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Mark Tebbe leafs through the newest digital alternative to books

Mark Tebbe weighs few books against Kindle. | Ramzi Dreessen~Sun-Times

Mark Tebbe weighs a few books against a Kindle. | Ramzi Dreessen~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 23, 2012 6:07AM

As winter approaches, the earlier sunsets and cooling weather inspires me to start reading more books. Or in my case, read more books on my Kindle — and even more specifically, read books on my brand new Kindle Paperwhite, Amazon’s latest entry in the e-reader market.

As you might have guessed, the Kindle is not new to me. I received my first Kindle the day it was released in November 2007 and in the five years since, I have purchased at least eight different versions, always enjoying the thinner form, Wi-Fi access or easier-to-use touch screen.

Given the amount of time I travel, it is far more convenient to bring a small e-reader than to lug around several books in my carry-on bag. And I when I’m on vacation, searching travel books electronically is far easier than using a highlighter and post-it notes.

But this latest version has me very excited about reading because the screen’s pixels have increased by a dramatic 62 percent. As such, text and images appear crisper and clearer. But the real winner of this version is the soft blue light that allows for better reading in low-light situations (and is adjustable using onscreen controls). I like the uniformity of this light compared to Barnes & Noble’s GlowLight screen, but I’ve noticed the Kindle’s consistency isn’t perfect around the bottom of the screen when using lower-light settings.

A few other design changes in this latest Kindle show that Amazon is committed to ensuring it remains the lightest e-reader with the longest battery life.

The headphone jack has been removed because this version no longer supports the text-to-speech and audio playback options. This is no problem for me since I never used those features. The Kindle’s storage capacity has been reduced to 2GB (from 4GB). Again, no worries, because the Kindle Cloud allows me to quickly load any book I’ve purchased. And that’s on top of the ability to store about 1,000 books in the provided 2GB. However, for those users who want them, these features are still supported on Amazon’s soon to be released Fire HD tablet, albeit without the Paperwhite e-ink screen.

This week proves the real first test of Kindle’s staying power. With the recent update of Google’s Nexus 7, Apple’s iPad Mini announcement (anticipated Tuesday) and Microsoft’s Surface release Friday, avid readers have never had more options. Combined with the innovations behind Friday’s release of Windows 8 computers, such as Dell’s XPS-12 convertible laptop with its detachable keyboard and flip-hinge design, users will have many more options for reading.

With this much excitement ahead in the tablet and e-reader space, maybe winter will pass a little faster. I, for one, can’t wait for this exciting area of portable computing to unfold.

Mark Tebbe donated his fee for writing this column to the Chicago Library Foundation.

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