Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite is built around getting you to your books, and letting you buy more books, quickly and easily. Since you order it through Amazon, it comes pre-registered to your Amazon account, unless you designate that the purchase will be a gift.
It's a simpler interface than your average tablet. If you're used to a Nexus 7 or an iPad, it'll feel stripped down. That's a appropriate though, and also necessary, given the benefits and limitations of the e-ink screen.
On first boot, you're lead through a brief tutorial before landing on the home screen. This is is divided into two feeds: a list of your books and documents, and then a promotional stream of titles recommended to you by Amazon, which can be disabled.
That first feed can be sorted to show all your books and documents, or to show just books, periodicals, documents and active content. By default, it'll show your most recently accessed titles, and a little status bar below them to show your reading progress. You can give it a swipe to see the rest of your library.
Amazon's feed shows a varying selection of titles the mega-retailer would you like you to browse. Things like Best Books of The Month, Top-Rated Kindle Singles are often showcased. According to Amazon, they're at least partially based on your browsing and purchase history, but to us they never felt particularly personal. They're basically just clutter stealing screen space from own library, so its best to disable them in settings and let your own books take over.
If you didn't pay extra for the version without "special offers," you'll see an Amazon banner ad at the bottom of the screen. Ads also serve as your lock screen
Those lock screen ads are tasteful and Amazon varies them enough that they can be a bit of an amusing surprise. You do end up with a few romance novels and goofy looking fantasy books on there though.
The ads aren't intrusive, but they do make the Paperwhite feel somewhat impersonal. It doesn't feel as "yours" as a decked out Android or iOS tablet. There's a real lack of customization compared to those devices, but the no-nonsense reading crowd likely won't be bothered by it.
Also, those ads and "offers" can be removed at any time if you pay that twenty dollar difference. It's nice of Amazon to give that option, and we therefore recommend that shoppers buy the cheaper "with ads" version, and pay up later if they feel the need to.
Diving into the reading experience on the Paperwhite, pages are turned by simply touching the right or left side. Touching the rightmost two-thirds of the screen advances, tapping the remaining left portion of the screen goes back. Swiping left to right or right to left on any portion of the display also moves the pages back or forth.
The swiping, combined with the small size of the Paperwhite, makes one handed operation quite comfortable. You can hold this thing in one hand and just swipe away, it's a very comfortable reading experience for the hand as well as the eyes.
There's a small delay when you turn a page, a slightly smaller one than on last year's Paperwhite. This is thanks to an upgraded processor, but it's hardly noticeable unless you use the two side-by-side.
The whole screen still refreshes when you advance a page, like a brief snowstorm in an Etch-a-Sketch. That's the nature of the e-ink display. It's odd the first few times you see it, but it quickly becomes white noise in the otherwise pleasant Paperwhite experience.
The text size is generous and quite legible by default, but can readily be resized with a two finger pinch. Obviously, bigger text means more frequent page turns, but it's well worth the ease of reading. If you have difficulties with your sight and need enlarged print, this feature alone should put the Paperwhite on your must buy list.
Font size can also be tweaked in the toolbar, which is summoned with a touch at the top of the display. Here you have quick access to the home screen, a back function, backlight adjustment, the Kindle Store and some settings options.
Settings allows you to change the orientation of the page, from portrait to landscape and vice versa. The Paperwhite does not reorient when turned, like most tablets.
In settings you can also toggle on and off reader highlights, which shows passages that other customer have highlighted. It's a bit disorienting that they're shown by default, but it's easy enough to disable.
As with any tablet or ereader, a dictionary definition and is only ever a touch away. The Paperwhite also boasts Wikipedia search, which covers any blind spots the dictionary may have very well.
You can create your own bookmarks, notes and highlights, and share them on Twitter and Facebook. However, there's no quick way to email a passage or notes, or label your bookmarks, which seems like an a feature students would love to have.
Note taking on the Paperwhite is bit of a pain anyway. The onscreen keyboard is designed well enough, but there's a bit of delay when inputting text. This is the same e-ink related delay you experience when turning pages, but it's far more noticeable when typing, and keeps the predictive text lagging behind. Punching in more than a word or two is a chore.