Rumor: New Kindle Paperwhite to Gain 300ppi Screen Next Spring

Techcrunch is kindle paperwhite 2013reporting that they have seen a prototype of the next Kindle Paperwhite:

 The marquee feature of the new device is a high-resolution 300 ppi screen that will bring the company’s e-reader displays back into technical parity with devices from competitors like Kobo.

In addition to a higher resolution screen, the new Paperwhite will be getting a few more hardware improvements. We’ve seen a prototype of the device which has a front screen that is flush with the edges of the device, rather than recessed, and is made out of very matte glass of some sort, not plastic. Despite moving to glass, the new units are said to be lighter than this year’s models.

The device is reportedly code named "Ice Wine", and it is going to launched sometime in the second quarter of 2014 (assuming nothing goes wrong).

There's no word on the screen size, but I can point out that the new screen is going to increase the sharpness from 212 ppi on the current Kindle Paperwhite to over 300 ppi. That is a sharper screen than on the Kobo Aura HD, which comes in at 265 ppi.

If this part comes to pass then the new Paperwhite will have to cost considerably more than the current model. That higher resolution screen is going to require a higher resolution backplane, and that will cost more to produce. This could result in a premium priced Paperwhite which would be sold alongside the lower cost current model.

On a related note, the higher cost of higher resolution screens is part of the reason why so many ereaders have an HD E-ink screen with a resolution of 1024 x 758. That is a stock size offered by E-ink, which means it is already being mass produced and thus cheaper than a higher resolution screen would be.

Kindle_Paperwhite_35438287_35437744_35438313_35438312_02_620x433[1]

The new device is reportedly going to have a new shell which looks like the back of the Kindle Fire HDX, and a new power button on the back. It's also going to have page turn buttons.

Yes, Amazon is going to go against the design trend embodied in their last 3 touchscreen-equipped Kindles. The new model will have page turn buttons similar to that of the Nook Touch; the buttons will be flush with the case and be "squeezable".

There's also a report that the new device will have a new font and improve typography, but I'm not going to put much weight into this claim. Apparently whoever wrote this post for TechCrunch knows very little about Amazon's ongoing efforts to improve typography, because he wrote:

Typography has long been one of the Kindle’s big failing points.

Yeah, so the improved fonts and improved typography that Amazon has debuted with the 2012 Kindle and other Kindle launches is all crap? Not in comparison to other ereaders on the market or what was possible 5 or more years ago, no.

Update: I need to correct myself. It seems I was the one not keeping up on the latest opinions of typography experts, because a number of them do think the Kindle fails at typography. Needless to say, I don't agree.

36 thoughts on “Rumor: New Kindle Paperwhite to Gain 300ppi Screen Next Spring

  1. “improved fonts and improved typography that Amazon has debuted with the 2012 Kindle and other Kindle launches is all crap?”

    Yes, it is.

    As a hell of à lot of book designers and typo-fanatics have actually complained.

    Amazon should really hire one or two people who know about book design and typography, kindle standards being very low and sometimes utter nonsense.

    If you can actually find one professional stating typography isn’t Kindle biggest failing point, they you clearly have found an amateur. And it is not about subjective opinions and telling this one or that one is wrong as Amazon has made some improvements (which are not quite improvements by the way). By any means, objectively, Amazon should just be embarrassed as kindle served typography is one of the biggest crap you can find on the ebook market.

    1. Okay, but I can remember what it was like to read ebooks on apps developed in 2003 (Mobipocket, to be exact). There has been significant improvement since then, so I have a little trouble putting much weight into current complaints about how terrible things are now.

      Also, I can recall that in 2011 the Kindle keyboard (K3) did a better job at text and image rendering than the iriver Story HD and the Hanlin ereader I had at the time, even though it had a more limited ebook format and a lower resolution screen.

      Has anything changed since then? Is there a mainstream ereader that handles typography better?

      Joel Friedlander David Bergsland didn’t think so last year:

      This is one of the reasons that ePUB gained so much prominence. Of course, for book designers, even the ePUB is very limited. After all, both of these formats are basically simple, very long, single-column Web pages. Gag!

      KF8 offers typography as good or better than ePUB

      As you can see there is a radical change for KF8, the new format to support the Kindle Fire. More than that, Amazon has promised to quickly support KF8 for their apps on the Mac, PC, iPad, Android, and so on. I am really looking forward to that as I do much of my reading on the Kindle app for the new iPad.

      http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2012/06/typography-in-kindle-yes-we-can/

    2. “If you can actually find one professional stating typography isn’t Kindle biggest failing point, they you clearly have found an amateur.”

      This is a nice example of what’s known as the “no true Scotsman” logical fallacy. Also you don’t specify what sort of “professional” you’re talking about. I think a professional lexicographer would say that the Kindle’s biggest failing was in the auto-hyphenation algorithms that some Kindles and Kindle apps use. Professional industrial designers would probably say something about physical vs. on-screen buttons and keyboards, and so on.

      Speaking as a professional reader (I do sometimes get paid for it), I would put typography pretty low on the list of priorities. Indeed, seeing some of the messes that have been made with the Kindle’s current range of formatting options, I cringe to think about the inevitable misuse of more advanced typographic capabilities.

  2. I was a typographer in a past career. Neither Kindle nor Kobo are capable of fine typography except when displaying pdfs. Unless of course your definition of “typography” is the ability to display a handful of fonts in decent resolution — but without any regard to line or character spacing (once referred to, in days gone by, as leading and kerning). And don’t get me started on x-height and cap height … *winks*

  3. Typographic debates about ebooks/ereaders tend to go two ways:
    – readers are concerned with “have it your way” display of an ebook
    – publishing formatters are concerned with “have it my way” fixed layout display of an ebook

    As a reader, I find Kindle (and most of their ebook vendor competitors) to be adequate but lagging behind the likes of FBreader and Coolreader3, in what matters to me.

    When it comes to industry professionals, I doubt they will ever be happy with any display system short of non-reflowing pdf, as *any* end user controls will by definition violate the perfection that is their vision. With those parameters in mind, I would shrug off any typographic complaints from professionals.
    And, I would interpret this hypothetical next Kindle’s improved typography as a reference to improved pdf/fixed-format kf 8 handling. Useful, but hardly earth-shaking.

    1. Btw, the ebook business is currently burdened with an over-abundance of inherited “wisdom” from the pbook business that needs to be deprecated, if not outright ditched. Too many people still think of ebooks as digital paper and continue to burden digital editions with needless expectations and limitations. Fortunately, as ebooks mature, we are seeing progress in the right direction with things like pop-up notes and instant location flipping (though I’d prefer synchronized split screen displays for that type of operation).

      1. But it addresses the relevance of typographical criticisms, no?
        Why should Amazon or Apple worry over much about typographical precision if end user controls will be overriding them?
        Either the user is in control or the software is in control of the final render and I doubt current reader hardware would support a built-in typographical AI capable of tweaking user settings for typographical purity. And even if it were possible the added value in consumer’s eyes would hardly justify the cost/effort.
        (Even in the pbook arena, there aren’t many cases where consumers choose to pass on an interesting book because it has the wrong whitespace ratio or the drop caps are misplaced or too big.)
        This strikes me as an area where the Adam Osbourne mantra applies: “Adequacy is sufficient”. The objective of an ebook rendering system is to satisfy readers, not typographical experts.

  4. nitpicking, I know, but still:
    “have put their hands on the next Kindle Paperwhite”.

    No, there was no hands-on. Nor did they claim hands-on.

    From the article:
    “TechCrunch has learned”
    “We also hear”
    “what we’ve heard”
    “We saw”

    No mention of hands-on, no claim of hands-on.

  5. just gimme one without the brittle glass substrate, I don’t plan to watch HD video on e-ink. But I do sometimes drop stuff.

  6. Launching a new device to replace one less than 6 months old is a quick way to piss off a lot of customers (see: iPad 3/4).

    More to the point, while Amazon would enjoy a hardware advantage, they’d be stuck in the same refresh position BN was in for the last few years. BN historically launched their readers in late spring/early summer, which gave them a hardware advantage over Amazon over the course of the summer. The NST (when launched) blew the K3 out of the water, Amazon had no answer for the Glowlight between June and October of 2012, etc. However, in the fall Amazon would release a new device, and because of the extra development time, would have better hardware than BN’s older model going into the important holiday period.

    Amazon, if they launched another new KPW in the spring, would enjoy a nice period of hardware ascendency, but then be easily matched (and probably outstripped) by their competition going into the holidays, who could take advantage of the extra hardware development time. Amazon could theoretically offer more than one model – offering the “high end” in the spring and the “low end” in the autumn. But, aside from stock issues (given the low sales volumes of ereaders, having multiple SKU’s is not a particularly good idea), it sends a confusing marketing message to customers. In the fall, should they buy the outdated “high end” reader or the newly refreshed “low end”, or just wait until the spring, or just buy a competitor’s new “high end” reader for the holidays and just give up on Amazon?

    Customer whiplash is something Amazon needs to avoid – their margins are too thin for them to sustain a bad production run and their stock bubble makes it all the more dangerous.

    I’m sure Amazon is developing a new device, and I’m sure they’ll spend many billions to make sure that it sells well (Amazon has definitely proven themselves masters of the Samsung School of “buy so much advertising that you’ll move units even if your product is inferior” Business). But release in the spring? Not likely, if they have any sense.

    1. It’s my guess that the rumor of a Spring launch will only come true if Amazon does get that 300 ppi E-ink screen. That is going to boost the price enough that this would be a premium ereader. A $170 KPW isn’t going to conflict with the existing $129 KPW, so it is entirely possible that they won’t undeercut each other.

      But you’re right about the time. I was going to make the same arguments but the mention of a prototype stopped me. That has me wondering if the rumor is true.

  7. I wish Amazon would take the time to do what Waterfi does, and sell completely waterproof Kindle Paperwhites (http://waterfi.com/waterproof-kindle) instead.

    I’d rather have a weatherproof ereader than a more expensive glass-faced reader with enhanced resolution, because I’m only using it to read text. I guess if I were still reading Japanese, where characters can have many little strokes, the higher resolution might be useful, but all my reading these days is in English, which the current tech renders quite readably. Save the hyper-micro-pixel displays for tablets, whose multi-functional nature is aided by better resolution.

  8. I would like an 8 inch e-reader for my next kindle. I use my DX now most of the time and really like the extra large display.
    The higher resolution is not as important as a bigger screen at my old age. My eyes are beginning to deteriorate so reading is usually a little blurry. At least I still remember having sharp vision when a lot of people can’t even imagine having good retinas. We are fine with low-res.

  9. It would make sense to present a successor to the Kindle DX, given the unusual timing and the apparent availability of the 2400 x 1650 pixel 9.68 inch display, whose development in collaboration with Epson E-Ink announced in 2011. I read that it has been shown a couple of times already and maybe it’s ripe or cheap enough to be built into a product now? On the other hand, this doesn’t fit to some other wording from Techcrunch, namely that “the new units are said to be lighter than this year’s models”. Are there really any DX models that could be called “this year’s”? And why do they use that “Paperwhite” wording? Whatever we may see next year, a price tag would be the most interesting detail that I would still like to get leaked now.

    1. I too have been wondering whether Amazon might have a new KDX in the works, but if they do then my guess is that it won’t have that screen. I think Amazon would want to boost the screen resolution.

      And you’re right, this doesn’t fit into the TechCrunch rumors.

      1. I don’t understand the step from the second part of your first sentence to your second sentence. The mentioned Epson screen would be a significant improvement over the current DX screen.

        1. That Epson screen would offer a sharpness of 247 ppi – less than the 265ppi on the Kobo Aura HD. I was thinking that Amazon would prefer to go with a screen with 300ppi or higher; that way they can boast about the sharpness.

          1. How did you calculate those 247 ppi? I just checked Amazon’s website for the Kindle DX and it says “1200 x 824 pixel resolution at 150 ppi”. Since the Epson screen size is the same but the pixel density would be doubled at 2400 x 1650, that should give you 300 ppi. I did not check whether Amazon calculated their pixel density correctly. Will do that in a bit.

          2. Just to be sure, I also checked that again. Assuming square-shaped pixels, the screen ratio would be 16:11, thus 7.98″ x 5.48″ for the Epson screen’s 9.68″. We arrive at pretty much 300 ppi (ignoring some probable rounding noise).

            Now, we need somebody to leak the price tag. :-)

  10. Can anyone tell me what problem we’re solving with higher resolution on a reading device? You don’t need to know much about the psycho-physics of vision to realize that it will contribute very, very little to the readability of type. And for images the real limit is the 127 kB limit in the Kindle software. It’s not clear to me how Amazon can raise the limit without big backward compatibility problems.

    My experience has been that typography “experts” are almost invariably more concerned with aesthetics (theirs) than readability. I make up sample pages, in book format, and get people to rate readability without knowing the names of the typefaces. The typefaces recommended by “experts” are often judged to have poor readability. So depending on the balance to be struck between aesthetics and readability, listening too much to expertise may not be good for your business.

  11. All I want is the ability to see the exact same pages as the print edition. This makes typography relevant, because the size and location of each letter in relation to all of the others will push words onto other pages. Yes, it’s fine if a reader wants to change that so as to make it easier to read or for whatever other reason, but the page should default to whatever type and layout the print editions has.

    It is virtually impossible for me to reference a Kindle book, because I can’t always tell what “real page number” a passage is on, and I can’t tell, precisely, when a passage has crossed over to the next page. There are also times when I need to count paragraphs, and even the paragraph breaks aren’t always consistent with the print edition.

    I don’t know why this is so hard. The typography already exists *somewhere* on whatever digital file led to print, anyway.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>