- The new Kindle home screen emphasizes search and discovery.
- The new swipe-down quick-access panel is great.
- Rival Kobo still has a superior reading experience.
Amazon's new Kindle Home Screen may be designed to boost sales, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
After several months of slowly-increasing availability, Amazon is now rolling out its biggest Kindle update in a while to all users. It still falls short of its biggest competitor, Kobo, but if nothing else, it makes it easier to find something new to read.
“With the update, I believe what Amazon might be trying to aim for was to provide a more minimalistic design and encourage more sales,” Kindle fan and author Perry Valentine told Lifewire via email. “While the UI changes made the home screen look cleaner. I believe it also encourages more sales, especially since a large portion of the home screen is dedicated to book suggestions based on your purchase history and other book ads.”
I've been using the redesigned UI after manually installing the update a few months ago. The main differences are the home-screen layout and that you now have to swipe down from the top edge of the screen to access oft-used features like screen brightness, airplane mode, and further settings.
You can no longer disable the recommendations section on the home page. It sits below the section showing your recent reads and at the top of several further sections designed to get you buying books. But as the whole reason you bought a Kindle was to purchase and read books, that's not really a problem—and if you really do only want to see your samples, and your already-purchased books, you can switch to the Library screen instead.
Before we get into all that, there's one other great improvement. The Goodreads button has gone from the main navigation bar, so you never have to accidentally hit it again.
“Overall, the new design demonstrates the same kind of quality improvements we’ve seen in both Internet browsers and websites over the years,” publisher Rick Carlile told Lifewire via email. “In all cases, older designs are text-heavy, with un-beautiful layouts, poor use of white space, and little consideration of how the human eye scans the screen. They have to be learned by the user. The new interface doesn’t need to be learned—it’s intuitive. The user’s eye is drawn to the tools that are most important, and their functions are immediately clear.”
The redesign is welcome and makes navigation and search easier, but it adds very little in terms of new features. In fact, the most significant software addition to the Kindle came in a previous update. That was the ability to display the book's cover on the Kindle's lock screen, and it's a feature that arch-rival Kobo has had since, like, forever.
Kobo's software is superior in almost every way. E-reader hardware is pretty similar across all brands. They're plastic cases that hold an e-ink screen, with the exception of the Kindle Oasis, which is a metal case holding an e-ink screen. They're all fast, have even front lights, are often waterproof, and last weeks on a single charge.
The differentiator is the software.
The Kobo range has a number of significant advantages over the Kindle. One is that it has much better typography. Books look like printed books instead of like a web browser from the 1990s. There aren't many more controls to tweak the typography. It's just all done better. That may not bother you, but if it does, then the Kindle is hard to look at after using a Kobo.
The Kobo also has much nicer navigation, easier access to instant previews—like browsing in a real bookstore instead of downloading for later (although you can do that too), and a better overall reading UI. For instance, if you tap the screen while reading a book, you get instant access to chapters, a scrub bar, annotations, and search, all without having to dig around and get lost. The dictionary is also superior.
The Kobo also lets you swipe on the screen to change brightness levels and syncs with the Pocket read-later service, so you can save any web page to read later on your Kobo.
The Kindle does make buying easier, though, with its one-tap purchases.
But if you are already deep in the Kindle ecosystem, this is a very welcome update—once you get used to the changes.