Sunday, October 26, 2014

Amazon Kindle Voyage in Singapore (Late 2014)

Update: 26 Oct 2014: I've received my new Kindle Voyage, and will update this entry progressively. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section.

In the last few years that I've created blog entries for each new Kindle release, my first worry was always whether Kindle would stop development of the Kindle e-reader in deference to the tablet market instead. This year, for the first time since the shipment of the first Kindle, I'm happy to report that Amazon has no intention of stopping development to the Kindle. In fact, Amazon is apparently doing quite the opposite: doubling down on creating yet another magical Kindle, this time for the 'higher-end' market.

So for the first time since 2007, Amazon has two products that are 'top of the line': the Paperwhite (which will continue to be sold), and the new Kindle Voyage. One reason is that there's really nothing wrong with the Paperwhite. It's a fantastic e-reader; nothing has changed in that regard and Amazon is not about to discontinue a perfectly fine product.

So what's changed? Why bring out yet another Kindle product? In the last few years, Amazon has been pricing the Kindles so low that they are hardly breaking even. But this year, Amazon is trying to capture the top-end of the market, by charging USD90 more for the Voyage, with some solid aesthetic improvements thrown in.


Screen
Let's start with the first feature: an improved screen. I've always maintained that the Paperwhite has more or less a 'retina' screen (6" diagonal XGA display, 758 x 1024 pixels, 212 dpi resolution, 16-level gray scale) in the sense that if you hold it up at the normal reading distance, you won't be able to see the jagged letters. However, if you really want to 'pixel peek', yes you can see the jagged edges of the fonts. So for all intents and purposes, the Paperwhite is 'retina', even at the smallest font size, at reading distance, but not up close.

Now the Voyage has a mind-blowing high resolution (6" diagonal display, 1448 x 1072 pixels, 300 dpi resolution, 16-level gray scale). What this means is that no matter how close your nose is to the screen, you won't see the jagged letters. Also if I do a direct comparison between the two screens for the same pages of the same book at reading distance, the Voyage's text looks 'tighter' and it has higher contrast somewhat. This could be due to other reasons because it's a separate issue to mere resolution improvement.

So that's the bottom line: the Voyage has a tact sharp screen, with high-contrast text and retina-standard fonts. If you are looking for the very best screen and don't mind the price of admission, the Voyage is what you're looking for.



Size
The first shocking thing is the package. Just take a look at the difference between the two packages. When comparing the length of the two, the Paperwhite is a bit longer. When I hold it in my hands, the Voyage feels tiny! And light! So that's a plus for people who want an even smaller footprint than the Paperwhite.
Kindle Voyage box on top of Paperwhite box. Leather cover box at left.
 

Voyage a bit shorter than Paperwhite.

PagePress sensors
There are a few ways to turn pages: tap on the screen, swipe the screen, and now a new third way. There are 'buttons' at the side. You can rest your thumb there and if you want to turn pages, just press a little harder. It works very well. For left-handers who find it difficult to turn pages using the first two ways, this is a really good feature.







Usability
The Voyage, with the Origami leather cover, is smaller than the Paperwhite with its cover, so some readers may find it more difficult to hold. But once you get used to it, it's fine. Reading in bed with one hand requires a bit of hand gymnastics due to the fact it's difficult to grasp the cover using your little finger because the cover is designed to collapse onto itself! But it's possible to improve things by experimenting with your hand positioning. Additionally, the Origami does create new ways of reading in bed. I find it very useful to hold the 'stand' at the back instead of the chassis itself. Another way is to simply prop the Kindle lengthwise on the bed. This works very well indeed.

New features
Here are some upcoming features. I think the new Wordwise feature is absolutely stunning!

About the book

Better Goodreads integration

Wordwise

Better X-Ray


Cover
A cover is necessary to prevent screen breakages if you drop your Kindle. The new Amazon Origami covers (non-leather) and (leather) is a little less protective than the 'thick rubber' ones for the Paperwhite. However, they still wrap around the chassis so there's still some protection to a certain extent. The top-flip construction can be a a little unwieldy for those more used to the Paperwhite's design as the Origami is designed to fold away to make a standing Kindle.



Purchasing decision
So what is a book lover to do? Kindle Paperwhite or Voyage? My recommendation is the Paperwhite if you're not comfortable with the high price of the Voyage. Amazon has never increased the price of its top product, until now! And that's because they now know there's a market for it: people who see the difference of USD80 as merely say, USD10. So if you have the funds and don't mind spending, get the Kindle Voyage. If not, the Kindle Paperwhite is perfectly fine also.


Ebooks situation in Singapore
In September 2014, for the first time, Amazon 'officially' allowed the sale of Kindle books in Singapore. The catalogue is around 0.9 million books, and each book is USD2 more expensive than books sold at the US store (catalogue: 3 million). So if you wish to continue using the US store, follow the instructions below.



How to buy a Kindle in Singapore
  • Summary: Buy from Amazon who will ship to your package forwarder, who will ship to you. Turnaround: around 14 days.
  • Go to the Kindle page and buy yourself a Kindle. (You can use your local credit card with correct local billing address to do this. You don't need a VPN and don't need to use gift cards.) 
  • The new Kindle will be automatically linked to your Amazon account.
  • Ship it to a third party mail forwarder. Borderlinx (Citibank credit card required, go to 'get a virtual address') and Comgateway (go to 'get my US address') are both excellent. They both use DHL to ship packages to Singapore. DHL is extremely reliable and fast; they even deliver on Sundays!
  • When you get your Kindle, you need to register it if it hasn't already been registered. After connecting to wifi at "home>settings", register it by filling in your Amazon username and password at "home>settings>register".
Some preparatory steps to take before buying eBooks from the Amazon US store
  • Summary: Use a VPN and prepare your Amazon account. Buy gift card and send to yourself. Switch on the VPN before you click 'Buy now'.
  • Because a reader is supposed to be in the US if he wants to buy from the US store, there were instances where buyers were found to be not from the US and were asked to provide proof of US residency before they could buy books again. The probability of this happening is very low. To be totally safe, use a vpn described below.
  • Firstly, do not buy Amazon ebooks directly from your Kindle device or Kindle apps, not even free books.
  • Buy a gift card with your local credit card, say USD50. Use the correct, local billing address for this purchase. Email the gift card to your email address. When you receive it in the mail, apply the gift amount to your Amazon account.
  • Go to your account, 'manage payment options', and erase your credit card info if you have any credit cards associated with Amazon.com . (Do this also whenever you buy something at Amazon using your local credit card.)
  • You need to buy books using your Internet browser on your computer with a VPN installed. Functionally, using a VPN is the equivalent of me giving you an airplane ticket to travel with your Kindle to the US. Use a VPN such as Private Tunnel to make yourself situated in the US, in spirit. You may turn it off later when you're done purchasing. Click here to download some instructions. The cheapest VPN package can last you for years. Do not use Hotspot Shield; it's known not to work sometimes.
  • Exit your Internet browser.
  • Switch on your VPN. Open your browser.
  • Go to Manage your Kindle at the Kindle product page.
  • Go to 'country settings'. Change your country to US if it's showing another country. Use any US address.
  • Switch off the VPN.
How to buy eBooks from the Amazon US store
  • Summary: Don't buy books from Kindle itself, buy gift cards, send to yourself, use a VPN on your computer to buy books
  • Do not buy eBooks (even if the books are free) with the Kindle device.
  • Ensure that you have sufficient funds in your account. If not, buy more gift cards and apply them to your account.
  • Exit your Internet browser.
  • Switch on your VPN, and check that it's working by going to http://www.whatismyipaddress.com . It needs to show a US IP address.
  • Go to Amazon. Find your book and click 'buy now with 1-click', 'deliver to your Kindle'. If you choose to wirelessly send it to your Kindle, you should receive the book in a few seconds. You can also choose to download the file and transfer it to your Kindle using USB. If asked for the billing address, use any US address. Note that this address will not be used because funds will originate from your gift card balance. New: Copy or do a screenshot of this information (the US billing address and telephone number that you used.) You may be asked for it in the future.
  • Switch off the VPN.

Some Kindle books I've bought to be read on the E Ink Kindle and Kindle for iPad.