, I'd like to make the question on free web browsing clear once again:

      - free ("experimental") webbrowsing not limited to Amazon Store and Wikipedia is available only for KIndle Keyboard 3G?
      - free unlimited webbrowsing is not available for any Kindle Touch devices (including Kindle Touch 3G (presented Sept 2011) and Kindle Paperwhite 3G (presented Sept 2012)?

      is this correct?


      Artemiy Pushkarev

    5. Артемий. Re the two questions:
      - Yes
      - Yes

      As I wrote to the note before, with the understanding that the Kindle Keyboard very obviously does have slow but free 3G for web lookups (which I emphasize in many articles here), the Kindle TOUCH ones do not have that, and I explained:

      "...the touch Kindles have direct access to hyperlinks and also they have faster processors, so probably for those reasons, Amazon didn't put (expensive) free 3G web browsing on the touch devices last year and they're not on the ones this year either.

      If you want to know more about the Kindle Keyboard's 3G, the reference section here has an article with a lot of detail on it:

      Do read that last-mentioned article, as it's important to what you're asking and this is the only blog that has delved into the details of the internatonal free 3G web lookups in general (it's too slow to call it 'browsing' normally) and this blog provides country detail as well.

      Hope that clears it up, Артемий.

  2. I am not savvy about these kinds of things so pardon the potentially silly question. I do have a Fire but I can't use it to read at night anywhere near bedtime because the LCD screen has a quality that wakes me right up and takes my body out "getting ready to go to sleep" mode. Does the LED light from the Paperwhite have that same quality or is it a different type of light altogether?

    1. Lone, Not silly at all. The LED light system they use on the Paperwhite is front-lighting. It's above the screen display and puts some light on the display and you then see the -reflected- light.

      It's more like reading a book by lamplight when the glow of a bulb lights the book area.

      If the Paperwhite gets to Staples near Oct 1. you can try it out before deciding whether to get one or not (and even then Amazon has a 30-day full refund on Kindles). Hope that helps. (I had to remove my first answer.)

    2. Lone, I'm adding that Amazon's 30-day refund comes into play when you order directly from them. Staples has only a 14-day return policy, and the stores vary.

  3. One thing I wonder about - on the fragility issue. Since the Nook GlowLight could not have a screen protector due to its infrared-based touch screen, does that mean that, with a capacitance-based screen, we could put a screen protector on the PaperWhite and not incur a touch "penalty?" Methinks a screen protector would work on the PaperWhite, but I'll just have to "baby" it until the blogosphere does its own "stress testing" on the matter, and perhaps a screen protector will be in my future.

    Incidentally, I got my Fire HD on time last week and love it - though I hate the carousel and lack of collections. I posted a full review on Amazon's website. My ship date for the PaperWhite has an estimated delivery still of October 2, and I hope they hold to it because I'm more anxious about the new PW than I was about the Fire HD! :) 11 Days!!!

    1. Tyler, adding another layer always affects the response somewhat and I wouldn't. It's beautiful and all this would do is make it shiny. If it stands up to some casual testing of anything dropped on it, i'd not worry about a little scratch.

      The Kindle Fire HD Carousel - I never use it (except to add-to-favorites something I just did and I like that this can be done, so it doesn't bother me. I do tap the star to get Favorites and that's a real plus because it's all global so we can access them from nearly everywhere on that tablet.

      Will look for your KFHD review later. And look to hear from you on October 3 :-)

  4. Good grief! I wouldn't expect any device to have an undamaged screen if I dropped a TV remote or my keys on them. I think the Nook with Glowlight has been unfairly bashed around the internet.

  5. reposted a portion of this posting the other day and received an interesting comment to it by regular commenter there, Felix Torres, which I'll quote here, as it was a comment to the content of this article and gives good information (as usual):

    ======= comment by Felix Torres at =======
    "...The Sony PRS-700 used sidelighting in the raw; LEDs on the perimeter with no light-diffusion layer.

    Because of that, it had a *big* air gap between the glass cover and the eink layer. On top of *that* it added a resistive pressure sensitive touch layer that added another (much thinner) air layer. The result was a noticeably fuzzier display with less contrast and a whole lot more glare. The thing was universally panned and Sony dropped the whole sidelighting thing.

    What the Nook does is they added a plastic film to guide the light from 5 LEDs at the top over the eink display. With a much thinner air gap between the eink and the top glass plate. There is still a bit of contrast loss (though not much) and fuzziness. The plastic film appears to be soft and fragile so that impacts transmited through the glass can (permanently?) deform it.

    And even without deforming, the plastic film isn’t a perfect light spreader so illumination is not even across the entire screen and some light leaks through the front without reflection off the eink layer. It works and it is clearly an economically viable solution but it has… issues.

    Kindle PW, on the other hand uses a bonded light diffuser film that is reportedly etched at a very fine scale (Nanoscale, allegedly–might be marketing speak, might be literal) that traps the light from its LEDs and controls its path of reflection with the result that illumination is uniform and less light leaks through the front.

    Amazon got this tech by buying a company that had been spending years working on it, btw. This wasn’t a weekend design project. So the odds that the thing is indeed reasonably rugged and optically clean to minimize contrast loss and distortion are pretty good.

    Nonetheless, I’m waiting to see one in my hands before I buy one.
    Theory is one thing, hands-on experience another.

    And my experience with the Sony led me to ignore it and the Book Glo struck me as acceptable until I heard about the dings. I take care of my toys but in real life stuff happens.

    I’m also waiting to see how Kobo handled their front-lighting and how robust that is.
    Now that B&N and Amazon have added lighting to their readers everybody is doing it, too; Onyx, Pocketbook… Uh, everybody except Sony, oddly enough."
    ======= End of comment by Felix Torres at Teleread =======


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