Kindle Voyage: A Luxury You Don’t Really Need

By Thad Komorowski

A friend recently expressed his joy over securing a Kindle Voyage, the latest in top-of-the-line e-book readers from Amazon. Being someone always in favor of print books, you really have to sell me on an e-reader. After about ten minutes of reading a Harry Potter book on his Voyage, though, the near print-like quality of the text and super-sensitive touch screen had me sold on this being a fine substitute. If all I could have for Christmas is a Kindle, it would unquestionably be this one.

We’re just about coming up to the Christmas shopping season, and the general consensus is that the new Kindle Voyage is just that: the perfect present for the beloved e-book reader in your life. But everyone also agrees there’s little point to getting one unless you’re stuck for a $199 gift idea.

The Kindle Voyage reader boasts a number of new features:

- 300 ppi display, the highest resolution Kindle has ever offered.
- Micro-etched glass screen designed to eliminate glare and feel just like paper.
- A new adaptive front light feature that senses the light of where you are, day or night, indoors or outdoors.
- PagePress, which lets you turn the page with just the slightest finger pressure.
- Thin! 7.6mm thin, thinner than any Kindle ever.

Only a tiny percentage of online reviewers are completely smitten with the Kindle Voyage. Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times Blog said he’s completely sold on the concept that the Voyage is just like reading a real book and recommends the device without hesitation.

“The effect is beguiling,” he wrote. “If you look at the new Kindle for any stretch of time, you don’t just forget that you’re reading an e-book; you forget that you’re using any kind of electronic device at all.”

While just about every mainstream review of Voyage echoes Manjoo’s sentiments that it’s the best Kindle to date, an indifferent attitude persists through all of the commentary.

Chris Ziegler of The Verge equates the e-reader to a duck-billed platypus. That is, it’s a very weird electronic device with only a singular purpose that has survived the introduction and improvement of devices with multiple functions, such as the tablet and the iPhone. So, he asks, “How do you build a better duck-billed platypus?”

Ziegler concludes that Amazon did build a better platypus: “This is the best E Ink e-reader I’ve used, and it’s unquestionably the best that Amazon has ever made.”

Yet despite giving the Voyage a 9 out of 10 in all but one category (battery life gets a solid 10), Ziegler can’t help but constantly compare it throughout his review to the earlier Kindle Paperwhite. That device only came out last year and is still available much cheaper at $119, and Ziegler can’t deny that’s probably the better deal for most people.

“It’s only marginally better than the fantastic Paperwhite in several ways, and significantly better in none,” Ziegler said. “Only voracious readers with laser-sharp eyes will find it $80 better.”

Re/Code’s Katherine Boehret says largely the same in her review, which is ironically used by Amazon on the official Kindle Voyage page. She gives the e-ink and light adapter full marks while noting that the vibration of PagePress took some getting used to. Otherwise, she can’t tell anyone to buy this upgrade without hesitation.

“The Kindle Voyage is the new gold standard in e-reading, and it gives users a lot of ways to personalize their reading experience,” she said. “But at $200, it’s a luxury, not a necessity.”

Still, more than a few people seem to need that luxury. As of right now, reports say that some versions of the Kindle Voyage, notably the cheapest model at $199, are out-of-stock until Dec. 12.

If you’re hoping to give someone, or yourself, the grandeur of e-book platypuses, you might not have it in time for the holidays anyway.

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