We used to say that Kindle killed books, but have phones killed Kindles? When the chance arose, I jumped at the chance to try the new, slightly smaller, Kindle. My motivations weren’t strictly tech-based, I wanted to know if it would help me sleep.

In recent years, software developers have been adding functions on phones and tablets to reduce blue light, especially in the evening. This is based on research suggesting this light disturbs our natural sleep processes. So limiting exposure to it before going to bed should, in theory, help you sleep better.

The Kindle doesn’t have that problem because its e-ink screen offers a similar experience to that of a normal book. This was also the basic Kindle, not the Paperwhite with its lit screen.

Not much is different about the latest Kindle. The screen is the same, but the body has reduced in size slightly, and the touch controls still do the same things. In fact, the main difference is the main menu where you get to your library; it’s more graphical though I’m not sure if I’d say it’s better or worse. Navigating between footnotes and body text is also handled better than previous iterations.

A big advantage of a Kindle over a phone is that all it does is show you books. It sounds silly but by being a solo-function device there are no distractions; no temptations to check notifications or other things demanding your attention. That also means the battery lasts for weeks.

The biggest downside is you have to carry another device. The low-resolution, monochrome screen is also terrible for illustrations. I read Bill Bryson’s At Home, which has wonderful images that were all but un-viewable on the Kindle.

But did it work? Did I sleep better? Over the course of three weeks I tried the Kindle, an actual book and my usual phone. I can’t claim it as a scientific trial but I can say, on average, I did sleep slightly better after using the Kindle and the book than with the phone. However, it wasn’t consistent (in other words, reading from the Kindle didn’t guarantee a good night’s sleep), so I have lapsed back to my phone.

Essential specs

Amazon Kindle

  • Price: $NZ144 (plus shipping via Amazon US)
  • Display: 6" display technology with E-Ink Pearl, 167 PPI
  • Size: 160mm x 115mm x 9mm
  • Weight: 161g
  • Storage: 4GB (free cloud storage for all Amazon content)
  • Battery life: Up to four weeks (varies based on WiFi usage)
  • Charge time: Roughly 4 hours from a computer via USB cable
  • Content formats: Supported Kindle Format 8 (AZW3), Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; HTML, DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion

by Hadyn Green

First Looks are trials of new or interesting products from the perspective of our product experts. Our lab-based tests offer truly objective product comparisons.