Review: Kindle Voyage Is a Nearly Perfect Ebook Reader

feature-beyond._CB325792767_.jpgI’ve been using Kindles since the first small model, back in the pre-touch, pre-backlit days. I never really got on with them: my eyes don’t like the lack of contrast, though I loved reading with them outdoors.

When the Kindle Paperwhite came out, I liked that device very much, and had each of the two versions. The first was okay, but the second had better backlighting and more contrast.

Now, Amazon has released the Kindle Voyage (, Amazon UK), the next-generation of the device. It’s a bit lighter than the Paperwhite, but also more expensive: at $199, that’s a big step up from the $119 Paperwhite. (The difference is less here in the UK; the Paperwhite is £109, and the Voyage £169.) It’s not clear whether many people will pay $200 for an ebook reader, but I’m pretty sure that there are enough die-hard Kindle users who will welcome the new device.

I’ve had mine for a few days now, and I can say that it’s not only the best Kindle yet (which isn’t surprising; tech devices generally get better over time), but also the first Kindle that I can truly forget about. Something about the design – the sleek, think body, and the improved 300 dpi display, makes this feel like it’s just not there when I read it.

To be honest, I’m not totally enamored of the form factor. I did like the rounded edges of the Paperwhite, and the Voyage has much squarer edges, and the back isn’t flat; it’s got five slightly angled sections, and is thickest at the top. That the back has a matte finish, with the exception of the top, which is glossy; that may be because the Wi-Fi and 3G radio antennas are behind that part of the device. On the front, the entire face is flush; there’s no more raised bezel, and I like that a lot. And the display is beautiful.

I’ve expressed my dismay at the lack of font choices on the Kindle, and I was worried that this would still be a problem on the Voyage. But with the higher-resolution display, the few available fonts look better. On the Paperwhite, the Palatino font was too thin, and Caecilia too bold. Now, both are very readable. I switch between the two: if I use a smaller font and wear my reading glasses, I use Palatino, but sometimes I like to eschew the glasses and zoom the font; in that case, the higher contrast of Caecilia is better.

One of the big new features of the Kindle Voyage is the PagePress sensors with haptic feedback. These are strips and buttons on the sides of the bezel. Press them to move forward and back a page at a time; when you do, you feel a brief vibration. There is a tall sensor to go to the next page, and a smaller one, above it, to go to the previous page. I find it odd that the sensors on each side do the same thing; I’d have expected the taller sensor on the left to go back a page. And, to be honest, I find it easier to simply touch the page to move ahead in a book; it’s more work to press the sensor. And I wonder if PagePress will have a big effect on battery life. (You can turn this feature off in the settings.)

The Kindle Voyage also has an adaptive light, which slowly changes the backlighting according to the ambient lighting when you’re reading. There is one problem with this, though: the light sensor is at the top-left of the device, and if you happen to hold the Kindle Voyage with your hand covering the sensor, it will dim the device slowly. You can turn this off, if you wish, by turning off auto-brightness.

I think the next area where the Kindle needs to improve is in the display of text itself. It needs more fonts, and even more font options; for example, for each of the available fonts, it could offer different weights: light, semi-bold, etc. Also, the Kindle really needs hyphenation. I personally don’t like having hyphenation on in general, but there are too many times when, on the Kindle, a line ends with a long space, because the next word is too long to fit. Since the Kindle seems to fail at justification in such cases, hyphenation – when needed – could be useful.

In spite of these reservations, I’ve been finding the Kindle Voyage a joy to read. The display is crisp, the fonts show up better, and it’s light and comfortable. I’ve long been a fan of the Kindle, and, while I could read on my iPad or iPhone – though not outdoors – I prefer having a reading-only device to not be distracted by notifications. The Kindle Voyage is what Amazon has done best. It’s not cheap, but if you read a lot on a Kindle, you should try it out. (, Amazon UK)

And if you need a case for your Kindle, avoid Amazon’s overpriced “Origami” case. I got this great felt sleeve, originally for the Paperwhite, but it is great for the Kindle Voyage as well.

One note regarding availability: I got my Kindle Voyage from Amazon UK, after pre-ordering it when it was announced. It currently shows as unavailable until December 16, which is quite surprising. Perhaps Amazon didn’t think there would be so much demand for a Kindle at this price. In the US, it is unavailable until December 1.

Update: I’ve had the Kindle Voyage for a week now, and I’m noticing that the battery life is a bit less than with the Paperwhite. It’s always hard to judge with a device like this, but I actually had a low battery warning last night, the first I’ve ever seen on a Kindle. It’s not that I’d forgotten to charge it; I had already charged it once after the first full charge, but I think the backlighting may use more power than the Paperwhite.

Learn about LaunchBar’s Six Superpowers in My Latest Book: Take Control of LaunchBar

Updated for the recently released LaunchBar 6.

I’ve been using LaunchBar for nearly as long as it has been around on the Mac. It’s the first utility that I install on every new Mac; with LaunchBar installed, I can get on with everything else I need to do.

LaunchBar has superpowers. It won’t give you the power to cloud men’s minds or climb the sides of buildings, but it will turn you into a Mac superhero. Anyone can master LaunchBar’s basic uses: launching applications, opening files, searching the Web, and more. But this book will teach you the six LaunchBar superpowers so you can work far more efficiently on your Mac. Yes, six; if you had the previous version of Take Control of LaunchBar, you recall there were five superpowers, but the wonderful developers at Objective Development added a sixth superpower to version 6 of the app.

And, LaunchBar 6 sports a great new interface:


Learn how to use LaunchBar to carry out nearly any Mac task more efficiently. To help you develop a mental map of all that LaunchBar can do, I explain LaunchBar in the context of its five superpowers — key LaunchBar techniques that no Mac user should be without.

  1. Abbreviation search. The primary way you select things in LaunchBar is by typing a few letters associated with the item you want to find. LaunchBar is smart (so the abbreviation doesn’t have to be obvious) and learns from what you type (in case it guessed wrong the first time).
  2. Browsing. Sometimes you don’t know exactly what you want to work with until you see it. Abbreviation search won’t help there, but you can browse folders, recent documents for an app, clipboard history, snippets, and more.
  3. Sub-search. Too many results in a list to browse? Try a sub-search, which is an abbreviation search limited to a list of search results.
  4. Send To. Want to open a PDF in PDFpen rather than Preview? Or attach a document to a new email message? You can send anything on LaunchBar’s bar to another application, folder, action, or service.
  5. Instant Send. For those who want to save the most time, Instant Send is the fastest way to put a selected file or bit of text on the bar, ready to open in another app, move to a folder, send to a Google search, look up in Dictionary, and more.
  6. Staging. This lets you select multiple items in LaunchBar–even if those items are in different locations–and then act on them all together.

LaunchBar 6 has loads of great new features: a new look; live feedback for searches, calendar events, reminders and more; calculator history; access to emoji characters; text transformations; and usage statistics to help you understand which superpowers you’ve mastered, and which you need to learn more about.

But LaunchBar does much more. You can do more than 1,000 things with this simple utility. Let LaunchBar’s superpowers save you from a lifetime of Mac drudgery: get Take Control of LaunchBar for just $10. Check out this comic for a concrete illustration of LaunchBar’s five superpowers.

Read how much publisher Adam Engst learned from editing my book.

Don’t have LaunchBar? Buy it from Objective Development.

Hear (and see) me discuss the book with Chuck Joiner on the MacVoices Podcast

Ebooks and Typos: Readers, and Consumers, Deserve Better

A recent article in The Guardian highlighted an embarrassing typo in a romance novel:

When she spotted me, she flung her anus high in the air and kept them up until she reached me.

Yes, that “anus” was meant to be “arms,” but the OCR software used in the book make a little mistake. This was spotted on Google Books, so it’s not even a question of cheap OCR software. It is, however, a scan that has not been proofread.

Over the years, reading ebooks, I’ve seen a huge number of typos, and it’s getting annoying. I can understand an un-proofread book, such as the Google Books example, but when a mainstream publisher sells an ebook with lots of typos, they should be held responsible. I’ve recently been reading William Trevor’s Collected Stories (only available in Kindle format from Amazon UK apparently), and I’m appalled at the number of typos in the book. There are a few in each story; and there are a lot of stories in that book, which is some 1,200 pages in the print edition.

I’ve seen worse. I bought a Stephen King book that was missing nearly 100 pages. And I’ve seen terrible formatting in ebooks. All of these examples show that publishers don’t pay much attention to the ebooks they sell.

As an author, I’m familiar with the law of the conservation of typographical errors. When correcting proofs, every typo that you remove is replaced by another one to maintain balance in the universe. But I don’t think any of my books have had more than a few typos. Seeing the number of typos – or, more correctly, scanos – in these books shows that there’s no serious proofreading going on after the books are scanned.

I note, however, that the William Trevor book is published by Penguin, the same company whose edition of James Joyce’s Dubliners had such bad formatting. I’m not sure if it’s endemic at Penguin, but they’d do well to take a look at their production process.

You can report typos from a Kindle, but I don’t know if anything ever happens after you do. I think that we readers should contact the sellers of these ebooks and ask for refunds if there are more than a handful of typos. Only then will publisher (perhaps) start taking such things seriously.

It’s Time to Get Rid of DRM on Ebooks

If you read ebooks as I do, you probably know that you are limited in the way you use them. If you buy an ebook from Apple, you can only read it on an Apple device. If you buy a Kindle, you can read it on a Kindle, or an Apple device (because of the Kindle app for iOS, and for OS X), but you’re still limited in what you do with the book. You can’t sell it or lend it, and you’re locked into a specific platform.

My latest Macworld article looks at this. I think that Apple should lead the way in getting rid of DRM on ebooks, the way the company spearheaded the drive to remove DRM from music.

It’s worth noting that my Take Control ebooks – including the just-out Take Control of LaunchBar – have no DRM, so you can read them on whatever device you want.