The New Kindle Paperwhite Isn't the Only E-Reader on the Shelf

Kobo could be a better option for you

Key Takeaways

  • New Kindle Paperwhite has a bigger 6.8-inch screen and most of the Oasis’ screen features.
  • The high-end model also has wireless charging.
  • You might look at other manufacturers before buying another Kindle.
Someone reading on an Amazon Kindle while sitting in a hammock outside.

Perfecto Capucine / Unsplash

Amazon has leaked its new Kindle Paperwhite update, and it’s like a chunky Kindle Oasis, without the buttons. 

The Paperwhite is the sweet spot in the Kindle lineup. It’s fancier than the basic Kindle, but still way, way cheaper than the top-of-the-line Oasis. And as soon as this new Paperwhite launches, that spot will—temporarily—be even sweeter, leapfrogging the Oasis in most features, or at least matching them. But even with this solid update, does the Kindle still lag in the e-reader market as a whole?

"The new Kindle doesn't appear to have features that beat anything Kobo has been producing for the last several years. Some Kobo models have had auto-adjusting front-lights, waterproofing, flush screens, for quite some time now," Alex Cabal, boss of online writing community Scribophile, told Lifewire via email. 

Paperwhite and Paperwhite Signature Edition

Amazon "accidentally" leaked the next Paperwhite in a comparison page on its Canadian site (since removed) and followed that move with an official announcement on Tuesday. It comes with the same two 8 GB and 32 GB storage options, and the larger-capacity model has been renamed the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition. 

The screen grows from 6.0 inches to 6.8 inches and uses a temperature coloring system like the Kindle Oasis 3, according to Good Ereader’s Michael Kozlowski. The Signature Edition also gets the Oasis’ auto-adjusting light sensors (for automatically dimming and brightening the screen to match ambient light) and wireless charging. 

The brand new Kindle Oasis, announced on September 21.

Amazon

In all, it’s an OK update, and it comes with the Kindle’s new home screen and navigation design. If you’re in the market for a Kindle, then the new Paperwhite Signature edition is the one to get. But if you’re in the e-reader market as a whole, things get more complicated. 

Kobo and Competition

There are plenty of e-reader manufacturers from all over the world. But the Kindle’s main competition is the Kobo, which beats Amazon’s effort on most counts.

The Kobo has had warm-colored front-lighting and advanced navigation gestures for years. But perhaps most important of all—the books just look better on screen.

"The most important point is that Kindle doesn't appear to have updated their ebook rendering software," says Cabal.

"Kindle uses a proprietary renderer that is both inferior to competing renderers like Kobo and is unable to read the most popular e-book format, EPUB. This means that the typographic quality is limited; advanced features like popup endnotes, tables, figures, and so on are poorly supported; and it still can't read the most popular e-book format in the world," says Cabal.

A white Kobo e-reader sitting on top of a notebook.

Spencer / Unsplash

To be fair, it’s easy enough to convert EPUB-format books to work well on the Kindle using desktop software (as we shall see in a moment), but the reading experience is generally poor. Kobo books use beautiful typography that mimics top-quality paper books. In comparison, the Kindle looks like a dime-store pulp novel.

The Kobo readers also sync with the Pocket read-later service, making it easy to save long articles from your phone or computer so that you can read them on the Kobo.

"Kindle has another huge drawback compared to Kobo, that is its optimization for foreign language books. Kobo also has full foreign language dictionaries, e.g., Spanish to Spanish, where you don't only get a translation, but an explanation of the word," web designer and e-reader user David Attard told Lifewire via email. 

The advantages of non-Kindle readers might be clear, but if you switch, what about all those Kindle books you bought?

Calibre

No problem. If you grab yourself a copy of the free, open-source app Calibre, you can easily import and convert your Kindle books to the open EPUB format used by most other readers. Even if you don’t plan to switch, Calibre is a reliable way to back up your purchased books. 

Someone sitting on a chair in an empty room, reading on an e-book reader.

Anthony Tran / Unsplash

Calibre also works the other way, taking EPUBs and other books you may have purchased or downloaded and converting them to various Kindle formats. 

The Calibre app is unattractive and confusing, but you could say the same about the Kindle’s software. The good news is that you don’t need to use it much. You can bulk convert your entire library, load it onto your Kobo, and you’re done.

Or just stick with the Kindle. After all, if the book is good, you don’t notice anything but the story.

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