People often ask me what my favorite gadget is, or if there’s one piece of technology I can’t live without. They’re usually taken aback by my simple response: my Kindle Paperwhite, a device that reliably performs one task really well and one that I’ve treasured since receiving it as a gift in 2013.
It might be a surprising answer from someone who makes a living chasing iPhone rumors and reviewing fitness trackers everyday, but it’s true. Amazon’s e-reader is, to me, the perfect confluence of technological savvy and no-frills, barebones utility.
My Kindle helps me focus on just one task: reading books. It’s one of the few single-purpose devices left in this world, and I’ve come to appreciate its narrow focus. While thousands of other do-it-all gadgets seem to have abandoned all pretense of simplicity, the Amazon Kindle remains devoted to a basic purpose — it lets me read books regularly and holds a charge for weeks.
I used to be a staunch defender of reading physical books, refusing to cede any ground to the ruthless Amazon machine that wrecked the publishing industry over the last two decades. But then I moved to Germany, and had little to do in my free time except read — the only problem was there weren’t any easy ways to access physical copies of English language books.
Amazon’s done right by me in its insistence to keep the Kindle simple.
I turned to my new Kindle and saw the light — literally, because of the very nice Paperwhite display. I read a book a week, sometimes two, borrowing from a public library’s online network halfway across the world. I devoured classics, old favorites I saw through a new lens, the entire A Song of Ice and Fire saga, and countless other novels.
I carried my Kindle everywhere, making it the first gadget that I couldn’t imagine being without — even above my cell phone. I read at night, on poorly lit trains, cars, and plane cabins, and on my favorite days, outside in the park. There were no limits.
That feeling still hasn’t left me, even though I moved back to the US years ago. The same streamlined functionality keeps me coming back to the Kindle.
When I tap the screen, I can expect to have one unbroken experience, which is all too rare in today’s increasingly fragmented media landscape filled with text, photos, audio, and videos galore, all jockeying for your attention across devices.
I’ve seen gadgets stray too far from their original purpose before. Apple had a great thing going with the original iPod, for example, but kept adding bells and whistles that muddled the user experience with feature bloat. By the time the bulk of the product line finally bit the dust earlier this summer, the real question was exactly why the last version left standing, the iPod Touch, is still around at all, since there’s no clear use for it other than as a watered-down iPhone.
Amazon, by comparison, has done right by me in its effort to keep the Kindle simple. The company did introduce its line of Fire tablets under the Kindle umbrella back in 2011 — but by 2014 it dropped the moniker to separate the two very different products. That means that the bloat that killed the iPod is unlikely to seep into the e-readers, since Amazon’s cheap tablets are on a different cycle.
Since the separation of the Fire tablet line, the Kindle has been the rare tech device that hasn’t added new features as it has evolved. It has merely refined and worked to perfect its single purpose. That allows the Kindle to be a gadget whose battery life can be estimated in weeks and months instead of hours on its spec sheet, with enough memory for mini-libraries full of text.
My favorite books will not be disrupted by the notifications that have flooded my phone, music players, and now even my freakin’ TV, allowing me to finally immerse myself fully in narratives that take me far away from my own reality. That’s something I feel the need to do more and more these days, and I’m thankful that I have my Kindle to escape.