Amazon Kindle Paperwhite review: Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite is the e-book reader for the masses

The Oasis already added wireless Bluetooth for listening to Audible audiobooks over Bluetooth headphones or speakers, and now the Paperwhite has the same. You can easily switch between e-book and audiobook, as they sync to the point in the book where you left off, but don't expect to use the Kindle as a music or podcast player. It's strictly for audiobooks.

While Amazon doesn't appear to have upgraded the Paperwhite's processor or RAM, it has upgraded the built-in storage, doubling it from 4GB to 8GB -- that's enough for "thousands of e-books," according to Amazon, but the extra space is more to account for audiobooks, which have beefier file sizes. If you're a hardcore Audible listener, check out the the step-up models that feature 32GB of storage. 

There's a new lighting scheme and home screen.

David Carnoy/CNET

As before, you can choose from 10 different reading fonts, 16 font sizes (all the way to ones for visually impaired folks) and five boldness settings. What's new is the ability to save custom settings for yourself or various members of your family who like to read with different font sizes on the same Kindle. On top of that, there are some preset options to pick from. The "gym" setting, for instance, is a quick way to jump to a bigger, bolder font, and there's a new home screen that adds additional layers of Amazon recommendations based on your reading habits, as well as tips for new features. Additionally, there's a new home screen that adds additional layers of Amazon recommendations based on your reading habits, as well as tips for new features to try. 

Amazon says the updated home experience, as well as the ability to quickly save and access reading settings, will be delivered as a free, over-the-air update to the all-new Kindle Paperwhite, the sixth-gen (released in 2013) and seventh-gen (2015) Paperwhites and other newer Kindle devices "in the coming weeks."  

Backside.

David Carnoy/CNET

No Alexa yet

Amazon hasn't managed to integrate Alexa voice control into a Kindle yet, but with the slightly trimmer design, full waterproofing, Bluetooth and increased memory this is a satisfying upgrade. The Kindle Oasis, which costs nearly twice as much, has a bigger, 7-inch screen, but the two devices weigh virtually the same and now have similar features. It makes you wonder if the Oasis is due for an upgrade -- or price drop -- that might give you more of a reason to buy it. 

Note that the entry-level Kindle, which doesn't have an illuminated screen, is still available for $80, £60 or AU$109. And if you want a non-Amazon alternative, Walmart is ramping up its Kobo readers, and the Barnes & Noble Nook still lives, though with only a reported 2.1 percent market share

As noted, the new Paperwhite starts at $130 for the Wi-Fi-only version and jumps to $160 for the 32GB version and $250 for the 32GB version with cellular. You can add $20 at checkout, or any time in the future, to remove the "special offer" ads on the lockscreen and home screen (but they never impinge into an actual reading experience). For a limited time, Amazon is including six months of its subscription reading service, Kindle Unlimited, for free (it normally costs $10 a month). The service gives you access to a million e-book titles and thousands of Audible audiobooks.  

Final thoughts

If you already own the previous Kindle Paperwhite, you won't need to rush out for this version. That said, if you like to read in the bath, around the pool or near any other body of water, the waterproofing may make this Kindle worth the investment. The same goes if you're a big Audible user and want a dedicated device that's not your phone.

If you don't own a Kindle already or are upgrading from a much older or entry-level Kindle with no built-in light, the new Kindle Paperwhite is easy to recommend -- especially when Amazon is discounting it to $100. It's the best value in the Kindle line, and the best overall e-book reader for most people.     

Here are the key specs of the new 2018 Kindle Paperwhite, according to Amazon:

  • 6-inch 300-ppi E Ink display
  • 182 grams (6.4 ounces)
  • 8.18 mm thick
  • IPX8 waterproof rating to protect against immersion in up to 2 meters of fresh water for up to 60 minutes
  • Drop-resistant design with highly shatter-resistant, flush-front, plastic touchscreen screen display
  • 8GB built-in memory (previous model had 4GB)
  • Step-up versions with 32GB of memory
  • Five-LED lighting system (previous model had four)
  • Bluetooth for listening to Audible audiobooks (no music streaming)
  • Around six weeks of reading on a single charge with "normal" use (same as previous model)
  • $130 (£120) for the Wi-Fi-only version with Special Offers ($10 more than previous model)
  • $160 (£150) for the 32GB version 
  • $250 (£220) for the 32GB version with cellular
  • Amazon is including six months of its subscription reading service, Kindle Unlimited, free for a limited time (it normally costs $10 a month)

Originally published Nov. 8, 2018.
Update, March 14, 2019: Notes that Amazon has frequently discounted the price since the product debuted.

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