For the past couple of years e-readers have been going down in price in order to welcome new customers into their rich ecosystem of literature, but in 2018 that trend has seemingly been replaced with a different target market in mind. Whether it’s Amazon or Chapters, all the big names in electronic ink are developing premium models of their most popular devices, packing in new features with expensive price tags. In Amazon’s case this means the release of the new 7” Kindle Oasis, which they market as being “unlike any Kindle you’ve ever experienced.” Sporting a hefty $390 CAD price tag, this e-reader has a lot to prove in a price range dominated by more versatile tablets.
The design of the Kindle Oasis is unique to say the least. Instead of being a centred display similar to many e-readers and tablets on the market today, the Oasis instead ops for an asymmetrical aluminium chassis. The device is also lopsided. One side of the back plate is thicker than the other to provide a gripping point for the user’s hand. Ideally, Amazon has designed the Oasis to be used one-handed and I appreciate that the device is ambidextrous so any user can feel comfortable using it in their preferred hand. The 7” paperwhite display is another first for the Kindle lineup and feels like a game changer from my three-year-old base model. Despite sporting the same industry standards of 300ppi resolution, built-in backlighting and 16-level grayscale as previous generations, the reading experience the Oasis delivers comes across as fresh and renewed. The sharpness of the text remains intact, but now the screen feels more natural to read from, as if I’m reading a properly sized paperback.
However, these aren’t the premium features Amazon really wants their customers to get excited about. The largest selling points for the new Kindle Oasis is that it’s a waterproof device and that it supports Audible for an all-in-one reading experience. Honestly, I’m not blown away by either of these premium features because they’re particularly niche and lack a level of excitement that I expected from the price. Audible is an interesting inclusion, but most users who use the platform are perfectly content with using their smartphone and headphones. To even properly use Audible with this device, users will need a pair of Bluetooth compatible headphones, which further adds to the inconvenience. Waterproofing is a great addition though and will be the perfect solution for users who take their e-readers with them on vacation. I’m just shocked it took this long for an e-reader to actually adopt it.
The real reason why people buy e-readers is because they deliver a better reading experience than tablets, and that still holds true with the Kindle Oasis. Users used to reading off their tablets or other LED devices quickly bring up the complaint that their eyes becomes strained and tired, especially in the dark. E-readers eliminate this fatigue because they don’t shine the light into the user’s eyes, they only guide it onto the surface of the display for a clearer experience. However, this kind of experience is still situational. E-ink displays are terrible for comics, manga, and a good chunk of non-fiction material because of their low refresh rates and lack of quality colour support. Ideally, users who purchase e-readers should know that the wide majority of content they will consume is going to be fiction based.
To put the Kindle Oasis through its paces I threw a wide range of light novels at it, including Overlord, Juni Taisen: Zodiac War, and Your Name. Compared to my older generation base Kindle, the Oasis really showcases how far the Tech has come. Refresh rates were noticeably faster, the quality of the backlighting was much more evenly spaced in darker spaces and the battery never dropped past 90% due to its superior efficiency. This e-reader could easily last for up to five weeks on a single charge and moderate use. The only complaint I have about the experience is that I didn’t find the design of the Oasis to be all that comfortable to hold. Because the backplate is sleek aluminum, there’s nothing textured to provide a solid gripping point for my hand to hold onto and the material can feel unpleasant to touch in colder climates. Users who purchase the Oasis should definitely pick up a case from a first or third party manufacturer to rectify these complaints.
The Kindle Oasis is a great e-reader, but it’s hard to justify the price tag when the core experience is largely untouched and is still offered by the cheaper products in the line. While the new features are nice—for the most part—the premium tax hike for their inclusion leaves the device in a niche predicament. I can’t recommend the Oasis to an everyday user who just wants to jump into the ecosystem; this is purely a product intended for the platform’s most devoted audience. Users looking for a starting off point should definitely look into purchasing a Kindle Paperwhite for a textbook example of the e-reader experience.
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