The Core Dump

A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures

[By Nic Lindh on Saturday, 25 October 2014]

The Kindle Voyage is a solid update with an achilles heel

Should you upgrade to Amazon’s latest e-ink reader? Nic gives it a reluctant and somewhat perplexed nod.

Not long ago I wrote about how much I love reading on my Kindle, but lamented its deplorable build quality and wished Apple would enter the e-ink field with a premium device. As expected, that didn’t happen, but surprisingly enough Amazon instead released a new, premium Kindle, the Voyage, which addresses most of my complaints.

The Voyage has a better screen, even backlighting, a brightness sensor, is much faster to respond to touches, and has vastly improved build quality. While not what anybody would call Apple quality, the Voyage is significantly nicer to hold than previous Kindles, which as you know feel disposable and chintzy.

So yay for Amazon! If you spend a lot of time with your Kindle, the Voyage is a very nice update, with improvements pretty much everywhere.

Theoretically one of the nicest features of the Voyage is buttons. Yes! No more moving your thumb to the screen to turn the page!

Which is nice and overdue. But. Somebody at Amazon decided that actual physical buttons are passé. So instead we get something called PagePress.

Yes, let it sink in, take a deep breath, find your chi and just become one with the idea that instead of physical buttons like you use every day we now have a technology named after the button but which assuredly is not a pedestrian button that smells bad what with all the common people touching it.

Instead of last-century button bullshit where you push the thing and something happens we now have PagePress. With PagePress you “Simply apply pressure on the bezel to turn the page, and PagePress will provide a silent haptic response for consistent and immediate feedback.” You know, like a button except it’s nothing so gauche as a button. Nono. Instead it’s a touch sensitive area on the bezel you mash to turn the page.

This is clearly a huge win for our civilization that was so over buttons so long ago. I mean, eye-roll. Buttons. Sheesh.

So with PagePress you get no feedback until your Kindle buzzes—sorry, “provides a silent haptic response”—and turns the page.

I’ve read hundreds of pages on my Kindle Voyage and I still don’t have muscle memory for exactly how hard to push. Because I’m pushing on rigid plastic.

Perhaps it will come. Perhaps not.

To make it worse, the pressure-sensitive areas of the bezel only have a visual indication that they’re pressable, so when you’re reading and—you know, as you do when you’re reading—focusing on the screen, you have to visually check your thumb is on the right area.

It’s really inexcusably stupid and I wonder what kind of corporate culture could let this kind of dumb get out the door in a premium product.

But nevertheless, if you’re a heavy Kindle user, it’s still worth the upgrade. If nothing else, having your Kindle respond to touches the same day is worth it, and yes, the screen is gorgeous.

It’s just amazing that smart people could get together and tell themselves that mashing on an area of the bezel would be way better than a lowly button. I wonder if any of those people have ever actually sat down on the couch to read a book on a Sunday afternoon.

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