The comedian Brian Regan has a great bit about refrigerator shopping, in which he walks into a store and starts talking to a salesman. “What’s this guy supposed to say about refrigerators?” Regan wonders. “‘You’ve got this refrigerator, it keeps all your food cold for $600. You’ve got this refrigerator, this keeps all your food cold for $800. Check this out: $1,400, keeps all your food cold.'” That’s how it’s been with Kindles for the last several years. Lots of devices, lots of prices, basically the same thing no matter what you get.
Now, however, Amazon’s launching a genuinely new and different Kindle. It’s the 10th anniversary of the device, a decade since the blocky, geometric first model took the reading public by storm. To celebrate, the company’s launching a new version of the Kindle Oasis, offering three huge upgrades to the Kindle experience. The new Oasis is waterproof, it plays Audible audiobooks, and it has a larger 7-inch screen. That makes it the biggest Kindle in years, the most powerful and feature-rich model ever. And you can use it in the bathtub.
The new Oasis borrows most of its look from the older model, keeping that asymmetrical shape that feels great to hold in one hand but slightly off-kilter in two. It’s just made of aluminum now, and it’s waterproof. IPX8, specifically, which means it can handle pools, hot tubs, oceans, and just about anything else. This has been the biggest request from Kindle users for years, and it’s finally available.
Amazon also swapped in a 7-inch e-paper screen rather than last year’s 6-inch panel, and used that extra space to add extra battery so you won’t need a charging cover. (If you want one, though, Amazon did make a few new options.) The new model has a faster processor and more storage—either 8 or 32 gigs—for all the audiobooks you’re about to listen to. And, of course, it has Bluetooth.
If you’ve ever used the Kindle app on your phone, you’ll have a rough sense of how the Audible experience works on the new Oasis. You can buy books and download them straight to your Kindle, then with a tap switch between reading and listening. The Whispersync for Voice underpinning the feature works remarkably well elsewhere, and in a short demo looked good on the Oasis too. You can buy books one by one, or use your monthly Audible subscription. There’s no headphone jack on the device, though, so Bluetooth speakers and headphones are your only option.
One nice surprise: The new Oasis won’t be the only Audible-enabled Kindle in the lineup. A software update “in the coming months” will activate previously dormant Bluetooth in both the previous Oasis and the latest bottom-of-the-line Kindle model. An odd twosome to choose, maybe, but a nice new feature.
The standard Kindle-y stuff is basically the same. Amazon did add a few new font-size options, especially in the middle of the spectrum, plus a new inverted-font mode that puts light text on dark backgrounds in case that’s easier for you to read. You still get the Goodreads, the X-Ray, the Kindle Unlimited, and all the same stuff as always. Amazon’s forever trying to do two things with the Kindle: make the thing itself feel like a piece of paper, and make the reading experience futuristic and awesome. The Oasis fits right in, because, again, it’s a Kindle.
The new model costs $250 for 8 gigs of storage, which should be plenty for all but the most hardcore, 2.5x-listening audiobook lovers. If you need a decade of books all at once, the 32 gig model runs $280. For always-on cellular connectivity, plus 32 gigs, it’s $350—but that feels like overkill.
For years, even as Amazon’s introduced new and “better” and Kindles, our advice hasn’t really changed: Buy a Paperwhite. It does all the things that matter at a price that works. Most people seem to get it, too, since Amazon says the Paperwhite’s the most popular Kindle. Now, though, for the first time in a long time, there’s a really good reason to buy the fancy Kindle. After all, you can’t put a price on tub time.