A decade later with Kindles

As those of you reading my now-going-on-ancient first Kindle writeup know, I was somewhat mixed on the Kindle initially.  I saw the appeal, and used it ‘well’ for my purposes, being travel, including some ‘unique’ travel and motorcycle trips.  

I eventually upgraded to a refurbished Voyage, and used it for….7 years.  It still works, the origami cover is great, although it does have some peeling of the leather from the plastic on one corner now, and other Kindle models have come and gone including several models of the Paperwhite, the Oasis, and now - the Scribe.

Has anything changed on my opinion of the Kindle/Amazon ecosystem?

Eh. Of course, unlike previously when it seemed possible the Kindle would flop and leave us abandoned or looking to be forcibly moved to the B&N Nook or other device, the Kindle ecosystem and set of devices has at this point stood the test of time. There are still limitations like inability to ‘nicely’ handle PDFs (e.g. ability to zoom in), while Amazon slowly but surely is removing free ‘Whispernet’/connectivity other than Wifi from their devices.

I’ve taken my Kindles pretty much on every trip, and sometimes to doctor’s offices and the like.  I still strongly believe e-Ink is superior and less straining on the eyes for reading, although not nescessarily for complicated diagrams and the like (mostly due to screen size, inability to zoom in/out, ..).  

I’ve had a handful of Kindles over the years now, as well as my wife having a few, and aside from my wife dropping one from the top of the refrigerator to land on the corner on a tile floor, they’ve been pretty durable, aside from the inevitable battery degradation over time.  My Voyage still works today, some ~7 years later, so even at the relatively ‘premium’ price I paid for the Voyage versus the other Kindle models, I can say I’ve probably gotten my money’s worth out of it.  I read sporadically on and off, but usually have periods of time reading voraciously (e.g. I’ve read over 30 books in a 3 month period before, nightly before sleeping and on parts of weekends, travel, etc.).  

Book Availability

Chances are pretty good if you’re looking for a specific book published within the past few decades, and sometimes beyond, it can be found on Kindle. Sadly, ‘full price’ Kindle books remain at the same price or only marginally cheaper than their ‘real book’/paper equivalents, but there are often free books out there, from free Prime Reading books for Prime members, various free books on Amazon, and the option to convert from ePub and other formats to Kindle format via tools like Calibre (free!!).

Most libraries in the US also use Overdrive, which allows ‘borrowing’ of eBooks to your Kindle. There are a growing number of services out there like Centsless Books and FreeBooksy, and others.

Sadly, the ‘free books’ link on Amazon isn’t the greatest, as it doesn’t allow sub-searches, e.g. by genre, and some of the old filters (like price!) aren’t visible on Amazon’s site any longer, which is where some of the other sites and/or some cleverness enter the picture. You can check ‘Kindle Deals’ or just go to the main eBooks link, and drill into a genre and then show ‘Top 100 free’ (here’s the link for top Sci-fi and fantasy free eboks as an example) or drill into a genre, then select a sub-section and View All (e.g. Sci-Fi and Fantasy, Reader Favorites / View All, and then sort by price descending.  

All the above kind of ‘gets you there’ for some free books, which are often e.g. the first book or few books of a series, with the remaining ones being paid, although sometimes you can get a full series from an author who has other series.  It’s just not as quite of a good search experience as it could be as it doesn’t allow sub-searches by author, for example, or even keywords, while retaining the free or <= $0.99 filters, so often a fair amount of clicking is involved.  

For me, it’s an annoyance, and there used to be more writeups out there on URL params that you could add to still effectively do the filtering desired (e.g. show me all sci-fi books that are free, ranked from popularity or author), but more sites have sprung up where they want you to give them your info and email (you’re the ‘product’ in their ‘free’ links etc) to do it for you, or direct you to their selection of free books.  

I’ll probably get around to seeing whether or not there are still any hidden search parameters like there used to be, but meanwhile, I usually load up on book collections that are free or 99cents or less, to get a feel for an author or collection of authors/series, and from there, I’ll just continue the series and authors I like whether they’re free or paid (it’s usually the latter).  

Overall, I’m quite sure Amazon gets their money’s worth out of me - after all, they’re profiting on both the razor (Kindle) and the razor blades (eBooks), and even with the free books, I probably spend a few hundred a year on paid eBooks, while finding some authors and series I probably would have never come across otherwise, so while I’d like to see some of the older filters be revived allowing sub-searches and the like, the current system of some free books leading into paid subsequent purchases probably works reasonably well for both Amazon and readers/consumers.

Which Razor/Kindle and how long do they last?

As I mentioned, my Voyage still works after 7 years.  I gave my old Kindle with physical keyboard away to a friend years ago, still working.  In general, they’re pretty durable devices.  

The modern Kindles are pretty good devices, without the need for hokiness like clip-on lights (yeah, had one way back for first Kindles), and some of them (Paperwhite, Oasis) are waterproof and have slowly moved to USB-C for a more consistent charging standard (finally).  Current Paperwhites have the same 300DPI eInk screen as the needs-an-update-but-still-latest Oasis 3, making some of the decisions to go for their ‘premium’ or ‘mid-range’ devices more and more difficult.  

For me, I really dig the page turn buttons/haptics/feel, and have been waiting for the ‘Oasis 4’ to finally replace my aging Voyage, but of course, Amazon just announced the Scribe and updated Paperwhite instead, so it seems unlikely to see an Oasis 4 this year…or perhaps ever, although going from the Paperwhite’s 6.8” screen and jumping to the Scribe with pen at a (for eReaders) huge 10” screen seems to still leave the Voyage/Oasis ‘gap’ in their lineup.  The Scribe may be a cool device - I already have an iPad Pro with pencil and do use it for marking up various work and personal documents.  I might be convinced at some point that I ‘need’ a Scribe, but that would require a lot more confirmed information, for example that it fully integrates into Microsoft Office apps properly, e.g. notes and highlights added to a Word document I load from OneDrive are saved back into the original document, not having a bespoke document I can only see my ‘sticky notes’ and markup on the Scribe on, or it’s a whole lot less useful to me than it should be.  Time will tell - right now there’s not even a OneDrive integration, which is where my biggest need to work with Microsoft documents comes from, and only mention of ‘sticky notes.’  

Meanwhile, I don’t want to travel with yet another tablet-sized device, so I don’t see the Scribe becoming my primary reading device, or at least not for travel, nor likely for my typical night-time reading without a ‘perfect’ kind of stand for reading in bed.  It’s also not waterproof so at least for now, for me - the Scribe is a pass/wait and see what the next version brings perhaps.

The base Kindles are a good deal for those on a budget, while the Paperwhites in general, especially with the latest updates and LEDs, warm lighting and such, are seemingly solid options other than for those, like me, who insist on having some form of non-touchscreen-driven page turning mechanism, while the price jump from a current Paperwhite which is nearly as good on speed, lighting, etc. as the aging Oasis 3, is fairly significant.  At least early Prime days have seen a pretty good discount, so while I could continue to wait and keep using my 7 year old Voyage, I don’t have high confidence we’ll see an updated Oasis ‘soon enough,’ and they have some pretty good discounts going on which include on the Oasis 3, so will likely be going ahead unless I can snag one cheaper on eBay.  Yes, it’s going to annoy me to no end if they announce an Oasis 4 with USB-C within 6 months, but - so be it…it’s time.


This is something I expect is split down the middle - some people know about and leverage often, and others continue to be surprised by it.  
For starters, Amazon devices are nearly always discounted heavily for the various Prime shopping events, from Prime days/week to Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, sometimes fairly significantly.  If you’re anywhere close to one of those events and looking to save a few $, it’s usually worth waiting.

Beyond that, Amazon also offers 20% trade-in plus some token gift card for ‘upgrading’ from a prior model Kindle.  Regardless of type being traded-in, you get the 20% discount.  That’s a pretty nice chunk, $20 off a $100 device, or $80 off the ~$400-ish Scribe.  The gift card amount is kind of a joke, ranging from $5-$20 in most cases, so it may make sense to add up the 20% + gift card value versus selling your ‘old’ Kindle via personal sale, but it also may be worth finding someone’s old or discarded Kindle to get that 20% off deal.

eInk vs other devices

My wife and I have a pretty good collection of Apple devices.  I run a high end 16” Macbook Pro for work and personal use along with a 13” MBP, my wife alternates between 13” Pros and Airs, we’ve both got iPod Pros, iPhones and watches.  I don’t chase ‘have to have the latest’ for quite some time now, so it’s pretty much never that all of them are latest/current generation as IMO it’s a huge waste of $ (at the end of 2022, my MBP 16” is a 2019 Intel 32GB 2TB system, wife’s is a 2021 Macbook Air, Series 6 watch upgraded from Series 2 last year, I still rock my iPhone 11 Pro Max and wife’s iPhone X, non-M1 iPad Pro for me, wife has first M1 iPad Pro), but when it’s time to need the upgrade, depending o nthe device, I’ll pick up current gen, or a refurbished or sometimes used one gen back replacement.  I also have a quite nice but non-4K ultra-wide screen display I use as my primary work and personal display for getting work done.  

My wife tends to use her phone or tablet instead of her Kindle, but for me, none of these devices in reality, are better than even my now ‘old’ Voyage eInk 300DPI display - for reading books. It’s possible this changes in the future, but as someone routinely spending 8-16 hours per day in front a a computer or device screen, I can say this is pretty definitively the case.  Yes, there are various improvements in display techdealing with blue light, backlighting in different forms and the like, but again, for reading, IMO, nothing today beats eInk for low-strain, natural reading.

Kindle UX/User Experience

KindleOS or it’s user interface, on the other hand…. well, I’m waiting to see if the Oasis 3 UI is any different from my current Voyage, and it’s ‘adequate’ but nothing outstanding IMO.  The web browser is still ‘experimental,’ basically meaning literally - don’t even bother.  I’m mostly OK with that, as that’s not the real purpose of the device.  The ability to select fonts and change font sizes is reasonably easy enough, as is the ability to quickly toggle airplane mode (which for anyone new to Kindles, is where you device should always be, unless actively downloading books; your battery life will thank you!).  The home screen and library views, however, haven’t changed all that much, nor are they, well - good.  I am continually seeing the book I just finished reading on my home screen, instead of the next in series.  Kindle seems to think reading the slast story page and not wanting to read e.g. 7 pages of ads for the author’s other books, shouldn’t mark the book as read.  Library mode, even when grouped into collections is kind of a mess as even in a listed collection, i.e. a series, you can’t always tell for example, which book is next, as the text is truncated and they aren’t consistently ordered in sequence.  It’s not horrible as in the worst thing ever, with no possible way to get to what you actually want, but again - it’s just not good, let alone great, and I’d have thought by now, this relatively simple interface, should be better than it is.  

Likewise their pushing seemingly of what they want, versus what users want in some cases, e.g. - the Voyage and Oasis.  Both were ‘more premium’ devices, with glass screens and physical means for page turning, and more robust builds compared to the other Kindles.  They ‘felt’ more premium in the hand, with a small number of meaningful but desirable-to-some enhancements.  Undoubtedly, devices like the Voyage and Oasis aren’t the devices today with the highest sales numbers, but there are also reasons for car and other manufacturers to offer ‘top of the line’ models - something to entice those looking for something different, as well as those who are happy enough with the other offerings but think they may upgrade at a later time.  

Apple meanwhile, has gone through some of their own lineup confusion outside of the domain of e-readers, with their laptop lines and even phones (SE models), but I do hope Amazon gets it together and continues the lines of basic (Kindle Basic), mid-level (Paperwhites), and high end (Viyage, Oasis or their replacement) while noting the Scribe is really a more specialized device versus a replacement for any of these.  Time will tell.  

For the time being, at least, nearly all of the currently sold Kindles are reasonably good offerings, although the Oasis is due a refresh so I wouldn’t touch it unless it’s on discount or you absolutely must have one now and must have the physical keypress (otherwise Paperwhite for less $), and unless you absolutely need the Scribe, I’d hold off to see how their integrations develop around it and feedback on the first model..and perhaps waiting for the next one unless absolutely nescessary.