The reading experience: Paperwhite vs. Kindle Fire HDX

The reading experience: Paperwhite vs. Kindle Fire HDX

I very often see people in the Kindle forums asking what they should get: a

Kindle Paperwhite (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

or a

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile)

I have to admit: I always find that a somewhat odd question.

It suggests that there is either one correct answer, or that complete strangers on an online forum know you well enough to know what’s better in your situation. 🙂

People are often helpful on the forum. One of the first comments you’ll typically see is, “If you want it mostly for reading,  you should get the Paperwhite.”

Is that true, though?

Like a lot of people, I have both an HDX and a Paperwhite. I actively use them both…and yes, I actively read on them both.

My Fire is what goes with me when I leave the house…I need its other capabilities (like viewing and doing light editing of Excel files), and an important one I’ll mention a bit later in the article.

I read my Paperwhite in bed before going to sleep.

I don’t think it’s a matter of a simple black and white answer (and I’m not talking about the grayscale of the Paperwhite). 😉 The Paperwhite is better for me for some reading tasks, the Fire is better for others.

In this post, I’m going to compare the two.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: the screen technology.

The Kindle Fire has a “backlit” screen. You read what is on it by a light coming from behind the image: the text is between you and the light source.

That’s how a lot of technology works: laptops, desktops, TVs, SmartPhones (at least, all the popular ones at this point).

You read what is on a Paperwhite by light bouncing off the screen from the front: the same way you read a p-book (paperbook).

Before the Paperwhite, you needed an external light source to read a non-Fire Kindle.

The Paperwhite has a built-in light…and that light is in front of the screen, not behind it: it’s “frontlit”. It’s on the same side of the screen that you are (like a booklight would be that you clip on to a book).

Some people don’t like reading backlit screens for long periods…they say it tires their eyes (or gives them headaches…I’ve heard both). That’s understandable: if you stared at a flashlight or a lit lamp for a while, that would tire you, too.

I don’t think the Fire is as harsh as a lot of devices: you can change the brightness, and have different text backgrounds…so I don’t find that it bothers me.

Backlighting takes up a lot more battery charge life than the Paperwhite’s frontlighting. A backlit screen requires a constant application of energy to maintain the image. With the technology in the Paperwhite, it “draws the page”…and doesn’t need more energy to maintain the image. The Paperwhite is like an Etch-a-Sketch in that way. It takes energy to draw a house on an Etch-a-Sketch, but if you don’t shake it, the image will stay there with no more effort.

A backlit device is like a garden hose: the Paperwhite is like a puddle.

It’s a huge difference. I charge my Fire every day. I charge my Paperwhite every couple of weeks (reading on it every day…although not for more than a half an hour or so).

The last thing on this screen technology is reading in bright light. A backlit device (the Fire) has to compete with light hitting the screen from the front…and it’s not going to win against the sun. 🙂 More light makes a Paperwhite easier to read, and because it has that frontlit screen, it’s also easy to read in a dark room. The Paperwhite is the most comfortable reading experience I’ve had…including paper.

I’m always able to read on my Fire outside, but it’s not as easy. Crank the brightness up all the way, and keep the device between you and the sun. If it feels like you are shading your eyes with your Fire, you are in a good position. For example, you might be leaning back, holding the Fire above chin level, with the bottom of it farther away from you than the top. Of course, don’t set it up where you might slip and end up looking directly into the sun!

Okay, let’s say you’ve got the lighting where it works for you. What about options when you read?


  • Kindle Fire HDX: 7
  • Paperwhite (I’m using the latest edition): 6

Font Sizes

  • Kindle Fire HDX: 11
  • Paperwhite: 9

Font/Background Combination Options

  • Kindle Fire HDX: 4 (including white on black)
  • Paperwhite: 1


  • Kindle Fire HDX: 3
  • Paperwhite: 3

Line Spacing

  • Kindle Fire HDX: 3
  • Paperwhite: 3

The Fire wins on three of these, and it’s a tie on the two others.


  • Kindle Fire HDX: yes
  • Paperwhite: no

The Paperwhite doesn’t have any audio capabilities. My guess is that they did that to make it cost less, and to reduce battery drain. This is the thing I said I was going to mention later. 🙂 I use TTS (software which reads the book aloud to you) pretty much every workday for an hour or more a day in the car. I love this! I like to say that driving is no longer wasted “non-reading time”. 😉  The TTS on the KFHDX is much superior to what we had on the Kindle 2 (it sounds more natural, makes fewer errors, and there are more choices), and it’s better than what we had on later non-Fire Kindles with TTS.

The Fire wins this one…hands down.

Oh, and that also means no immersion reading for the Paperwhite (where you can hear a voice and see the words at the same time), which the Fire has.

X-Ray (gives you information about the book)

  • Kindle Fire HDX: yes
  • Paperwhite: yes

It’s a tie.

Annotations: Notes, Highlights, Bookmarks

  • Kindle Fire HDX: yes
  • Paperwhite: yes

I like the experience of Notes better on the Fire. It’s one tap to get to the Notes icon, and it’s two on the Paperwhite. You have multiple color highlights on the Fire. The interface with the notes and highlights seems easier on the Fire: long press (hold your finger or stylus on it for about a second) and you can view, edit, or delete. On the Fire, Bookmarks are labeled as Bookmarks…not on the Paperwhite.

I’m going to give this to the Fire.


  • Kindle Fire HDX: X-Ray (including a Shelfari link), Dictionary, Wikipedia, Translation, in the book, and on the web
  • Paperwhite: Dictionary, X-Ray, Wikipedia, This Book, All Text, Kindle Store

The Fire seems to do this faster, and has more information (Shelfari has some great stuff), but I do like being able to search the Kindle Store on the Paperwhite. Still, I’d give this to the Fire.

Color, embedded or linked video or audio

  • Kindle Fire HDX: yes
  • Paperwhite: no

You might not use this much. Still, it’s nice if you are reading about Martin Luther King and can actually jump to the dream speech. This one goes to the Fire, although again, you might not care about it.


  • Kindle Fire HDX: Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook
  • Paperwhite: Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook

It’s a tie.

Report a Content Error

  • Kindle Fire HDX: no (if you know of a way, please let me know!)
  • Paperwhite: yes

This one goes to the Paperwhite.

Overall? I’m actually surprised that the Fire wins in so many categories. That doesn’t mean that I don’t recommend the Paperwhite: the more comfortable reading experience and the long battery charge life are strong pluses. Also, a lot of people like the lack of distractions (although the Fire does have a “Quiet Time” setting.

What do you think? I’m sure some of you want to leap to the defense of the Paperwhite, and I understand that. 🙂 Have I missed any advantages? I suppose I should have said that the Paperwhite is smaller, although the weight isn’t all that different…the KFHDX wi-fi only is 10.7 oz (303 grams), and the Paperwhite wi-fi only is 7.3 ounces (206 grams). I’ve heard that ten US pennies weight about an ounce, if that helps. 😉 The Paperwhite is cheaper ($119 vs $199 in their cheapest configurations at time of writing), but I don’t know if I’d consider that part of the reading experience. 😉 Are there other advantages you see with one or the other? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post. You can also let me know if you have other comparison questions about them that way.

Update: thanks to reader burmmom for a comment which improved this post!

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


87 Responses to “The reading experience: Paperwhite vs. Kindle Fire HDX”

  1. burmmom Says:

    Bufo, here’s my response to your request for info about reporting content errors on the Paperwhite: Highlight the word(s) that constitute the error, then choose “More” from the options that appear. That will open a dialog box in which you can describe the correction you think is appropriate. After you submit your report, you will be able to see it & check its status if you go to your Profile page at A cautionary note: I used to submit such corrections often & they were always listed as I have described, but I’ve never been able to verify that any of them were implemented!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, burmmom!

      I see a put that comment on the Paperwhite, when I meant to put it on the KFHDX! I’ll fix it.

      • burmmom Says:

        Oh, I wondered about that, Bufo. In truth, I found it hard to believe that you, who are so much tech-savvier than I, had not already discovered what I wrote about! 🙂

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, burmmom!

        I did know about it, but your comment helped me correct something, and I appreciate that.

  2. Phink Says:

    I have both. I cannot stand the Safari browser on the Kindle Fire (maybe it’s gotten better since it’s last use about a year ago). I will always have one however, just because I love Immersion Reading. If a better device ever gets that capability then I will never buy another one. WOOOPPPSSS! Never mind that statement. I forgot about the incredible fire deals. Ok, I’ll have to keep one for that. Three things I do with the Fire. Immersion reading, getting the Fire deals, and listening to books. The later could be done on my Galaxy tablet but if I have my Fire next to me I just use it.

    On the other hand, I love my Paperwhite. It’s light weight, the battery last a good fortnight, I can open the case and it comes on with no swipe necessary. I can start reading without ever touching the screen if I closed it while the book was open. A lot of people don’t know this but if you pay to have the ads removed on the Paperwhite the swipe is no longer necessary. That’s the only reason I paid to get rid of the ads and it was worth it. I tried it on the Fire and wasted $15. I still have to swipe. Plus, a month later they came out with the fire deals so I’d never want to get rid of ads now anyway. Just my two cents.

  3. Jennifer Jeffreys Martin Says:

    I was dubious when I ordered my Fire, as I have cataracts, and any glare really hurts my eyes. Sure enough, I couldn’t stand it, then I discovered the black background with white lettering, and it is great! No problems at all! Love my Fire!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Jennifer!

      That’s the setting I prefer, too. 🙂

      Fortunately, Amazon has that generous thirty-day return policy on Kindles (and that includes Kindle Fires), so if it hadn’t worked for you, you could have gotten a refund (although you would have paid the return shipping).

  4. Bob Anderson Says:

    If you want the The New York Times – Latest News [Kindle Edition] blog version, it isn’t available on the Fire, but is on the Paperwhite, Lots of news updates for $1.99/month.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Bob!

      No question that there are different availabilities. 🙂 I might have been seen as a bit prejudiced 😉 if I’d promoted the ability to subscribe to blogs through the Kindle store and read them on the Paperwhite, but I was really trying to cover reading a book. Good point, though!

  5. Edward Boyhan Says:

    Did I miss it? One big thing that the PW2 can do that no Fires can do: Collections! I really miss that on the fires (there is an app, but it’s really a stand-aside folder thing — not integrated into Fire reading environment)

    Other than that, I tend to agree with your analysis. The devices are good for different things. I’m amazed at the clarity and readability of the PW2 in the brightest of sunlight!

    My battery experience with the PW2 is different — I have the light at 10, and I use it for reading 7-8 hours/day every day. If I leave WiFi on, I get about 12-15 hours before I get a low battery message. If I turn airplane mode on, the battery life jumps to 2-3 days (with my heavy reading usage).

    The PW2 is generally responsive, but when changing a book’s collection residency, it creaks — especially when putting a book into a collection with 500+ titles. My PW2 replaced a KT. The KT was better on battery, was slightly less responsive, had the same slowness with large collections, and was very stable. The PW2 is less stable — it has a tendency to hang every week or so — necessitating a reboot.

    I don’t have a KF HDX, but I do have a KF HD 8.9. I use the PW2 for mass market fiction reading. It has about 200 books resident on it. I use the KFHD89 anywhere where color or complex layouts are an issue, and wherever the format is PDF. I find it excellent for reading things like Scientific American and The Economist — It’s also where I have all my technical and professional books. I have a bunch of apps on the KF which gives it a more general “Tablet” utility, but mostly for non-reading tablet functionality, I tend to turn to my MS Surface 2. I also have the Kindle reading app on my Lumia Windows phone, and in a pinch it’s perfectly fine for mass market reading.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      Actually, the KFHDX has Collections…and Cloud Collections. I find the Collections easier to work with on the Fire.

      You are reading on your PW a lot more in a day, but the other thing that may be affecting your battery charge use compared to me is where your brightness setting is. That appears to me to have a huge effect on all my devices (the Fire especially). I’m reading my PW in a dark room…so I have the brightness turned down all the way.

      I’ve never had my PW2 hang, by the way.

  6. Tom Semple Says:

    The Paperwhite has Page Flip (allows you to preview a page before jumping there), which includes chapter navigation buttons, and in situ popup footnotes (where Fire jumps to a new location). Also there’s page preview when navigating bookmarks. I miss all these features when I read on my Fire.

    In terms of library management, Paperwhite lets you view the Kindle Store description for any ‘Book’ by long tapping on the item in the list to bring up a menu to select Book Description. (You can access this when reading the book as well, as well as About the Author) And you can do this for Cloud items as well, no need to download the book. On the Fire you have to download the book and open it to get to the Kindle Store book description.

    Collections are weaker on the Fire. No automatic sorting of items within, and you can only remove one item at a time from a given collection. If you have a collection open you cannot move one of its items to another collection, you have to find that item in carousel or book list to edit its collection membership. On the plus side, you can add collections to Home to make them a little more accessible.

    The Fire has that slide out Contents listing, and it displays the current location in the list. A bit nicer than Paperwhite. And you can get to the Recents ribbon (or whatever it is called) which makes it quicker to switch back and forth between books.

    The Fire has all the Android 4.2 accessibility features: TTS of course, Explore by touch, Screen Reader, Screen Magnifier, and you can set a larger Font size for system text.

    Paperwhite has Translate as well. I actually think item search is better on PW, and All Text search does not exist on the Fire. As you note, Fire also doesn’t let you select text in a book and look it up in Kindle Store. I do that all the time. So I would give PW higher marks for functionality.

    I would also disagree a little about the organization of Notes, Highlights and Bookmarks. This is better on the Paperwhite. Fire mixes them all into one list, and there is no filtering by Yours/Popular/Public. You have to go deep into Settings to turn off Popular highlights, and Public highlights (for what it is worth) are not supported. There’s no reason to have Bookmarks mixed in with Notes/Highlights when they have their own, more easily accessible list. It just creates clutter. Of course access is much more fluid on the Fire.

    The size and weight difference is significant to me. 3 ounces doesn’t seem like much but if you add a cover that difference will get a bit larger. And in my case I don’t use a case with the PW so it is much sleeker and portable than my Fire in its cover.

    Finally the 3G option is much cheaper on the paperwhite, if you use reading features that require an internet connection (wikipedia, translate, sharing, Kindle Store, library).

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Tom!

      What a nice long comment!

      I’d (almost) written a somewhat lengthy one in response when my browser hiccuped. 🙂 Still, that might be just as well…

      I was going to write about Page Flip, but then I honestly forgot. It’s simply a feature I never use, and I haven’t come up with a scenario where I would be likely to use it (even though I know other people do). I won’t even look at next month’s calendar page! 🙂 If it’s non-fiction, I think I’d be likely to use the Table of Contents or search (although I realize not every book has an AToC…Active Table of Contents).

      Good point about the in situ footnotes! That is a lot better. I’ll give that one to the Paperwhite.

      On my HDX, there is a separate icon for bookmarks, in addition to one for Notes & Marks which mixes them together.

      On your last point, 3G is cheaper than 4G, yes…and wi-fi (which is what I use on both devices) costs the same. 🙂

      • Tom Semple Says:

        I was a little harsh on Fire bookmark implementation. It’s probably as good as Paperwhite but ‘different’ (no clear winner). I’d prefer they left bookmarks out of the list with highlights and notes, though.

        Note Page Flip can be invoked with a single ‘up’ swipe, starting at the bottom of the screen. Or the more convoluted tap at top of screen, followed by tap on the “^” at the bottom of the screen.

        My main use case for page flip is to preview parts of the book without actually jumping there. Jumps can sometimes mess up ‘furthest page read’ or even lose your place entirely, if you are not careful, e.g. if you don’t jump Back to your previous location before leaving reading mode for that book. With it, you can rummage around in the end notes or skip ahead to see what is coming up without fear of losing your place. With the Fire, there is no alternative to jumping to that location and having that potentially becoming the location that gets saved and used for sync etc.

        I’m not sure when it got added, but there are now up to 3 ‘bread crumbs’ that appear in the navigator/scrubber at the bottom of the reading view (also true of Kindle for Android). You can tap on these to jump to these ‘previously established’ reading locations. Somewhat useful, but I’d like to see Page Flip.

      • Tom Semple Says:

        Popup Footnotes don’t always work perfectly, as they involve ‘heuristics’ rather than semantic tagging. For example, I recently read a book on my Paperwhite where none of the footnotes ‘worked’ (no tap zones existed). On my Fire they worked fine. In another case, where the footnotes were at the end of each chapter rather than the end of the main text, it would sometimes pull in text that followed the footnote. But for the most part it works nicely.

        HTML5 defines an ‘aside’ tag which rendering systems can implement as a popup. Supposedly, KF8 supports this tag. I’ve been meaning to see if Paperwhite abandons its heuristics in favor of a more predictable behavior, but haven’t tried that experiment yet.

  7. Zebras Says:

    I’m still surprised at how much I love my humble Mindle for straight reading. I bought it as a backup when my Touch went missing, and its lightness and buttons won me over. I don’t do highlighting or notes when I’m doing straight reading, an occasional dictionary lookup up is all I might do. I do find that reading on my Fire HD at bedtime will keep me up rather than being the sleep aid that reading usuall is for me.

    I think had Amazon not chosen to also put the Kindle name on the tablet, people would not be doing this apples to oranges comparisons of an e-reader vs. a tablet.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Zebras!

      I had stated my hope before it was released that the Amazon tablet would not be called a Kindle (I was suggesting the “Current”) because of the confusion. That confusion does exist. That said, comparing the same function on the two different devices seems narrow enough to be reasonable. It’s not reasonable to ask which of these apples is a better orange, but it is reasonable to compare the two as snack foods. 😉

  8. Zebras Says:

    I love your analogies. The Apple is such a fraction of the functionality of the Fire, that a person would pay a lot for all the Orange functions on it, if they were only looking for an e-reader. And if they were really looking for an Orange, shouldn’t they really being comparing multiple brands of tablets to each other to find the best fit. 😉 If everyone’s not confused by this paragraph!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Zebras!

      Gee, I wonder what my analogies are like? 😉

      Well, I suppose it’s an apple versus a fruit basket…but wouldn’t you still want to compare the apple in the fruit basket to the apple by itself, if you might want to eat an apple? I mean, if you have a nice apple by itself, and a rotten apple in the basket, and eating that apple was a key thing you wanted to do, that might make the decision for you.

      That doesn’t mean you wouldn’t eat the pineapple and grapes, too. 😉 It’s just a separate part of the comparison.

      And yes, you could compare multiple fruit baskets…

  9. Lady Galaxy Says:

    This is a question rather than a comment. I’ve seen several comments about adjusting the brightness on the Paperwhite. Is the background always some shade of white? I much prefer the gray background on the K3. I’ve got a lot of floaters in my eyes. When reading on a gray background, the floaters aren’t so noticeable. When reading against a white background, I feel like I’m looking through a snow globe filled with pepper!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      I’m not quite sure how to answer “shades of white” versus “gray”. To me, white is white, and everything close to that already is sort of a gray, but I can never trust myself on issues of color. I’ll say it’s not a flat white, certainly.

      • Lady Galaxy Says:

        When I look at this page of your blog on my Macbook with brightness at full, the center is white. There are gray strips on both sides of the white page. As I gradually turn down the brightness, the white gradually turns gray and darker gray until the screen goes totally black. The gray edges get darker gray. I’m wondering if that is what happens when you turn brightness down on a Paperwhite. The whole “white” part has kept me from trying a Paperwhite, but that seems to be the direction the Kindle is going, and I know my K3’s (I have three of them) are not going to last forever. The oldest one is already at the point where I have to recharge it every day.

    • Tom Semple Says:

      I’m probably not ‘typical’ among Paperwhite users, and don’t suffer ‘floaters’, but I rarely turn up the brightness above about 2 (out of 24). So unless I’m in a completely dark room, it is as if there were no light at all. Despite Amazon’s marketing claims, I don’t think it ‘improves contrast’ to have the light turned up in an otherwise well-lit environment: the text appears grayer as the light is turned up, so the overall contrast does not seem to change much (to my eyes). Natural light works best for me, though it’s nice to do a little reading in the dark without a reading light.

      On my tablets, I tend to use sepia or black background (or aqua or whatever it is on Fire) instead of white, which can seem a little harsh. It seems I don’t have to fiddle with the brightness as much that way, as well. The Kindle Android app has a two finger swipe up/down gesture to adjust brightness, which is very convenient and natural. I’d like to see that on Fire, PW, iOS app: it can be hard to evaluate the effect of brightness adjustment when you have to cover large sections of the screen to do it (completely covered in the case of the Fire).

  10. Phink Says:

    You know, I have learned a few things with the latest Paperwhite purchase. I always buy the latest e-reader as soon as it becomes available. Every kindle it seems had something I wanted over the last. The touch (which I call Phalanges) was a real game changer. Then the paperwhite (Lumos) was a real game changer. But then they came out with Paperwhite Next Generation (1701-D) (a Star Trek Next Gen. thing). I thought the flip card feature was something I had to have on the Next Gen PW. This is where you can test yourself because every word you look up gets saved and you can test yourself later. I thought I’d use it all the time but I never use it. I have learned not all features are a must have. I have learned Amazon will probably do an update at some point giving the previous kindle as much of the software in the new kindle that it can handle. And I learned to always get 3G even if it’s 50% more. When someone is deciding between these two they might just imagine what they’d do with it. And I agree about comparing fruit baskets to other fruit baskets. To me, no tablet is better than the Galaxy Note series but that is simply my opinion and even reading kindle books on it’s app is no better or worse than on the Fire. I guess just about any tablet can be used as a back lit e-reader. Compare apples to apples (Kobe and Nook to Kindle) and baskets to baskets Fire to all the other 1,000 brands out there. Speaking of the Kobe I sure wish Amazon had developed it. It looks like an super sweet e-reader but it won’t link to amazon so I will never buy one I guess.

  11. Phink Says:

    I meant KOBO, not Kobe. Sorry.

  12. Ken Says:

    I really like the comparison. And, it’s very difficult to say which one is good or which one is not. The info that you gave is helpful. Thanks a lot for this info.

  13. Sextant Says:

    I have both models as well and love them both for different reasons. I also have a still functional albeit sick gen 2 Kindle, and I love Kindle for Mac.

    A couple things I would like point out, which may have been covered in the other comments.

    Mayday: I have only used this three times, but it was excellent. In all three cases the problem was solved in less than a minute. In one case the Amazon rep actually solved a problem I was having with inputting data into Excel spreadsheets on the OfficeSuite Professional App. I had searched the app’s documentation and web site to no avail. The rep didn’t know how to do it but quickly figured it out. They could have told me that I would have to contact the app’s customer support.

    One thing I do not like is the lack of an Amazon instruction book on the HDX like the other Kindle models have.

    Touchscreen: The touch screen is leaps and bounds better on the HDX than the Paperwhite. Highlighting and selection is much easier and the typing input is worlds better. I like using a stylus. The stylus works without fail on the HDX, the Paperwhite has about a 50% chance of responding to the stylus. The far right side keys on the Paperwhite’s keyboard will not respond to the stylus at all but works fine with my finger. The rest of the keys work well with the stylus…very odd.

    Translation: Paperwhite has a translation function which I can not find on the HDX. I am thinking about asking Mayday on that one.

    Experimental Internet Browser: My old Kindle 2 could do the internet, indeed crude but still helpful, on the cellure connection. The Paperwhite (I have the cellure model) can only do it on wifi…and the little I have fooled with it, it is ever worse than the Kindle 2. Being retired and on a fixed income, cellure data is just one of those things that I can not justify. So in some ways my poor old Kindle 2 with it dying battery is the most useful out of the lot. I have used it to find phone numbers and business addresses, check the weather, and even tracked an LST on the Ohio River. Yes it is a lame application, but for me better than nothing. I miss it on my Paperwhite.

    Kindle for Mac (or PC): In my non-fiction books I tend to write a lot of notes. Being able to do this on a full sized keyboard is just wonderful. The other thing I love is the COPY function. Highlight your passage and click COPY, it even puts in a citation (a lame citation but a citation none the less) for you automatically. Yes it is limited but for discussions making cross-reference notes in one text to another it is great. You can put the actual text in your note rather just stating a reference. Yes I am aware that there is a way of doing this by highlighting and downloading MyClippings file. But it is so much easier to do with the free Kindle for Mac (or PC) app. One thing I would like to see is the search text data in all your books, not just titles or authors. That is a very nice and powerful feature and for me, would be a great feature on Kindle for Mac.

    Great post, and I rather imagine that if I read all the comment I could learn quite a bit about my HDX and Paperwhite.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Sextant!

      I appreciate your substantial comment!

      While there is no user guide actually on the device, there is one available when you are online. It’s in the same place you got to Mayday: homescreen, swipe down, Settings – Help. That’s not uncommon nowadays: the issue is that a downloaded manual becomes out of date as updates occur for the device. An online one can be more easily kept current. There are quite a few third-party references available…if you are a Kindle Unlimited member, you could download one and then just leave it on your device. 🙂

      The translation on the KFHDX is really quite good. 🙂 Drag your finger over words to highlight them. You should then see a translation window (as well as a bar for highlighting, look-ups, and so on). However, that will also only appear when you are online…it uses Bing. Translation options include:

      Chinese (Simplified)
      Chinese (Traditional)

      You can even have it pronounce it for you out loud.

      Are you using the internet on the Fire? I think you’ll find that greatly superior to your K2.

      I was using a Bluetooth keyboard with my Kindle Fire 1st gen, but with the HDX, I find that the dictation feature works quite well. Highlight where you want the note, then tap the pencil in the square. Your keyboard should appear: tap the microphone to your left of the comma.

      I don’t think we have the citation feature any more, at least on the KFHDX. I have used that myself in the past.

      Hope that helps…if you have specific questions, feel free to ask.

  14. Sextant Says:

    Ahhaa! There is translation on the HDX. I always keep it in airplane mode to save battery life and apparently I never tried it while connected to wifi. I knew on the Paperwhite that it had to be connected to wifi, but the option is visible even when you are not connected. I didn’t think to try it with the wifi connected on the HDX. I did not see the option and figured it was not available for the HDX. Very good thank you.

    I didn’t know about the help and user’s guide under settings, thank you again.

    I saw the microphone on the keyboard but never realized it was for dictation. I thought it was for the Skype like functions of which I have absolutely zero interest in. I will have to try the dictation. Cool, thanks again.

    Yes I do use the internet on the HDX, and indeed it is excellent. But I don’t have cellular in the HDX. Could I afford a data plan? Yes. Can I justify it? No. So the old Kindle 2 still comes in handy for the few times that I am not around Wifi.

    I think one of my big problems with the HDX is that I have got old, cranky, and too lazy to fool around and learn all the features. Things are starting to just become needless contraptions. The other thing is that I considered it something of a glorified toy. I honestly didn’t think that I would keep the thing beyond 30 day Amazon grace period. Well it turns out I kind of like it, but I could well live with out it. My old Kindle 2 was all I really needed, its on it death bed. It loses it charge rapidly and it can take a few seconds to 5 minutes to return from underling or searching. I probably should clean some of the titles. I am gaining some respect for the HDX though. It is actually a pretty nice unit. Thanks for your help.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Sextant!

      Great! I’m glad I could point out some useful features.

      I actually did have a 4G Kindle Fire…but I didn’t find it justified, which is what you suggest. I’m rarely away from wi-fi for long, and it just wasn’t worth paying the monthly fee. Your Kindle 2 will give you that…but I find that since I have my SmartPhone with me anyway, that’s much less of an advantage than it used to be.

      You might also be able to tether your Fire to your SmartPhone, turning the latter’s 3G/4G into wi-fi for the former. That may also cost you, though.

      I definitely think cleaning up your Kindle 2 could help. I would even consider resetting it to factory defaults (once you’ve backed up any personal files you have on it). I tend to only keep ten Kindle store titles or so at a time on any of my devices…ten books will last me until I can get to wi-fi again. 😉

  15. Sextant Says:

    Smart phone? Ha! I got a senior citizen’s model with huge keys. I am not sure that it even can do texting. I am retired and have little need for any 4G data service. Yes it would be nice, but I can’t justify the cost for something I might use once or twice a month.

    Yes I should get all the crap out of the old Kindle. It would probably help it.

    I tried the dictation, pretty cool. Thanks for pointing out those features out. I should sit and have a good play with the HDX…but I find that I just like reading too much. It is time for the home, I suppose.

  16. Mike Says:

    Hi. I’ve found this blog and the comments excellent for my own interest in both of these devices. One basic question, can you sync book purchases between the devices? Obviously you can drag and drop your own books and PDFs etc. from a computer?


    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Mike!

      When you say “sync book purchases between the devices”, it’s helpful to reframe what is happening.

      When you “buy a book” (actually, you buy a license) from the Kindle store, it is simplest to think of it as the account owning it…not one of the individual devices registered to the account. That’s one of the major paradigm changes: the device doesn’t really matter, it’s just a way to display your content…very different from when we might download something and only own that one copy of it.

      You can download your Kindle store book purchases to the different devices on your account…it will even keep track of where you are in the book, if you want (that’s the default), so you can start reading on one device and pick up on another.

      There is a limit as to how many devices at a time can have the same book…unless it says otherwise on the book’s Amazon product page, that number is six.

      So, typically, six of the devices on your account can be reading the same book at the same time…all for one purchase price.

      You could have 100 (or more) devices registered to the same account and all read the same book for one purchase price…just not usually at the same time.

      You can drag and drop, but that would fail to take advantage of Amazon’s Personal Document Service. Again, that’s the difference of thinking of the copy as what you own and thinking of something being centrally stored. Let me give you an example. I have a document with the configuration of my wireless router. I e-mailed it once to Amazon, and I now have it available to all of the devices on my account. I can download it again whenever I want to any of the devices.

      Unlike having dragged and dropped one copy, it is backed up for me by Amazon.

      Now, in terms of books, there are, of course, two major limitations: format and security. If you buy a book from Barnes & Noble, for example, it will likely have security on it that would make it illegal (at least in the USA…not sure about outside) to strip that security and convert it to a file that can be read by a Kindle (in most cases).

      To sum up, you can read a Kindle store book you buy on any of the compatible devices registered to that account. You can send personal documents through Amazon to multiple devices on the account as well, subject to formatting and security restrictions.

  17. karan Says:

    Does amazon fire hdx 7 has vocabulary builder just like kindle paperwhite?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, karan!

      No, it doesn’t have the same vocabulary builder, although it does have the onboard dictionary.

      • karan Says:

        And one more question ,
        Is is possible to read magazines in kindle paperwhite or voyage even in black and white version.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, karan!

        Yes, there are many magazines available and formatted for those devices. As you can imagine, it’s not just a question of putting the same file on either a Kindle Voyage or a Kindle Fire HDX…the publisher needs to produce a separate version to fit with the hardware and operating system. On each magazine product page in the Kindle Newsstand, you’ll see an “Available on these devices” link. Click or tap that, and you can see on which devices you can read that subscription before you buy it.

        For example, The Atlantic is available for these devices:

        Kindle e-Readers
        Kindle Voyage
        Kindle Paperwhite
        Kindle Paperwhite (5th Generation)
        Kindle (5th Generation)
        Kindle Touch
        Kindle Keyboard
        Kindle DX
        Kindle (2nd Generation)
        Kindle (1st Generation)

        Free Kindle Reading Apps
        Kindle for Android Phones (Version 4.1 or later)
        Kindle for Android Tablets
        Kindle for iPhone (Version 3.0 or later)
        Kindle for iPad (Version 2.9 or later)
        Kindle for iPod Touch

        Fire Tablets
        Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″
        Kindle Fire HDX
        Kindle Fire HD(2nd Generation)
        Kindle Fire HD 8.9″
        Kindle Fire HD(1st Generation)
        Kindle Fire(2nd Generation)
        Kindle Fire(1st Generation)

        Fire Phones
        Fire Phone

  18. Nancy Says:

    One of the things I need to know is whether both Paperweight and Fire have the ability to paginate with the paper books and how easy it is to use with people in a book group or for citations.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Nancy!

      Yes, both the Paperwhite and the Fire support what are called “real page numbers”.

      Not every book has them: as you can imagine, there has to be a file to map the book to a specific edition. For example, a book may have different page numbers in a hardback, a paperback, and a large print book (although the last one may also “map” to a specific edition, with a page number only appear every few pages). You can tell on a book’s Amazon product page before you buy.

      Also, there are thousands of e-books which have never had a paper edition.

      Kindle books can work great with book clubs! Every Kindle book (whether it has real page numbers or not) has a way to identify a location in a book. The “location” system actually works better than pages. Locations stay constant, regardless of the size of the text, for one thing…and they are a smaller unit size than a page, making them more precise.

      In terms of citations, as you probably know, that’s up to the professor (or other person using the citation). One of the standards is the American Psychological Association (APA), and they put out a way to cite a Kindle even before Kindle’s had page numbers:

      With all of that said, I would check with your book group. While, as I mentioned, many book groups incorporate Kindle users effectively (many book clubs only use Kindles…for one thing, you can pay for a book once on an account and usually be reading it on six devices on that account at the same time…for the one purchase price), there are no rules for what book clubs like. The person running yours might reject paperback editions, for example, as easily as rejecting Kindle editions.

  19. Liliana Says:

    Hi! Thanks a lot for this, I’m trying to figure out which device to buy… I primarily want a device for reading while travelling, but as I don’t own a tablet, I wouldn’t mind to get one at the same time!
    I just want to make sure I understand well (English not being my first language). I get strong headaches after reading for a couple of hours in my laptop… the Fire light works as a laptop? It is the same kind of light but I can adjust it to be stronger or weaker?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Liliana!

      Yes, the Fire is the same as a laptop, in the sense that the light is pointed at you (which may be part of what is causing the strain).

      That said, as I understand, the headaches may be related to flicker, which can be very different on a Fire. For example, some people can get relief on a laptop by adjusting the refresh rate.

      Amazon has a generous thirty day return policy on Kindles and Fire tablets. I would recommend trying one, and if it doesn’t work for you, you could return it. Since the device would be working as advertised, you would be expected to pay the return postage.

      Edited to add: yes, you can adjust the brightness. I frequently read on mine with the brightness turned all the way down, but I have some color vision deficiency (color blindness), which, as I understand it, gives me superior night vision.

  20. Shana Davis Says:

    I just want to thank you so much for such a thorough explanation. You helped me more than you will ever know! I am ready to make my purchase now.

  21. Joanna Says:

    Thanks for the great forum. I am choosing which device to buy for my maternity leave next month. I want something I can hold in one hand while holding the baby in the other, so weight is certainly an issue. However, I’m a graduate student and would like to be able to download PDFs of journal articles from my university library or Google Scholar. Does the PW have this capability?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Joanna!

      Paperwhites can read PDFs, but it may depend in part on the security. I’ll honestly say, the Fire reads PDFs much better. I use an app

      ezPDF Reader (at AmazonSmile*)

      which gives me text-to-speech in the car with PDFs…that’s a huge timesaver for me! Of course, that doesn’t give you graphics when you do it that way, but if it’s just for the text, it’s great! You can’t install that sort of thing on a Paperwhite (which doesn’t have audio anyway).

      A Fire is heavier than a Paperwhite, so that is a consideration…but they are much lighter than the used to be. The HD 7″ (on sale right now for $114) weighs 11.9 oz (337 grams). The Paperwhite (which is $5 more at time of writing) is very roughly half of that at 6.7 oz (191 grams).

      For scholarly use, I think I would tend to go with the Fire…more capabilities.

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  23. Monika Says:

    I am a student and I have a lot to read. But I get a head ache when I use my laptop for long hours. Will I be able to access internet, open and download PDF files, Microsoft presentations and word documents sent by my professors on Paperwhite?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Monika!

      While you can do some of that on Paperwhite, I don’t think it’s going to fit your use case. You could open a PDF, for example, but not a PowerPoint. Accessing the internet? Not the way you likely mean it, just some very specific things.

      A Fire would be better for you, and you may find that you don’t get the headaches, in part because the images you are seeing on it are not the same as the way you see it on your laptop (most likely).

      Amazon has a generous thirty day return policy on Fires/Kindles. You might try a Fire and see if it works for you. On that, you will be able to open those PDFs (I even have an app that reads PDFs out loud to me…quite useful in the car), open Word and PowerPoint documents, and go on the web.

      On your laptop, you may also find that if you play with the settings, you won’t get those headaches. In particular, look at the refresh rate…at least, that’s what an ophthalmologist told me.

      • Monika Says:

        Thank you so much. Your blog helped me a lot. It cleared all my doubts. I think I’ll buy a Fire. 🙂

  24. Veronica Bellotti Says:

    I only read novels and I only read outside in the summer(for some reason I don’t like reading indoors , only the news paper), Im still not sure which to choose Fire or Paper white, my daughter recommends the one with a browser, but will that be as good for reading outside re glare? Thanks

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Veronica!

      You are the perfect profile for the Paperwhite (or Voyage, if you want the top of the line). Having the browser on the Fire is certainly convenient, but doesn’t match reading outside and doesn’t have a lot extra for reading novels.

      I would recommend the Paperwhite for you…especially if you also already have a SmartPhone with a browser.

  25. Stephanie Jenkins Says:

    I’ve just bought a Kindle book that I can’t read on my Paperwhite because it has coloured pictures. Why can’t the Paperwhite show them in black-and-white?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Stephanie!

      Would you mind sharing which book it is? Generally, publishers format a book so it can be seen in grayscale. There are other reasons why a book won’t display on a Paperwhite (audio/video elements, mostly), but not colors.

      You have seven days to return a book from date of purchase, if it’s unsatisfactory for you. You do that at

      Alternatively, you could read it on a free reading app on a device which does show color, like Kindle for PC or Kindle for Mac.

  26. Dino Says:

    I like to read in bed, but need to reduce the amount of “blue light” being emitted from the screen. With a regular tablet, you can use an app like twilight or f.lux (for macs). Is there way to reduce “blue light” on the Paperwhite?

    TIA, and great OP and comments.

  27. Dino Says:

    Sorry, forgot to ask one other question:
    Does the Kindle app that can be downloaded for tablets and laptops have the same functionality in regards to e-reading as the Kindle Fire tablets?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Dino!

      No, there vary somewhat. For example, the Fire tablet (they aren’t called “Kindle Fires” any more…the article on which you commented is pretty old, and that was the term at the time. That Kindle Fire HDX is still my daily use tablet, though) has robust text-to-speech, which won’t be the case with some of the reading apps.

  28. Jack Says:

    Yes, I agree with you much, that it really depends on what we want to use the device for. I have both of them, I found the Kindle Paperwhite better when I want only to read. The thing I like most is that I can really focus on reading when I’m on the Paperwhite, whereas on the Fire sometimes I feel like want to play some games when I get bored in between a book. But PDF works better on the Fire… Thanks for the sharing here!

  29. Hazel Says:

    Completely agree with you about different devices being best for different tasks. I stumbled across your post while searching for reviews about how sufficient the $50 7″ Fire is for simple reading of books with color photos. I have an old Kindle Keyboard which I absolutely love for reading, but I have to read my cookbooks and instructional books with color photos on my iPad (too heavy to hold for extended periods) or my Kindle reader for Mac (obvious portability issues). Also, Kindle reader apps are not eligible for the Prime Lending Library, you have to be reading it on a Kindle device.

    So, I know you’ve stated you own the HDX, but completely just asking your opinion: do you think the $50 7″ Fire is sufficient for simply reading books with color photos? I really don’t need more bells and whistles from an e-reader and the reviews out there all talk about these other extra stuff that the base Fire tablet falls short on; they judge the $50 Fire tablet from shortcomings on stuff I don’t care much about..

  30. Viachek Landakoff (@james_lvn) Says:

    You’ve been extremely helpful, thank you!

  31. John Papaleo Says:

    Buckshot. I have been trying in vain to get the wifi off feature activation

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  34. Hotu Mattua Says:

    Very interesting your review. I have a Kindle Touch since the day it was put on the market and it really changed my life. I am a Romanian and, due to an enthusiastic of Kindle, I put a Romanian dictionary on it also. And my Kindle is smart enough to recognize the good dictionary; just kidding, it is written in book properties. 🙂
    My problem is with PDF files, the 6″ display, even on landscape mode, is sometimes too small. To convert the PDF in MOBI format is not the best solution: it puts a linefeed at the end of every row and the new layout is a mess.
    That’s why I bought a Kindle Fire HDX. But the problem is that on Kindle Fire HDX you cannot select a word, in a PDF file, the way you do on Kindle Touch. So you cannot add a note, use a dictionary, etc.
    I contacted a guy from support – in Romania MayDay service is not available – and, after one and a half hour of chat, after doing everything he asked me to do, he concluded that this is beyond his reach an a report was sent to the technical department, etc., etc. and they will contact me soon… This will be, according to my experience with they: never ever.
    Is this a problem with my Kindle Fire HDX or this is the way it is supposed to behave? Can you help me?
    Hotu Mattua

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Hotu!

      Do you have access to the apps in the Amazon Appstore from

      If so, I use

      EZ PDF (at AmazonSmile)

      which should give you the capabilities you want on your HDX. If you can’t get that one, you might look for another app from a local source.

      • Hotu Mattua Says:

        Thank you for your reply, I put EZ PDF in my wishlist. They say that the app is “currently unavailable”. I will wait.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Hotu!

        Well, if you are outside the USA, it might not become available there; you may want to look for alternatives…

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  39. JC Says:

    Have to say, among most reviews I went through online, yours is detailed and well explained. Thank you so much! Paperwhite it is for me! 🙂

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, JC!

      Great! I’m glad that was helpful for you.

      Since I’ve written that, they’ve also introduced the Voyage and the Oasis. I think the Paperwhite is a good choice, though.

  40. nonsmokingladybug Says:

    I like your specific review of both. For me, it’s also the issue of the weight. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and my wrist and hands hurt a lot. A few ounces of weight makes all the difference in the world. I can hold the paperwhite with one hand while reading but not the Amazon Fire, it’s too heavy (almost 16oz).

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, nonsmokingladybug!

      Sure, that can matter. I have relatives with challenges which can be affected in that way. One of my relatives had someone tear a hardback Harry Potter into sections so that they could hold it, because the book was just too heavy and unwieldy. Honestly, that was horrifying to all of us, but there weren’t a lot of choices (it took J.K. Rowling a long time to authorize e-book editions).

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  42. Michele Robbins Says:

    Before I buy a Kindle Fire HD 8 i just want to know if you are in a car at night can you still see to read, like you can on a Kindle Paperwhite???

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Michele!

      The technology and the experience are different, but they both have lights. The Paperwhite projects the light at the surface from the front (“front-lighting”). With a Fire tablet, the light comes from behind the words. I do find the Paperwhite the most comfortable reading experience I’ve had, including paperbooks, and the Fire tablet isn’t quite that…but I find it quite acceptable. Amazon has a generous return policy, so you may want to check that in case you don’t like it.

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