30 Nov 2017 15:43 IST

Curling up with a Kindle

The new Oasis 2017 has a bigger screen, better battery and storage

There are three kinds of people: Those who will gawk at a product like the Kindle and wonder why on earth you would shun ‘real’ books, those who can’t figure out why you don’t read on your phones and tablets, and those who would give anything to curl up with an e-reader and switch off everything else. Amazon’s Kindle Oasis is definitely meant for the third lot — that includes me. I don’t believe that an e-reader is the next best thing to reading a paper book, I think it’s much better.

For one thing, I can get a book I’m looking for within minutes. For another, I know I’m not contributing to the depletion of trees in at least one way.

Phones and tablets are full of other distractions. While you can read on them using the Kindle app or whatever else you choose, the experience is far from book-like what with notifications and calls and marketing garbage flying at you every moment. And so, that’s where a product like the Kindle comes in, and it’s never been so great to use as in its Oasis avatar, Amazon’s premium variant of its e-reader, now refreshed in a 2017 version.

There are a bunch of Kindles, including the excellent Paperwhite and Voyager, but the Oasis is in a class of its own — and price bracket of its own — because it’s feather-light and can barely be felt in the hand.

More screen than ever

For those who know and love the first Kindle Oasis, the 2017 version actually feels quite startlingly different. What’s immediately noticeable is the difference in size. The Oasis 2017 is about an inch bigger on all sides and the bezels on that famous e-ink screen are smaller, so there’s lots more screen space on the seven-inch display. A whole additional paragraph can fit in, so you would have to do less page-turning. Not that page turning is a problem because there’s a set of two buttons on the side, where your fingers naturally hold the device, to press and go to the next or previous page. If you decide to hold the Oasis in your other hand, you just have to flip the device over and the text turns upside down to orient and straightens out. The buttons will now be on the other side. This is one of the most fun things about the Oasis. I rather loved the tinier size of the previous Oasis and found it a joy to just slip it into a bag or even a large jacket pocket, but apparently the older version is phased out.

Lost in another world

On the other hand, the size of the new Oasis is closer to an actual book, making it seem more natural. The back has a raised section that makes for a good grip. All the Kindles are targeted at people who want to read for hours on end, lost in another world, which really isn’t a bad idea, seeing the state of this one. Amazon spends quite a lot of time fine-tuning ergonomics on these devices. The Oasis 2017 is aluminium on the back, which actually makes it a little cool to hold, especially in winter, when you compare it with the others and the previous Oasis. But it’s sturdier and more significantly, it’s waterproof. So, an accidental liquid spill or even a fall into water won’t waste it. You can certainly read by the lake, if you can find one, or by the pool — preferably not in it. The idea is to read, free of worry. Some of the cases also survive a dip in water.

You can also worry less over the battery, which fast-charges in two hours and then lasts weeks. This has in any case never been a device that you charge overnight like a phone. The earlier Oasis had a special case that carried half the battery and could be used to top-up. When you pulled away the case, the device was impossibly light. This time around this has changed and you have a regular and optionally purchased set of cases that have nothing to do with the battery.

Easy reading

There are other additions to the new Oasis. It supports connection to a Bluetooth audio device so that you can listen to audiobooks from Audible (Amazon’s long-time partner). Audiobooks are an expensive proposition of their own, however. The Oasis also has an ambient light sensor and adjusts to the light you’re in though not quite the same way as on an iPad or iPhone. You also have more font styles and a white on black text to make it easier for some people to read. Ragged right alignment and bold text are also there to make reading more natural instead of forced into a format style.

It’s the Kindle’s tenth anniversary. In a world where products become obsolete in the blink of an eye, this pioneering e-reader has done rather well for itself with those who love reading.

Price: ₹21,999

Pros: Light, comfortable to hold for long, sturdy, waterproof, clever page flip buttons and orientation

Cons: Quite expensive

(The article first appeared in The Hindu BusinessLine.)

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