Kindle Paperwhite screen: Less fragile than earlier front-lit reader?

Kindle Paperwhite intro

Glimpses of font darkness

Paperwhite book covers projected onto hall screen

Paperwhite, WiFi (no 3G)

Five Generations of Kindle

Showing “9 mins left in chapter” estimate

This time, a bit about the coming Kindle Paperwhite, which was to ship on October 1, although the current shipping date is listed as October 22, partially because of demand.  I’ve included some photos I took at the recent Amazon press event in Santa Monica, as these illustrate some of the points they stressed.

Much has been written about the Paperwhite, because few of us expected the light to be so evenly distributed, with a soft, diffused quality.  It’s easy on the eyes, with no obvious source for the lighting system and no unevenness like what we’ve sometimes seen with the Nook Glowlight. However, my own concern with what the new e-Ink Kindle model would be like has been a result of two disappointments (for some) with the Nook’s front-lit reader:

1.  Possibly lowered contrast relative to older e-Ink Kindles.  Even the Nook reviews that were very positive tended to mention there was a loss of contrast as a result of the additional layer that houses the eight LED lights at the top edge of the e-Ink display, resulting in “certain lines of text looking slightly darker or lighter than others.”

2.  Many reports of fragility of the lighting portion of the display so that a very light scratch on the surface, although not producing an indentation, can cause what Nook fan Kyle Wagner of Gizmodo describes as a “frightful little light tunnel that popped up” after he accidentally “dropped a [TV] remote control [from a height of] about six inches onto the screen,” and he excoriates himself for doing that.  The title of his piece was the sane advice that “You Really Don’t Want to Drop the New Simple Touch.”

Read the full article here … 

4 Comments on Kindle Paperwhite screen: Less fragile than earlier front-lit reader?

  1. I don’t recall hearing any issues about the Sony PRS 700 being more fragile than other ereaders and it used a similar backlight to the new Kindle.

  2. No, it did not.
    The Sony PRS-700 used sidelighting in the raw; LEDs on the perimeter with no light-diffusion layer.
    Because of that, it had a *big* air gap between the glass cover and the eink layer. On top of *that* it added a resistive pressure sensitive touch layer that added another (much thinner) air layer. The result was a noticeably fuzzier display with less contrast and a whole lot more glare. The thing was universally panned and Sony dropped the whole sidelighting thing.
    What the Nook does is they added a plastic film to guide the light from 5 LEDs at the top over the eink display. With a much thinner air gap between the eink and the top glass plate. There is still a bit of contrast loss (though not much) and fuzziness. The plastic film appears to be soft and fragile so that impacts transmited through the glass can (permanently?) deform it. And even without deforming, the plastic film isn’t a perfect light spreader so illumination is not even across the entire screen and some light leaks through the front without reflection off the eink layer. It works and it is clearly an economically viable solution but it has… issues.
    Kindle PW, on the other hand uses a bonded light diffuser film that is reportedly etched at a very fine scale (Nanoscale, allegedly–might be marketting speak, might be literal) that traps the light from its LEDs and controls its path of reflection with the result that illumination is uniform and less light leaks through the front. Amazon got this tech by buying a company that had been spending years working on it, btw. This wasn’t a weekend design project. So the odds that the thing is indeed reasonably rugged and optically clean to minimize contrast loss and distortion are pretty good.
    Nonetheless, I’m waiting to see one in my hands before I buy one.
    Theory is one thing, hands-on experience another.
    And my experience with the Sony led me to ignore it and the Book Glo struck me as acceptable until I heard about the dings. I take care of my toys but in real life stuff happens.
    I’m also waiting to see how Kobo handled their front-lighting and how robust that is.
    Now that B&N and Amazon have added lighting to their readers everybody is doing it, too; Onyx, Pocketbook… Uh, everybody except Sony, oddly enough. :)

  3. 2 Questions…
    -does the kindle paperwhite 3G have games and apps that you can get or does it only have books?

    -Also, does the kindle paperwhite 3G get internet for searching the web and playing internet required games or is the free internet only for buying books?

  4. Alyssa,
    The Paperwhite 3G gets free 3G web for Kindle book downloads AND for 24/7 access to Wikipedia. That’s globally, in about 60 countries.

    As for games and apps on the deice, the eInk Kindle games tend to be mainly word games, though there are some nice calendar , notepad, and calculator apps.

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