Amazon may be prepping a higher-definition Kindle Paperwhite e-reader, codenamed “Ice Wine,” that would see light of day sometime in April or May next year, reports TechCrunch, which claims it’s interacted with a prototype of the device up close and personal.
By higher-def, we’re talking about a leap from the current second-gen Paperwhite’s 212 pixels per inch to an ultra-crisp 300 ppi, placing it in iPhone 5 territory (only with a larger screen). Like the iPhone, the new Paperwhite’s screen is said to be glass and flush with the frame; contrast with the current Paperwhite, which employs a capacitive plastic screen that’s recessed a millimeter or so below the frame’s edges. TechCrunch notes the move to glass hasn’t made the reader heavier, and says the new model is supposed to be lighter than existing ones.
Those improvements would allow the Paperwhite to leapfrog competitor Kobo’s Aura HD, a nearly 7-inch e-reader that boasts a higher 1440-by-1080, 265 ppi screen resolution. TechCrunch doesn’t say whether the new Paperwhite would extend its current 6-inch diagonal display area, but warns not to expect major software changes, just refinements to the resolution at which the text is displayed, along with new typographical options to expand the range and quality of fonts. TechCrunch says a new ambient light sensor rounds out the list of display improvements, auto-adjusting the device’s brightness to suit your reading situation.
Curiously, the new Paperwhite is also said to include pressure-sensitive, haptic feedback triggers (not really buttons, but like buttons) on the device’s side. These would allow you to navigate without having to reach up and touch the screen itself. TechCrunch describes the new triggers as “squeezable,” but I assume they wouldn’t be physically depressible to avoid compromising the durability of the Paperwhite series’ elegant, thoroughly rigid housing; haptic here probably means vibration-related, so perhaps like the gentle rumble you feel when you tap a Surface tablet’s capacitive Windows button.
I picked up a second-gen Paperwhite a few weeks ago — my second Kindle. I returned my first — a fourth-gen 2011 model — inside a local retailer’s 30-day window, mostly because of the device’s limited range of fonts. I’m a bibliophile and amateur collector with shelves of books that could fill a room. I care enough about a book’s font that if I want to reread something I no longer own — something that’s been reprinted (say the mass-market paperback edition) using a font different than the original — I’ll forego the reprinted edition and order a used copy of the original. That’s niche, nitpicking behavior, granted, but if you’re a serious book lover, you’ve seen the little font disclosures publishers sometimes add to books, you know why they’re there, and you know why the Kindle’s been a poor typographical substitute.
The second-gen Paperwhite is slowly changing my mind, partly because of that lovely snow-white light, partly because the fonts are less off-putting at 212 ppi. Reading on a Kindle still feels predominantly workmanlike, but it’s closer than the fourth-gen Kindle was to that all-encompassing leaping off point I’ve been waiting for. There’s still the problem of shoddy picture-related source material to grapple with, say you’re reading something like The Lord of the Rings or Rick Atkinson’s Liberation Trilogy: illegible poorly scanned maps or crudely rendered pictures that no amount of resolution upscaling’s going to fix. In addition to improving typographical options, I’d love to see Amazon unveil an initiative to get publishers working to fix that.