Does a standalone e-reader still make sense in 2017?
I’ve recently spent some time checking out Amazon’s latest Kindle e-reader, the 2nd generation Kindle Oasis. It’s the “luxury” choice in Amazon’s e-reader lineup, with a luxury price to match and a few new features to try to lure in those who love reading above other pursuits.
One of the key new features is the inclusion of water resistance, rated at IPX8. Specifically, that means that Amazon reckons it can survive immersion in water up to 2 metres deep for up to 60 minutes, which is impressive at a technical level, but not without its catches. One key factor to remember with any water resistant gadget is that the testing always takes place in clean, room temperature lab water. That means your dreams of surfing and reading, not to mention taking your Kindle into the bath need to remain just dreams. A water resistant Kindle Oasis might survive those kinds of conditions, but it’s not what it’s been tested for. The other catch there is that the capacitive screen in the kindle will frequently treat water as just another touch event. I tested this in a room temperature water shower, and while it was entertaining watching the Kindle Oasis go mildly nuts under the water, it wasn’t a situation where I could actually read anything.
Reading is central to the Kindle experience, as it has always been, but for the Oasis it’s especially true given its premium price, and the fact that Amazon offers Kindle apps for just about any device you’d care to read eBooks on. Want to read a Kindle book on PC or Mac? That’s as easy as installing the Kindle App, and the same is true for any smartphone or tablet you’d care to name.
As such, buying a Kindle might not seem to make that much sense if you can so easily read on other platforms. Leaving aside the relative comfort of reading on the e-ink displays that e-readers like the Kindle Oasis offers (which is a somewhat subjective matter), my testing reminded me of what dedicated e-readers actually do very well.
It’s not so much that they’re good for reading electronic books, but that in being essentially single purpose, they’re good for distraction-free reading. If I read an e-book on my phone, tablet or PC, the odds are pretty good I’ll get a notification of an incoming email, social media message or call when what I really want to do is curl up in a corner with my novel and a nice hot cup of tea. The Kindle does, it’s true, have an “experimental browser” onboard, which you could use for browsing the web if you opted for the 4G-compatible version, but when they say it’s experimental, they’re not kidding. Not only is it slow, but you’ll struggle to find too many sites it’s workable for. 4G on the Kindle is so much more about buying ebooks through Amazon, and given the relatively heavy saturation of free Wi-Fi services, I’m not convinced there’s much value anyway. If you were desperate for a new book while out and about, you could always duck into a coffee shop and jump onto their Wi-Fi to browse books anyway.
If all you want to do is read ebooks, then a Kindle is by no means an essential option. If what you want to do is read without interruption, and if you’re serious about wanting a really nice eBook reader, the Kindle Oasis is a solid, if not exactly inexpensive gadget.