‘Disappearing’ Kindle Oasis is no mirage

oasisfocus1The new Kindle e-reader that Amazon boss Jeff Bezos has been getting excited about is an all-new model that’s positioned very much at the top end of the range with a whopping price of $289.99.

The curiously named Kindle Oasis has a distinctive off-centre shape, is very thin and light and includes a charging cover that is claimed to deliver months of battery life.

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The buttons are back! The Oasis sees the return of actual physical page turn buttons.

Mr Bezos, who revealed the imminent arrival of the e-reader in one of his very rare tweets last week, says, “We want Kindle to disappear and Kindle Oasis is the next big step in that mission. It’s the most advanced Kindle we’ve ever built — thin and ultra-lightweight, it gets out of the way so you can lose yourself in the author’s world.” ‘Wanting Kindle to disappear’ is, of course, also the dream of many traditional publishers and a lot of booksellers, but I think we know what Jeff means.

The Oasis weighs 4.6 ounces and is 3.4 mm at its thinnest point, which is 30% thinner on average and over 20% lighter than any other Kindle. It has a polymer frame plated with metal by structural electroplating which keeps the device light while giving it resilience. On-board storage is 4Gb.

The shape of the new e-reader is very distinctive and you can turn the pages with either the touch display or physical buttons. The return of the buttons will please many readers who have complained ever since the demise of Kindle buttons.

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Cover story — the charging cover is claimed to keep the Oasis juiced up for months on end.

It comes with a charging cover which recharges the Oasis and you can charge the device and cover at the same time while both are snapped together and plugged in.

The charging cover is made of leather and is available in black, merlot, or walnut. It opens like a book and fits closely around the bezel, waking the Oasis when opened and putting it to sleep when closed. Twelve magnets form a solid attachment between the device and cover and you can detach it when you want to read without the cover.

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Glass act: the Oasis screen features new levels of brightness for a Kindle e-reader.

The screen features the latest generation high-resolution 300 ppi Paperwhite display for crisp, laser-quality text. A redesigned built-in front light has 60% more LEDs for the brightest Kindle display ever and Amazon claims that new cylindrical diffractive patterns increase the consistency and range of screen brightness for improved reading in all types of lighting.

The display on Oasis is the first Kindle display designed using a ground-breaking 200 micron display backplane that is as thin as a single sheet of aluminum foil, but is also robust, combined with a custom cover glass engineered from chemically-reinforced glass.

I’m a bit confused by the stated dimensions, which are: 5.6 inches x 4.8 inches x 0.13-0.33 inches (143 x 122 x 3.4-8.5 mm). The spec sheet then goes on to describe the screen size as 6 inches….hmmm. My very unscientific method of estimating the likely size of the reading area through dead reckoning gives me a result of around 4.75 inches x 3.5 inches, which is actually wider than the Kindle 7-inch tablet, which is 3.375 ins wide, although the tablet is 6 inches deep.

The Oasis e-reader on its own weighs just 4.6 oz or 131 grams (wi-fi version) but the cover weighs 3.8 oz, which means the Oasis combo tips the scales at 8.4 oz, well above the 6.3 oz of the Kindle Voyage and the 7.2 oz of the Paperwhite on their own.

A cup of coffee and The Lord of the Rings at The Oasis.
A cup of coffee and The Lord of the Rings at The Oasis.

I’m not a fan of e-reader covers, particularly leather ones, and I much prefer to use a sleeve-type holder if I’m throwing an e-reader in a bag. A cover, even a clever charging one like this, only reduces the ‘disappearing’ effect of a device, so I can’t really see it has a great deal of benefit. After all, one of the great boons of e-readers over tablets is that they retain a charge for days or weeks anyway and keeping a charge for months seems rather pointless.

The cover must account for a substantial amount of the very high cost of the Oasis, which, at $289.99, is nearly $100 more expensive than the second-dearest Kindle, the Voyage. I can’t see why Amazon are insisting on bundling it with the Oasis, it would have made much more sense and widened the potential market to have offered it as an option and priced the Oasis at a comparable level with the Voyage.

For the $290 cost of the Oasis (plus $10), you could buy six of the excellent Kindle 7-inch tablets at $49.99 each. It is, of course, a very different market and the Oasis offers a lot of benefits as a very stylish and sharp e-reader which doesn’t require daily recharging and there’ll be plenty of folk attracted by the Oasis, but I think it makes the Kindle Paperwhite even more of a bargain as the Paperwhite has most of the benefits of the Oasis at a price of only $119.99.

If you’re in the UK, then 20% VAT and inequitable pricing policies mean that the Oasis is a shocking £269.99, exactly £100 more than the UK price of the Voyage and nearly two and a half times more expensive than the Paperwhite price of £119.99.

The Kindle Oasis starts shipping on April 27 and is already in the Top 20 of Amazon.com’s best-sellers in Electronics and leads the league in the sector’s Hot New Releases.

Life at the sharp end — review of the Kindle Voyage

Amazon lights a Fire under tablet prices with new $49.99 Kindle

Kindle Paperwhite adds higher resolution, Bookerly font and new layout engine