Synchronized reading on the Kindle

As a pre-Christmas gift, I got the new Kindle Paperwhite. I’ve had the previous generation Kindle (now it’s called the Kindle Keyboard) for a while and liked it, but the Paperwhite is head and shoulders above it. The Paperwhite is smaller, but between the higher screen resolution and the fact that you don’t have to give any space to a physical keyboard, it doesn’t feel like you’re giving up any reading area. The physical keyboard is replaced by an onscreen virtual keyboard, which is much more pleasant to use. I also prefer turning the page by touching the screen rather than by pushing special buttons on the side of the unit. This is all old news… what I wanted to describe was how nice the automatic synchronization was.

My old Kindle was Wi-Fi only. Getting the 3G phone network option (called WhisperNet) seemed expensive and unnecessary. To download books via Wi-Fi, you only had to be in wireless range with a friendly network. This was no hardship. Since the wireless service burned up the battery, I just switched it off between book downloads and everything was ducky.

But that stopped me from enjoying a nifty feature. Kindle software runs not only on their readers but also on iPads and iPhones and various other devices. So you can pick up reading on one device exactly where you left off reading on the other. It’s surprisingly pleasant, but of course it only works when both devices are on the net. So even though I had the Kindle device, I couldn’t take advantage of this feature because I would always turn the Wi-Fi off right away.

The bottom line is that I wouldn’t have chosen the Paperwhite 3G for myself, but since it was gift, well, there it was. And having always-on connectivity let me take advantage of book synchronization. Now, if I have a few extra minutes while waiting in line somewhere, I can keep reading a book on my iPhone even when the Paperwhite is at home. It’s a simple enough feature, but one of my favorites of the whole Kindle environment.

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