New Kindle Oasis is a WTF Ebook Reader

Amazon has announced a new Kindle, the Oasis. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) At $290 or £270, this is a luxury item for those who collect Kindles.

Kindle oasisThat’s fine, there are people who will pay this price, but WTF is this form factor? Do a lot of people read their Kindles one-handed; enough to want a Kindle that is designed essentially for one-handed reading? (I could be snarky and suggest that this Kindle is designed for those who read erotic fiction…)

It’s got a charging cover, which doesn’t make sense, given how long the Kindle’s battery lasts. So you charge the cover, then put the reader in the cover to charge it? Having two items means it’s possible to lose or forget one.

Kindle oaisis with cover

Granted, it’s smaller; but not by much. You only save on the top and bottom bezels, but the right side is wider than the Voyage or Paperwhite. It’s about 20mm smaller vertically, but a few millimeters wider. And it weighs about 50 g less without the cover, but you’ll want to carry the cover around with it anyway. It does have real page turn buttons; the ones on the Voyage aren’t great. And while it’s thinner on the left side, it’s a bit thicker than the Voyage or Paperwhite on the right side.

Books have generally always been symmetrical. A device like this is very strange; a new form factor, or the charging case, should solve a problem, and there are no problems with the existing Kindles.

Kindle oasis customAmazon.com doesn’t provide a price for the wi-fi + 3G version of the Kindle Oasis, but on the UK site, it costs £60 more for the 3G model. That’s £330. That’s just 10% less than the base price of an iPhone SE. (To be fair, the other models cost an additional £60 for 3G, or $70 more in the US.) Oh, and these US prices are “With special offers, i.e. ads; you pay another $20 to get rid of that. So, a customized Kindle Oasis, with 3G and without special offers, costs $380.

Save your money. Get the Paperwhite (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) or the Voyage (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) instead. To be fair, while I like the Voyage, it’s probably not worth paying more for it than the Paperwhite.

16 thoughts on “New Kindle Oasis is a WTF Ebook Reader

  1. Kirk, will you be getting an Oasis anyway, for the sake of science and your readers? I’d love to hear your review if you get one. Thanks!

      • the end of Kindle, a last attempt of Amazon in the business electronics Steve Jobs: ‘people don’t read anymore’. What or where is ibooks this moment??

        btw in Dutch there is an article about Cor Boonstra (former Philips 1990’s) telling if Philips had bought Apple for €1, Apple had been crippled. Two years before Jobs Returned ? . Conclusion: serious readers are a minority.

        • Well, we don’t know how many people buy Kindles, or how many ebooks are sold. We do know that ebook sales dropped last year, and printed book sales increased, but that can be explained by a number of possible factors (such as the high sales of adult coloring books).

          Yes, serious readers have always been a minority; that’s nothing new.

  2. Confused….I was reading several months on the paperwhite….while thinking it was the voyage; till I found the voyage while clearing my livingroom. Voyage screen is nicer, but if you do not know the paperwhite will do.

    • I think the Voyage is a little bit better, but not better enough to justify the price difference. If I were to replace my Voyage, I’d buy a Paperwhite.

    • No, I wouldn’t go that far. In fact, I think a lot of people who read ebooks are more genre fiction readers, because those books are cheap in e format. So I think it’s actually the opposite demographic.

  3. Seems to me to be a form-factor change designed with a higher power draw screen in-mind (particularly with the added battery module and pass-thru power). Maybe using the previous paperwhite screen is just an introductory step to a second attempt at a colour Kindle to come …

    If there is not a second shoe yet to drop then it seems a very odd re-design solution looking for a non-existent problem ;)

  4. My ideal form factor would be a 2″ diameter cylinder with a display that rolls out like a window shade. Then virtually all of the weight is in one hand (especially if the weight is at the bottom of the cylinder), and you can make the screen wider or narrower depending on circumstances. A thickish cylinder would make things easier on those with limited hand strength, arthritis, and RSI problems (‘thin’ devices are devilishly painful compared to chunky). The Oasis is at least a step in that direction until flexible displays are practical.

    One handed reading: I’m betting you don’t commute by bus or train, where you need a free hand either to keep hold of your other stuff, or to keep hold of a loop while standing. Plus I’m a little surprised that when you read at home, your cat isn’t insistent that at least one hand is for him.

    If I get an e-ink reader, it will probably be a kobo, which can do epub (my library has more books available in epub than kindle format). It has a fairly active hacking community so you can use it with no account and no invasion of privacy. I tend towards wanting the Aura H2O for the waterproofing (not a frill in the pacific northwet). The $170 has stopped me so far, but it means that I mostly can’t read while waiting for a bus–the standard ipad is not only a two-hander and not rainproof, but is more likely to get snatched or dropped.

    • Good point about the commute. I don’t, but would you want to use a $300 device one-handed in a bus or subway? As for actual one-handed reading, I realized that I do sometimes hold my Kindle with just one hand, generally not for long, but when I do, I switch from one hand to the other. Now, the Oasis apparently can turn on its own – similar to the way the iPad does – but if I change hands, I’m not going to turn the device upside down; that seems really annoying to have to do.

      • I’d wouldn’t worry about a $300 e-ink device nearly as much as my current alternatives–iphone or ipad. Assuming there was a secure comfortable grip, and that things aren’t too insane (I don’t live in a huge city) it shouldn’t be a problem. Things with glowy screens call attention to themselves a lot more than e-ink, and e-ink doesn’t seem like it would have much resale value compared to a phone or tablet, plus there’s be no personal data at risk. From the pictures, I don’t think the Oasis qualifies, though. With the cover, it’s too heavy, and without the cover, it looks hard to keep hold of if jostled. Maybe there’s a way to attach a wrist strap to prevent dropping it. (My mythical cylinder needs a feature to detect free fall so it can retract the display before it hits the ground.)

  5. This Oasis post inspired me to replace my 1st gen Paperwhite which has been a fantastic device but lately sometimes freezes up after charging.

    I agree the Oasis is too pricey. Your final sentence resonated, “To be fair, while I like the Voyage, it’s probably not worth paying more for it than the Paperwhite”. So I decided to split the difference and ordered a Voyage refurb at $152, a price only about $30 more a Paperwhite.

    In your review of the Voyage you mentioned the square edges. For some reason I misread that and imagined squarer corners. When first holding the Voyage, I was a bit taken aback by the harsher feel of those non-rounded edges. I’ll get used to that I suppose. I don’t like the edge buttons at all. I’m sure I won’t use them.

    The text sharpness is shocking coming from the 1st gen Paperwhite. Suddenly text in the Kindle store reviews is not a struggle to read. I thought it was my aging eyes!

    I do have one question, though. Will I notice the difference in text sharpness if I go back from this Voyage to the current gen Paperwhite?

    • I haven’t seen the current Paperwhite; I still have the first gen model, which my partner uses. From what I understand, it’s the same display as the Voyage. As you say, it’s a lot sharper, and the contrast is much better.

      I got used to the edges, but I don’t use the buttons; it’s plenty easy to tap a page, and when I have tried to use the buttons, I don’t press right, or I miss, or I press too long and skip multiple pages. Those buttons are a mistake.

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