Shopping·11 min read

We're Obsessive Book Collectors and Technophobes, but We Can't Live Without Our Kindles

kindle paperwhite and kindle unlimited
Design: theSkimm | Images: Amazon
February 23, 2024

Welcome to Skimm Tested, where we put products to the test and then give them a report card. (Check out all of our tried-and-tested faves here.)

The assignment…

To see if my colleague Margo and I, two hardcore book readers — who happen to be book loyalists and technophobes — could become Kindle converts. And to see if a Kindle Unlimited subscription could help entice us to the world of e-readers.   

What we tested…

  • Kindle Paperwhite ($139.99): The newest iteration of the Kindle. This one boasts faster page turns and a brighter display than older versions, plus a glare-free screen that lets you read in direct sunlight or in any other wonky lighting situation. 

  • Kindle Unlimited ($11.99/month): This is a monthly subscription that lets you download millions of book titles, thousands of audiobook titles, and magazine subscriptions to your Kindle (or your phone if you have the Kindle app) at no additional cost. 

Kindle Paperwhite ($139.99)

kindle paperwhite

Straight A’s in…

  • Slim, lightweight feel. This was the biggest selling point for me. Since the Kindle is so lightweight, I don’t need to set myself up in an ergonomic position to read — aka, upright, with a pillow to support the weight of a hardcover, and with at least one hand free. Being able to read while fully lying down, eating a sandwich with two hands, and other scenarios that wouldn't allow for a physical book has opened me up to so many more stolen reading opportunities. A small but meaningful joy.

  • Built-in book light and dark mode. Another major selling point. This is ideal if you share a bed with someone, or travel at night and don't want to disturb others with a bright reading light. You can also shift the screen from white to amber to ease eye strain, and the matte finish is glare-resistant, so it really feels like you’re reading a book alternative. Transparently, the experience of reading on the Kindle still isn’t as restful to me as reading a print book, but it is infinitely better than reading on a phone or laptop.

  • Minimal distracting features. Because this is just for reading, you don’t even have the opportunity to get distracted by other apps. The features it does have are those that enhance your focus and overall reading experience. You can change the font size and brightness and highlight passages (that are collected in a hub you can revisit), for instance. Also extremely cool: If you hold your finger down on a word, its corresponding dictionary entry (or Wikipedia entry, for slangier words) will pop up, so you don’t need to reach for your phone to look up a word definition. The Kindle also learns your reading speed and calculates how many minutes are left in the chapter you’re reading. That’s actually encouraged me to read even more in single sittings.

  • Free samples. When you’re perusing books in the Kindle store, you can download a free sample (usually a couple of chapters long) so you can try before you buy. 

  • Travel-friendliness. Margo travels a ton and reads a ton, so having a Kindle is a must to have endless books with her at all times. She never has to worry about running out of books or having a huge stack in her bag. And because it’s so slim, it slots nicely into any bag. 

  • Ability to connect to NetGalley. If you have a NetGalley account, you can send galleys straight to your Kindle so you don’t need to request a physical copy. Apparently you can also send PDFs to your Kindle, though admittedly Margo and I haven’t figured out how to do that (we are Luddites, as mentioned earlier). 

Room for growth…

  • Battery life. Margo has had her Kindle for about a year and a half and uses it frequently, so she has to charge it at least once a week. Not bad for a device, but of course you wouldn’t need to charge a physical book. That said, I have had my Kindle for about three months and have been impressed with the battery life — I use it for several hours a day and have only charged it three or four times in total. So just be aware the battery will depreciate over time, like any device. 

  • Easily scratchable screen. Buy a screen protector and a case, especially if you use yours often and travel with it.

  • Lag time. Pro tip: This will not respond as quickly as your phone. I’ve noticed quite a bit of lag when I’m navigating through it, especially when browsing the Kindle store and downloading books. The page turns aren’t instant, but they are serviceably quick. 

Kindle Unlimited ($11.99/month)

kindle unlimited
Design: theSkimm | Image: Margo Ghertner

Straight A’s in…

  • Variety across popular titles. We were able to find books from some of our favorite popular authors, including Esther Perel and Cheryl Strayed, and across a wide variety of genres.

  • Access to magazines. This is Margo’s favorite Kindle Unlimited feature. She immediately added "The Atlantic," "Real Simple," and "Food Network Magazine" to her library. Plus, reading magazines on your Kindle is a lot easier for traveling and commuting when it comes to packing a bag. 

Room for growth…

  • Variety across more niche authors. Most of the books I’ve downloaded on my Kindle aren’t available on Kindle Unlimited (and that holds true for my TBR list), so in all honesty, I’m not getting the most out of my subscription. Margo feels the same way.  

  • Price. The price is steep for that reason, so ultimately the subscription wouldn't pay for itself over time. This is really dependent on your tastes, though. If you’re a major magazine person and/or enjoy reading more popular titles, a KU subscription could be a cost-efficient way to do so. We’d recommend browsing the Kindle Unlimited page for a better sense of the available titles before you sign up.

kindle unlimited
Design: theSkimm | Image: Margo Ghertner

Works best for…

  • Anyone who wants to kick start a reading routine. We’ll admit it: A Kindle just makes reading easier and more accessible, for all the reasons we mentioned above. 

  • People who read often. The same reasoning applies for frequent readers. No, you don’t need to break up with your beloved print books for good. I don’t read every single novel on my Kindle, and I’ve even bought the print versions of books I’ve read on my Kindle and loved, because books are my emotional support objects. But having a Kindle has allowed me to squeeze even more reading time into my day. And I still can’t get over the magic of being able to read a book the instant you consider wanting to read it. Maybe technology isn’t all bad.    

kindle paperwhite
Design: theSkimm | Images: Amazon, Margo Ghertner

Gets extra credit for…

  • Kindle Unlimited’s 30-day free trial. If you’re on the fence about KU, sign up for a free trial first to see if it’s worth it for you. They’re also running a special deal right now that charges you $4.99 per month for the first two months after signing up, then reverts to the usual $11.99/month rate after that.

  • Bundle option of the Paperwhite and Kindle Unlimited. If you’re buying a brand-new Paperwhite, you have the option of adding on a three-month KU subscription at no additional cost.  

  • Waterproof and hands-free. The Paperwhite is waterproof, so you can take it to the beach or in the bath without stressing about it. It can also sync with Bluetooth and Audible so you can listen to audiobooks on it.

How we did our homework…

Margo has been consistently using a Kindle Paperwhite for about a year and a half, and I have been using mine for about three months. We took note of how the Kindle impacted our reading habits and used them in all kinds of environments, including when traveling, in sunlight, and at night. We also took note of how the Kindle’s additional features could enhance our reading routine, as opposed to print books. We explored the Kindle Unlimited subscription to see how enticing its offering of titles across formats (books and audiobooks across genres, and magazines) were and whether the price would be worth it for us.       


  • Kindle Paperwhite, $139.99

  • Kindle Unlimited, $11.99/month. You can also sign up for a 30-day free trial, after which you’ll be charged $11.99 per month.

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