Reviewed: The New Kindle Oasis

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All my life I’ve sprouted books like hostels have fleas. They appear about me, falling from pockets, trailing behind me, stuffed into pockets and bags, in my hands, on beer-sticky bar counters, in bathrooms and kitchens, left on trains, propped against lamps and bottles and pillows. One to read, one spare in case I finish the one I’m reading, one extra back-up in case I lose the first two.

At some point, though, I became a Kindle junkie. It was probably after we had to get steel reinforced bookshelves to support my paper habit, as books blossomed like fractals in every corner. Something had to give. Also, I was starting to travel a lot more, and by the time I went to Bangkok with an extra suitcase of books as if Bangkok itself wasn’t endlessly entertaining, I knew I had to deal with the problem.

First I tried the ticky-tacky Kobo, and something by Sony that looked cool and was useless because you had to buy the books from a site that simply didn’t work. Kindles were suddenly everywhere, ugly little mothers but because they ran from Amazon they were child’s play to use.

Then I started destroying them. One was left on a flight heading to Russia, thieved before I had time to breath out. Another fell off a balcony and exploded. A third died in a beach shower (it was still in the back pocket of my shorts, d’oh). Cracked, bent, dropped, lost. Friends thought I was being extravagant – but hell, my brother changes his car more often than he buys a pair of jeans so no, reading is a comparatively inexpensive habit, a compulsion I can deal with and, crucial point for me, this – a legitimate and claimable work expense.

The Kindle Voyage was fugly and plasticky but the user interface was better, and finally a decent cover appeared – that origami-ish one you can use to stand the thing up on a coffee table. Downside; my outdoor table is steel and the mag-cover stuck to it, plus it deactivates hotel room swipecards if you keep them close by. But Paperwhite was a leap forward – the first reading experience that was really comparable to a book. But, loving books, I know it’s not an either/or thing – often it’s an edition of each, one virtual, one paper.

TheVoyage was the first upgrade I didn’t screw up. It felt tougher, although it was still a bugger to hold. And so to the Oasis, a real leap forward, although I’m mystified as to why it still looks plasticky. The first thing to note is the squarer size; while it retains the 6″ screen the surround has been reduced and the tapering thickness is down to almost nothing. But here’s the real trick; a right (or left) margin that sits on the palm of your hand like a spine, making holding it so much easier. Then the case, which it comes with, has an extra battery (not that you’d know it was there) that bumps up its life dramatically – and you’ll need it too, because the 20% smaller, lighter device loses power a little faster; it’s hard to measure just how fast as estimates vary.

As for the screen, it’s sharper, smoother and by far the best on the market – but the Oasis also feels more fragile. With a stiff price tag (it’s the highest-end product of its type) you’d think twice before chucking it in your hand-luggage. Also, the Oasis has lost its adaptive light, which raised and lowered ambience according to your surrounding environment. It has simplified the controls to the minimum – a bonus after the Voyage’s unnecessary back-and-forth buttons (four in all). And it has Goodreads built in – a good thing – but I really don’t want to ‘share’ my tastes with Twitter and Facebook. Books are the last private pleasure.

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Turn off the highlighted notes from other readers or you’ll be driven mad by realising how banal people can be (‘Ooh – the word ‘vegan’ has 750 highlights!’) and you’ll find yourself constantly using the dictionary and saved-words feature, a great way to increase your vocabulary, especially if you’re reading David Foster Wallace as I was. Fabulous writer but demanding in the rare word stakes.

So, is the Oasis worth it, when an iPad Air is not much more expensive? Yes, if you’re an absolute book freak, no for everyone else. The Oasis is like a toaster – it only does one thing but does it beautifully. I have a number of Kindles because I’m terminally peripatetic and every single one of my books, inc. all my research volumes, is in storage for the rest of the year, meaning that my Kindles constitute my entire fiction library but for the books which aren’t available and large format non-fiction esoteric stuff. I don’t want colour or sound, just clear bright words.

The Oasis suddenly makes the Voyage feel clunky, but the Voyage’s ergo-foldy cover is a wondrous thing and a sad loss. Plus, I can’t foresee a situation whereby I take the mag-cover of the Oasis off just to make it a tad smaller. And did it really need a frickin’ great Amazon logo embedded in the front? (The Voyage’s is on the back). Well it’s American therefore comes with a corporate name blasted over everything, but hey, I don’t see a better UK product on the market. At least you have a choice of models – Amazon don’t seem to phase them out as Apple does. Amazon is suggesting orders will take a month (it usually delivers ahead) but airports have them in stock right now.

Verdict? On balance I’d stick with the Voyage…and yet. Sexy. Never thought I’d finally say that about a Kindle. PS I bought my own for this review (more’s the pity).

19 comments on “Reviewed: The New Kindle Oasis”

  1. Steve says:

    Interesting 🙂
    Having started with nook, i now stick with Kobo. Amazon doesnt handle epub which is a dealbreaker for me. The basic eink screens are anyway the same, Kindle, kobo, tolino. And if you go to mbileread, there are kobo patches for extra dictionaries, fonts, custom layouts – everything i need.
    I have ssds with moviecollections in every city, but my books take just over 3gb are all cloud backed up to Microsoft OneDrive in a single giant zip file.
    For movies, Samsung T1 and lately T3 are great for carrying films around. 1 TB on a thing half the size of a matchbox. That’s around 100-200 Dvd’s or 40 blurays 🙂

  2. Steve says:

    To add to what I wrote above, I very much hope admin – who seems very tolerant of my rambling – doesnt mind me posting this link:

    http://www.techinsider.io/why-i-love-my-kobo-ereader-2016-4

  3. Wayne Mook says:

    Still using my old kindle, I can read and it means my shelves don’t bulge as much. Still wish they would stop trying to sell me romance novels.

    Wayne.

  4. admin says:

    I think in the UK we probably have more of a problem with interfacing the Kobo with booksellers – would have to check that out though. I find a combo of Amazon and NetGalley gives me most of what I need.

  5. snowy says:

    There is a Kobo app for Android. [Replying to Steve’s comment]

    jJust sideloaded it onto my Amazon tablet, seems to work; admittedly it thinks I read Japanese and want to pay in Yen, but searching for a random English author turned up 49 books in English including the recently republished back-catalogue in swish new covers. Not having a Kobo account means the experiment ends there, I presume the language and location settings are only available when logged in?, But it seems ‘do-able’.]

  6. Jo W says:

    Don’t think that review has persuaded me ,Chris. I’ll stay with printed books,easier to pass on. If one of the kindles or whatever comes up with a feature to replicate that ‘new book’ smell, I might think again. 😉

  7. mel says:

    Great review. The Voyage was I think the first reader I had that didn’t really irritate me in some way. I don’t think I’ll be replacing it yet but I might head over to the Amazon kiosk at the mall to check out the Oasis. My kindle is getting lots more use now that my library has upped the ebook borrowing limit to 20.

  8. chazza says:

    Never having had a kindle – or whatever – and being a collector and reader of obscure novels and text books (which will never appear on kindle or whatever), I have no idea what you are talking about!

  9. Mike Cane says:

    Interesting review. You went from someone who initially had no interest in e to serially-killing/losing Kindles!

  10. Helen Martin says:

    Well, I’ve reached the point of listening and am glad I missed all the early ugliness. My son had a paperwhite and I was impressed with the appearance and his argument that if you’re standing in the dark waiting for a bus you can always read. I have a good record where devices are concerned as far as destruction and loss are concerned. I am paying attention now.

  11. Helen Martin says:

    Who wants to watch a movie on a six inch screen? I don’t even really want to watch one on my computer screen.

  12. snowy says:

    I can’t quite see you, [or indeed anybody], getting away with heaving their 42″ plasma onto the SkyTrain for a little light viewing.

    [I’ve not ‘watched’ a film on a tablet, but I have run through a previously seen film to remind me of scenes or pull quotes when the necessity arises.]

  13. snowy says:

    Just a maple-tapping minute,

    *points an imaginary, accusatory finger*, *and waggles it about for em-ph-a-sis!*

    You have watched a film on a piddley little screen! 😉

    [Unless airy-plane seats have gone 3D and Hi-Def since I last saw one, but given how short the pitch between rows is now, it probably looks bigger.]

  14. Rachel Green says:

    I have the Kindle app on my nVidia tablet, and I’m very happy with it.

  15. Helen Martin says:

    No, I have not watched a film on a piddley little screen. Planes had large screens and you plugged into the sound. There may have been films on our trip 2 yr. ago but I didn’t find them. Besides, I had a book.

  16. snowy says:

    Damn it,. Welcome to Wrongville, Population: Me. 😳

    [Still it bodes well for my friends eldest, who whizzes about fixing the things.]

  17. Wayne Mook says:

    Well Waterstones have stopped selling E-books and now and will link people to Kobo, so I guess they will have a lot more UK content.

    As for obscure books there are plenty, and for free. Things like the Guttenberg project and the internet archive which has links to US libraries has lots of out of print books, many from obscure sources (one of the most recent books The Structure and Life-history of the Cockroach by Alfred Denny and L. C. Miall from 1886 and Transylvanian Superstitions by Emily Gerard from the 19th Century review vol. 18 from 1885.) they do them as E-pubs and mobi for kindle.

    As to watching films on a small screen, I have we used to call it television back in the 70’s and my grandparents had an older set, plus my dad had a 70’s small portable tv/radio/cassette, with a very small B&W screen. Yes we even watched colour films on small B&W screens at times, it’s how old TV should be watched.

    Wayne.

  18. admin says:

    Re: Movies on a small screen. You have to remember that the smaller the screen, the greater the pixel density, so the crisper the image – which is why it’s so easy to watch TV that way. Amazingly DVDs are still the format to beat for watching film in a really clear image.

  19. Helen Martin says:

    And I watch DVDs – on my tv set.

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