A Slim Touch: The 2016 Amazon Kindle

Refurbished or used, this Kindle could be just what you need to fit your budget

2016 Kindle
The 2016 Kindle. Amazon

Like that circle of life Elton John sang about, gadgets have a natural cycle about them.

Some stand the test of time, like the basic design for personal computers and laptops. Then you have short-lived entries such as the Discman, victims of a new, disruptive technology that ushers in the next wave of innovation.

For a while, it looked like E Ink readers were poised to be in the latter category. After a hot start that saw the market flooded with entries from manufacturers big and small, the culling of e-readers came hard and swift once tablets usurped the devices. With companies such as Sony tapping out, the e-reader market saw huge contraction — except for one key player that is.

With the exception of a couple of alternatives that continue to fight the good fight, Amazon’s Kindle line remains the fittest survivor in the Darwinian e-reader ecosystem.

In addition to introducing different entries such as the Kindle Paperwhite, Amazon also likes to regularly refresh its entry-level E Ink reader every couple or so years. The latest comes in the form of the 2016 Kindle, which adds some new features to the mix.

At the top of the list is a new form factor. This Kindle comes with less weight and a slimmer profile than the previous model it replaces, making it a smidgen more portable. At just 5.7 ounces, the new Kindle is lighter than the Voyage and Paperwhite, though it’s still a tad heavier than the top-of-the-line Oasis. For folks who want color alternatives, the 2016 Kindle is also available in white besides the regular charcoal black color.

Another nice addition is the inclusion of the VoiceView screen reader via the Kindle’s built-in Bluetooth support. This opens up many of the reader’s features to visually impaired users straight out of the box without requiring any extra adapters. For fans of accessibility, this is a worthy addition.

Other new functions include the ability to use e-mail to export your notes as well as your highlights via PDF or even a simple file that can be opened with a spreadsheet app. You also can choose between English and Chinese for Word Wise hints when using the device’s dictionary function. The e-reader comes with the new personalized home screen interface that Amazon released earlier in 2016 as well.

As far as lasting power, Amazon continues to tout a battery life of four weeks based on its magic equation of half an hour of reading per day. In short, it’s about 14 hours. Charging the device to full power from empty takes about four hours, which isn’t super fast but at least doesn’t require you to leave it plugged overnight.

Pricing remains the same at $99.99, though folks who don’t mind ads can drop the price down to $79.99 with special offers. Although the lack of a price drop might disappoint some folks, it continues to be the most affordable in Amazon’s stable, with the next low-cost option being the Kindle Paperwhite, which costs $119.99 with special offers or advertising. The lower price, however, comes with, well, a price. On the plus side, the 2016 Kindle continues to feature a touchscreen, which is a plus. Storage is also comparable to other Kindle devices with 4 gigabytes of internal storage.

At the same time, it is also missing features that are available in other current Kindle models. Most glaring is the lack of backlighting. With the absence of a built-in light, you won’t be able to read in dark places unless you have an external light source of your own. Resolution is also lower at only 167 points per inch. In contrast, every other Kindle in the current line such as the Paperwhite, Voyage, and Oasis feature a display with 300 points per inch of resolution.

Connectivity options also are limited to Wi-Fi and the 2016 Kindle does not have the 3G connection other Kindle devices have. For users who want to bring their reader to the beach or pool, this model does not come with the same water-resistant capabilities seen in the Barnes & Noble Nook Glowlight Plus or the Kobo Aura H2O. The 2016 Kindle also does not have a headphone slot if you want it to double as a listening device.

While the new Kindle continues the trend of not supporting file formats such as EPUB, it still has what’s arguably the best store and e-book ecosystem out there. Folks who don’t like being locked into Amazon’s proprietary format will still be better off with alternatives like a Kobo or Nook. If you’re used to Amazon’s online system, however, the 2016 Kindle is a solid, affordable option.