Choosing Between the Kindle Paperwhite, the Basic Kindle, and the Kindle Keyboard

photo credit: WingedWolf via photo pin cc

If you are thinking of getting a Kindle eReader, or perhaps making a change from the one you already have, you can get a ton of information from the Amazon website. Each Kindle has its own product page, with all the details spelled out, and by scrolling down the page, you’ll find a chart to help you compare the models.

My attempt here, will be to sum all this up by highlighting some pros and cons.

First of all… all three Kindle models have a great many things in common. They ALL have: brilliant, sharp e-ink technology; adjustable font sizes; adjustable fonts; choices for line spacing and words per line; sync with Kindle apps; cloud storage for your library; free samples; wireless downloading (you never need to attach a Kindle to a computer); built in dictionary; highlighting and bookmarks; note sharing; and real page numbers (helpful for book groups).

You can shop for books directly from all three, although personally … I don’t shop that way. I enjoy browsing through books and reviews directly on the Amazon website from my computer. When I find a book that I’d like to sample or purchase, I use the buy/sample button on the right side of the screen. By the time I reach for my Kindle, the book has appeared on the device.

All of the Kindles are easily managed on the Amazon website. (I’ll dedicate another few posts in the near future on “how to” manage your Kindle library.)

So now…. let’s look at some things that set these Kindles apart from each other.

Kindle Keyboard 3G

The Kindle Keyboard is the oldest model of the Kindle that is still available for purchase. I am currently reading on a Kindle Keyboard, and it is a great eReader. I truly have no complaints.

This is now the only model available with a physical keyboard. Some people prefer it over a virtual keyboard (which exists on the other two models).

The page-turning buttons are on the sides, conveniently placed so that you can easily read one-handed. The buttons are quiet. Menu buttons take you to the home page, turn the wireless on/off, etc.

I am a bed-reader. It’s my before-sleep ritual. Research has shown that reading from a back-lit screen (a tablet/computer screen) can interfere with sleep, so an e-ink screen is a preferred choice for nighttime reading. I stop using my iPad an hour or so before bed, and never use it to read at night. I use my Kindle Keyboard, with a clip on book light.

This Kindle has 3G and it is free. No fees, ever. This means that no matter where you are in the world, you can download a book in seconds.

3G on the Kindle Keyboard also means that you do not have to look for a wireless point to download a book… it just does the job wherever you are. ** If you don’t have wireless in your home, this is a very important point to consider. **

There are speakers on this Keyboard Kindle. (No speakers on the Basic or the Paperwhite).

Battery life is awesome. 8 weeks with the wireless off.

Kindle Keyboard 3G $139

Basic Kindle

This is the basic model bare-bones simple Kindle. No keyboard, no touch system. You access the menu, etc, from buttons at the bottom. Page turn buttons on the sides.

It is the lightest of all Kindle models.

This basic Kindle uses a wireless connection to download books. So you would need to be in a wireless environment to receive books. There is no 3G version available of this Kindle.

4 weeks of battery power with the wireless off.

It’s simply a great simple e-reader.

Basic Kindle $69

The Kindle Paperwhite

This is the newest entry to the Kindle eReader family. The Paperwhite is a little bit larger than the Basic Kindle and a little bit smaller than the Keyboard Kindle.

There are two versions of the Kindle Paperwhite (well, to be VERY specific, there are actually four versions):

- wireless only with special offers $119
– wireless only without special offers $139
– 3G with special offers $179
– 3G without special offers $199

The Paperwhite uses touch screen technology.

(A word about the touch screen … I have ordered this new Kindle and I am hopefully optimistic, BUT, I will admit, I do have concerns and I wish they had kept some physical buttons. I owned a Kindle Touch for about a month and never could get used to it. If I touched the screen by accident I would lose my place, and I never seemed to touch it ‘right’. The Kindle Touch and I never became friends. I sent it back. (Amazon has a very generous return policy). Since they have discontinued the Touch model completely, I am hoping they have improved the touch screen for the Paperwhite.)

The Paperwhite has some new features: Resolution and pixel density have been improved, which means even sharper print. They have also added “time to read” which helps you know how long it will take you to finish a chapter or a book. Apparently this feature will constantly change and adapt to your personal reading habits. There is also the new ability to sync Audio and Print reading (listen to an audio version for a while, and then when you revert to reading, the Kindle will put you on the correct page). This is new and they are just beginning to offer packaged audio/text books.

The Paperwhite has 6 fonts to choose from (more than the other models).

I am most excited about the new light system! I’ve learned that the engineering for this screen light is amazing. Although the pictures you see for the advertisements of this Kindle make the screen appear white, (so that it almost looks like a tablet back-lit screen) ….. it is important to know that it is NOT back lit. It is still an e-ink screen. BUT it is covered by light in an awesome layered way. There are no little lights pointing at the screen, but rather this is layered technology (years in the making) and it actually spreads the light out uniformly across the screen in a way that is undetectable to the reader. Think of it as flattening out a fiber optic cable (or spreading mayonnaise across a slice of bread :) ). Light is evenly spread all over the text. You have the ability to raise or lower the intensity of this light, making it brighter or dimmer depending on your circumstances. And, my understanding is, that the lower you reduce the light, the more it looks like a standard, familiar e-ink screen. It is because of this light that the screen appears white when looking at the photographs of the device.

And as for battery life, even with this lit screen, battery life is still an awesome 8 weeks with the wireless off.

For me, this screen light was at the top of my wish list, and I have taken the plunge and ordered the Paperwhite, wireless, with special offers with a mix of caution and excitement. While I’m excited to see the lit screen, I’m remembering my bad experience with the original Touch. They claim it is improved, so I’m hoping they are right.

Kindle Paperwhite $119 and up

The Bottom Line

You can’t go wrong with the Basic Kindle or the Kindle Keyboard 3G. I truly have no complaints about the Keyboard model and I’m only upgrading because of the screen light. At this point the Paperwhite looks like an awesome product, I’ve read some very favorable reviews, but personally I would have preferred hardware buttons rather than the touch screen.

Points to remember:

All Kindles do a super job as an e-reader.

Price differences alter “extras”, not the basic reading experience.

Choose carefully between “wireless” and 3G. If you do not have a wireless environment in your home, you’ll find the 3G more enjoyable.

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34 Comments

  1. Very well my dear, know I have learned that I am not the only one having great difficulties with all those screen touching things -:))). Keyboard version 3G sounds most like me! And guess what I am also a night time reader!
    Take care
    Daniela

    Reply
  2. I can’t wait for you to get the new kindle to tell me if it is as good as expected and how the screen light works. This seems like the perfect kindle for me but will await your judgement :-)

    Reply
  3. Thanks for this extremely useful info.
    I can’t wait to hear what you think of the new Kindle Paperwhite – especially as regards the touch screen!

    Reply
    • I’m looking forward to it, and I’m hoping they made the touch screen more friendly, because I REALLY want the light!

      Reply
  4. Very informative… I don’t have a physical kindle but the kindle for PC which I downloaded from Amazon, but it’s good to know. TY! ;-)

    Reply
  5. That was a really useful and wonderfully explained post… But honestly, do you think it gives you the same feeling that a freshly printed book does??

    Reply
    • Hi, and Welcome to this blog!! You have a great question, and to be very honest, my answer is probably not going to be very satisfactory. If you mean the weight and the smell and the ‘crispness’, well, then, of course an ereader does not duplicate that. BUT… to my true surprise, I have come to prefer reading on my Kindle. I have always read a lot, but now I read more. The convenience (huge to me), the ability to alter the font size, and, in these aging hands, the LACK of weight all land me firmly on the side of e-reading. And … to be very honest… the whole point of a good book is that you get sucked in, and your surroundings (including the book itself) just disappears. That happens with a Kindle … you forget you are even holding it. Its simple with no distractions (like on a tablet). You are aware of the book .. the text only. So, my answer is that for some people they might never want to give up holding a real book. But for me, the benefits have been so much greater, I don’t miss the book-feeling. I’m reading more than ever. :)

      Reply
      • Well, that is one perspective that I have never heard before… I have stubbornly refused to try out e-readers uptil now, but I guess you have convinced me to give it a shot… Thank you so much for opening this new dimension for me… I really think I will give it a shot now!!

        Reply
  6. This is an excellent post, and thank you for the information about the new Kindle Paperwhite. As a teacher, I was surprised to find out that the Paperwhite does not have speakers, and therefore the Text-to-Speech function (a favorite among my students) will not work. I am concerned that Amazon will replace TTS function with its new “Immersion Reading” feature.

    Reply
    • You know, Mark, I was actually thinking the same thing. In the past, the text-to-speech was something that Amazon highlighted as something so special (and it is) but this time they didn’t emphasize it at all. Actually, I thought that was strangely absent. So your concern about the replacement is quite valid and in the back of my mind I have the same suspicion. I know that text-to-speech has been used as an awesome tool in the classroom (I plan on doing a post about that at some point) and I would love to see that function improved, not eliminated! Thank you for your very thoughtful insight, much appreciated! :)

      Reply
  7. Thank you so much for stopping by and liking my blog, Bookin’ It. I really enjoyed this post. I have a Kindle 3G with keyboard, and love it for most of the reasons you discussed. It looks like reading real print, it’s easier on my eyes for long reading sessions, and I like the way the page turning buttons work. But I have been looking at the newer products coming out, including the Kindle Fire. I think each one seems to have some pluses and minuses, and figuring out what to add to my collection is difficult. As for printed books, I will never give them up, but I don’t see why having a Kindle means I should. It’s not an either-or situation. I love my library full of books, I have certain series and authors that I collect in print, and that’s not going to change, especially given my interest in cover art. But for space reasons and portability, the Kindle is a wonderful addition to my life. And the comfort of holding it one handed can’t be beat…no sore thumbs from trying to keep a thick paperback open wide enough to read the words closest to the spine! ( I hate that.)

    I will be following your future posts on this subject closely. Christmas is coming, and there’s no reason why my Kindle device collection can’t grow as well as my physical library. Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Hi, Marcia, and thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to write such a thoughtful comment. I completely agree… there is no “either/or” here. I prefer reading on my Kindle, now, but I certainly understand that not everyone does. (altho I do get frustrated when they refuse to even try! :) ) As I am aging, I am delighted with the ability to alter fonts and the opportunity to hold something light instead of a heavy book (they get heavier every year). And for bed-reading, on my side … it can’t be beat. I have the same model that you do, and it serves me well. I’m afraid I’ll miss hardware buttons, but we’ll see. Again, thanks for visiting, and Welcome! :) Kathy

      Reply
  8. Yes! Exactly, Kathy! Being able to control font size and color, plus the comfort factor when holding it and turning pages one handed, is super. My aging eyes and my slightly arthritic thumbs appreciate it so much. And I can still buy the print books that I really want to own, too. Once in awhile, I actually do both. I might read a book on my Kindle and decide I NEEEEED to own a copy for my library, as well. But other times, some books might be a quick, guilty pleasure kind of read, or simply not quite well done enough for my taste, and those I don’t need to waste shelf space on.

    Also, as a big fan of cover art, sometimes I just HAVE to have the print version, so I can give it an admiring now and then. :) I will buy just about any book that has Chris McGrath’s art on it, for instance, being a huge fan of his.

    So why would I force myself to choose one over the other? I’m greedy. I want it ALL!

    I can’t wait to hear what you think of the Paperwhite version. I’ll be following closely, and taking a look around the rest of your blog later today, as well. Good stuff here!

    Reply
    • Sounds like we have a lot in common! I’m anxious to get that Paperwhite in my hands, too. I wish wish wish it had physical buttons, tho. :)

      Reply
  9. Duderino

     /  October 9, 2012

    so did you get it? how does it compare to the keyboard version? I’m currently using the keyboard kindle and thinking of getting the paperwhite, would love to hear what you think

    Reply
  10. We’ve been researching this for weeks now and haven’t purchased one yet. I’m sending my hubby over here to read this so we can get off the fence. Nice meeting you and thanks for visiting my site. Paulette

    Reply
    • Nice to meet you, too! I’ll be back to your blog shortly. Anxious to learn more about your book, and the no-kill shelter you support. Any questions about using the Kindle, please don’t hesitate to ask. :)

      Reply
  11. Kirsten

     /  December 30, 2012

    Hello,

    Thank you for your review…it’s very helpful! I was just wondering if the Kindle Keyboard has audio dictionary capabilities? If so, is this a feature you use very often? I am trying to decide between the Keyboard and Paperwhite and it’s a tough decision! Thanks for any help!

    Reply
    • Hi, Kristen, and Welcome! You are right, it IS a tough decision. They are both great e-readers. The Keyboard has speakers, the Paperwhite does not. The dictionary, however, is not audio. You touch a word and see the definition. I do not believe there is a way to get it on audio on the Keyboard, but ….. I’ll test that out later today, even though I’m pretty sure the answer is no. Since the Keyboard has speakers, you can turn on text-to-speech, but honestly I don’t miss that even a little bit on the Paperwhite. If the Paperwhite has a button-option in a addition to the touch screen, it would be the PERFECT dedicated e-reader. I’m keeping my Keyboard for bathtub reading, but if I had to choose, after considerable time spent with both, it would be the Paperwhite, hands down. (I’ll be back later after I double check the audio possibility on the Keyboard. :) )

      Reply
  12. Connor Clure

     /  February 7, 2013

    It’s my birthday (i’m 13 years old now) and i asked for a nook but then i went to school and one of my friends told me that it dosent have a browser. so then when i got home, i started looking at kindles and i saw the paperwhite and the paperwhite 3g. i thank you for this review, and it has affirmed my descision for a regular paperwhite with the special thing.

    thanks!

    Reply
    • The Paperwhite is a wonderful e-reader, and the browser makes it extra special. BUT don’t expect a browser that is like the one you have on a computer to surf the internet. the browser is great for grabbing new books, but not as a web-surfer. Good luck! :)

      Reply
  13. Natarajan Prasanna

     /  February 17, 2013

    Thank you for this wonderful thread of blogs. I was finding it difficult to choose between the Kindle Keyboard 3G & the Kindle Paper white 3G purely on account of the former having audio support while the later lacked it even as the later has night reading support which the former lacks. After i’ve read your posts, I have kind of firmed up on the paper white, for I am a night reader and i think I would value the front lighting option more than the audio book/ TTS option.

    Thank you & warm regards
    Prasanna

    Reply
    • If you are a night reader, you will be very, very happy with the Kindle Paperwhite. Several months later, and I am still loving it. Best e-reader, ever! :) Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful comment.

      Reply
  14. Vanessa.

     /  May 16, 2013

    HI!!! I have a Kindle keyboard and a kid broke it yesterday (he throwed it to the floor u.u), so since that happened I started almost inmediately my research of what are the bests available Kindles in the market. I was very dissappointed to find out that Amazon doesn’t sell brand new Kindle Keyboards 3G anymore, I was very pleased with it and I would have never even thought about buying a new one if it wasn’t broken. I loved what you wrote and I totally agree with you, I am not so sure about the Kindle Paperwhite being entirely touch, in fact that actually stops me wanting it, even though I am a night reader. I have read very nice comments about the $69 Kindle and it’s the closest Kindle to the one I had, It’s still being really hard for me to decide which one to buy. Nevertheless, you made a great post with the main characteristics of them all and I have found it very helpful.

    Reply
    • I am a night reader, too, and the Paperwhite is just perfect for that. I love my Paperwhite. I just wrote a new post about it, since it has been my Kindle reader for the last 8 months. I really don’t miss the keys anymore, and I love the light. The touch is very responsive. I hope you’ll let me know what you decide! :)

      Reply
  15. Thanks! I was really looking into getting the Keyboard version 3G. This post has sold me. Thanks for the comments and the author giving the overview and experiences. Decisions are hard without sites like this :) Thank you!

    John.

    Reply

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