I was slow to jump on the e-reader bandwagon. When reading books on handheld battery-powered devices became a thing, I had already graduated college and was plenty old enough to be set in my curmudgeonly ways.
Among my objections were some valid issues: for one, I've always liked books as physical artifacts, the varying fonts and page thicknesses, even the scents of the ink making each reading experience unique. I'm also a collector from way back, and I struggled to see how filling a virtual bookshelf (essentially a glorified list) could scratch that itch. And I was certain to be wary of anything that eliminated the need to browse bookstores, one of my all-time favorite pastimes ever since Waldenbooks in the mall was reigning purveyor of all the Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley Twins books my heart desired.
Then I met and married an engineer, and he slowly chipped away at my resolve until our first anniversary in 2011, when I received a Kindle Keyboard alongside my flowers and cute-animal-photo greeting card. (Marry someone who loves technology, and you will be shocked at all the techie gadgets you never knew you needed until you found yourself their co-owner. Case in point: we recently got an Amazon Echo, a product I had never heard of and could see absolutely no practical use for, and now I walk around our house periodically yelling “ALEXA!” and asking inane questions just for the company.)
After a test drive, I had to admit my fancy new e-reader brought with it some amazing perks. I could read really long books without making my wrists ache (that was during my Game of Thrones phase, when I read well into book five before collapsing in exhaustion). If I wanted to read a particular book, I could purchase it, download it, and be well into the first chapter inside of five minutes. Although repeated smell tests always brought disappointment (my e-reader never smelled deliciously musty like paper books do; it only offered a leathery musk thanks to the case I'd picked out), what the Kindle lacked in aesthetic appeal it more than made up for in instant gratification.
Eventually I established a comfortable truce between my e-reader and my paper books: I would choose which to read based on my mood, cash flow, and title availability. If there was a book I was eager to read that had a long hold list at the library, I'd buy an e-book version. If my stash of gift cards was running low and I was feeling thrifty, I'd pick out a library book or pluck one of my many unread paperbacks off the shelf in the basement. (Of course libraries are improving their digital offerings all the time, so nowadays there's a lot more overlap here than there once was.) My e-reader didn't fundamentally change how I read, and it didn't prevent me from buying or borrowing physical copies, but it did add an element of convenience and efficiency that I found pleasing.
Fast-forward to a week ago, and my trusty Kindle Keyboard had lost a bit of its shine. I secretly wanted to replace it, but I have a hard time getting rid of old appliances and electronics unless they straight-up stop working. (Exhibit A: our dishwasher, which, when in the full throes of a cycle, generates such a deafening din it brings to mind the surface of an aircraft carrier on a busy day, yet so reliably cleans our spoons and drinking glasses I can't justify replacing it, even if I do have to leave the room when it's running to take a phone call.) And darned if that three-and-a-half-year-old Kindle wasn't chugging away just as it always had.
Then I made the mistake of researching the Kindle Voyage, “just to see what it's like,” and then Valentine's Day was approaching, and you can probably guess the rest. I took a page out of Tom and Donna's “Treat Yo' Self” playbook and decided the Voyage would be mine.
AND I LOVE IT SO MUCH.
For the nerd-types who are interested, and for anyone who's in the market for an e-reader upgrade, here are some of my thoughts on the Voyage and how it compares to my old device:
This was one of my biggest priorities. I'm (ahem) getting older and I've worn Coke-bottle glasses since first grade, so reading in low light is not something I'm keen on. One of the biggest annoyances about my old Kindle was how dependent I was on external lighting. Especially after sunset, there were only a couple spots in the house with sufficient light to read by. So if I wanted to be social and, you know, actually spend time with my husband, typically I'd find myself sitting somewhere with low enough lighting that reading wasn't possible. (Hindsight tells me I could have invested in a case with a built-in light, but I've heard mixed reviews on those anyway, so eh.) I absolutely love the backlight on the Voyage and have found the auto-adjust feature works without a hitch. I can walk from a brightly lit window into a dark room without pausing in my reading at all. And I can confirm that just like older generation Kindles, the Voyage is perfectly readable even in bright sunlight, as I read outside for an hour without a problem on an unseasonably warm day we had.
One of the main reasons I didn't want a Kindle Paperwhite was the lack of side buttons for turning pages. I like touch screens as much as the next gal, but I was used to my old Kindle with physical buttons and didn't think tapping would be as comfortable (plus, screen smudges drive me bonkers, just to give you a little window into my weird, obsessive head). The page-turn buttons on the Voyage work great, and they give you a little buzz of haptic feedback with each press. I was nervous the buzzing would be distracting, but I set it to low and it's been fine. I also set the pressure required for a page turn to the lowest possible setting, which at least for me minimizes distraction and keeps me focused on the book. I can turn pages with only a slight movement, which is awesome.
This is getting a bit outside my wheelhouse, but I can say as a technological layperson that I could tell a remarkable difference in clarity and sharpness between my Voyage and my old Kindle. I had always been a little bummed at how often I had to turn pages on my old Kindle—I'm a pretty fast reader, and it seemed I was turning pages every five seconds. At the time I just thought the screen needed to be bigger (shout-out to the DX users!), but that's not the case at all. The screen on my Voyage is very close in size, but I can set the font size significantly smaller because the resolution is so much better. For me, this means I can comfortably read more text on a single screen, and therefore turn pages less often, and therefore concentrate better on what I'm reading. This is one feature of the Voyage that I didn't expect to care about, but it turned out to be a noticeable step up.
Lightness and portability.
I currently carry a compact purse, and fitting a book inside is a ridiculous pipe dream unless I plan on leaving my wallet at home. However, the Voyage is so low-profile, it slips right in behind all my junk with room to spare. After realizing how clunky and obnoxious the case on my old Kindle was, I made a point to pick out a Voyage case that wouldn't add bulk, and I've been happy with it.
3G and special offers.
I decided to skip the 3G and get a wi-fi only Kindle this time. My old Kindle had 3G, and if you live in a place where wi-fi is scarce, it makes a lot of sense. However, wi-fi is prevalent most places I go these days, and I do most of my reading at home where I always have Internet access. If we're heading out on a long trip in the future, I'll just plan ahead and make sure my Voyage is loaded ahead of time with whatever books I might want to read. I'm a planner anyway, so 3G didn't seem worth it to me.
As for the special offers, I decided to go ahead and accept them due to the discounted price. I'll admit that they're a little distracting on the home screen, but I don't care a whit what's on the sleep screen, and I'm certainly not annoyed enough that I want to hand over $20 more to get rid of them. Plus, sometimes the covers of the romance novels and such are amusing. (Pro tip: Adam informs me that if you initially accept the special offers but later find them off-putting, you have the option to pay $20 at any time and have them removed, even after your initial purchase.)
Long story longer, I'm really pleased with my e-reader upgrade, and I've enjoyed experimenting with it in the last week or so. If you've been toying with the idea of investing in a new e-reader (or even trying one out for the first time), I hope I've provided some insight into what the new Voyage is like and whether it might be a good fit for you.
If you're in the market for a new Kindle, would you be so kind as to use the following affiliate links and let Amazon know we sent you?
I'm also interested to hear your thoughts on e-readers in general. Are you a reluctant adopter like me, or do you read exclusively on your device? Or perhaps you're one of the stubborn few who says it's paper or nothing, and e-books are the harbingers of global doom? If you've used a non-Kindle e-reader, or if you read e-books on an iPad or Android tablet, let me know what you like and don't like about those options.
I'd love to hear from you!