Amazon on Wednesday pulled the wraps off a new premium e-reader that’s waterproof and has a sharp 300 pixels-per-inch display.
The Kindle Oasis has a 7-inch Paperwhite display and sports an aluminum back and ergonomic shape that makes it easier to read for prolonged periods. It has a battery life measured in weeks, and it can charge from zero to full power in two hours.
Audible, Amazon’s audiobooks service, is built into Oasis.
Its base price is US$250, and it will begin shipping on Oct. 31.
“Ten years ago, we introduced our first Kindle with the mission of delivering any book ever written in 60 seconds or less,” said Dave Limp, senior vice president for Amazon devices and services.
“With a larger 7-inch, 300 ppi display, waterproof design and Audible built right in, the all-new Kindle Oasis is our most advanced Kindle ever,” he added.
The larger screen accommodates 30 percent more text than previous Paperwhite readers. That means fewer presses of the unit’s page turn button. When you do press that button, you’ll find the pages turning faster — the fastest of any Kindle reader, according to Amazon — and automatically aligning themselves when you change the reader’s orientation.
The improved resolution — aided by uniform display lighting and a glare-free screen, even in bright sunlight — makes reading text on the screen more like reading paper, Amazon said.
Amazon has introduced some design changes with Oasis. It has changed the reader’s center of gravity, so that the Oasis rests in a reader’s hand like the spine of a book.
Its thin profile — it tapers to just 3.4mm — allowed Amazon to use more durable materials, including aluminum on the back and stronger glass on the front, without adding weight to the reader. It weighs 10 grams less than the 6-inch Paperwhite.
“One of the things that’s always plagued the Kindle e-reader devices has been the plastic nature of them,” said Jeff Orr, a senior practice director at ABI Research.
“If you dropped one, or if it got smashed in a bag during transit, a corner of the bezel would get cracks,” he told TechNewsWorld. “It might not require replacement, but it left a user with the impression that these things weren’t that durable.”
Take It to the Tub
Waterproofing also adds to the Oasis’s durability. It can be submerged in two meters of fresh water for up to 60 minutes, according to Amazon.
“This is the first Kindle to pass the litmus test of ‘can I read my e-book in the bath tub?'” said Virginia Kuhn, an associate professor at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts.
The Oasis can be customized in a number of ways. There are more font sizes and bold settings. There’s an OpenDyslexic font, and objects on the screen can be enlarged, too — like text on the home screen and library. In addition, text can be displayed with only the left margin justified.
The e-reader has built-in ambient light sensors that automatically adjust the display to surrounding light conditions. Ambient light settings can be customized to suit a user’s taste. What’s more, there’s an invert black and white feature for people with light-sensitive eyes.
Book listeners will like the addition of Audible. Users can switch between print and voice, and it supports Bluetooth technology.
Oasis comes in two configurations: The 8-GB model is priced at $249.99, and the 32-GB version sells for $279.99.
Declining E-Reader Sales
The addition of more ways to customize Oasis may help address a nagging problem with e-books.
“Every book looks like every other book on a Kindle,” said USC’s Kuhn.
“Part of why you remember the things you read is they’re designed in a certain way. The form helps you remember the content,” she told TechNewsWorld. “When you strip all that away in this e-reader environment, you’re taking the uniqueness of the book away from it. As a result, I have a difficult time with recall with books I read on Kindle.”
The blandness of e-books could be a factor contributing to e-book sales declines and a revival of interest in print books. In the United Kingdom, for instance, sales of consumer e-books dropped 17 percent in 2016, while sales of print books and journals rose 7 percent, according to the Publishers Association.
Meanwhile, in the United States, there was an 18.7 percent decline in e-book sales during the fist nine months of 2016, while paperback sales rose 7.5 percent and hardcover sales increased 4.1 percent, according to the Association of American Publishers.
E-reader ownership and sales have been in decline for a while.
E-reader ownership by U.S. adults plummeted from 32 percent to 19 percent, according to the Pew Research Center; Euromonitor International found that sales of the devices fell by 40 percent between 2011 and 2016.