Will the Kindle Oasis be another page turner?
WE COULD buy a lot of books for £270 - or splash out on Amazon's newest incarnation of the Kindle, the Oasis.
The eighth version of the company's e-reader sees the return of the page turn buttons, set in a wide "ergonomic grip" panel to one side of the screen.
Even with the grip adding a bit of bulk, it's still the lightest and thinnest Kindle yet - and Amazon say that with the specially designed cover, the Oasis can last for a couple of months between charges.
The cover of the book
That cover - included in the price - is crucial to the extended battery life, however. The back part of it covers only the thinner part of the Kindle's body, so that when attached the whole thing is flush front and back.
Without it - and the extra battery tucked inside it - the much thinner Kindle (half as thick as the previous best Kindle, the Voyage) will only last for two weeks between charges, based on using it for half an hour every day.
The cover is designed to be easily removable, however - the back portion is held securely in place via 12 magnets - which allows users to hold the e-reader by that chunkier, wider, side panel.
With the return of the page turn buttons - set one above the other in the middle of the grip - the design is really pushing Amazon's idea that we should all be reading one handed.
A built-in accelerometer can tell which way up the Kindle is being held and automatically switch which of the buttons pages forward and which pages back, so it makes no odds whether we're left- or right-handed, or ambidextrous.
There's also the option every other Kindle currently available has - using the touchscreen.
The pages inside
Dimensions: 143 x 122 x 3.4-8.5 mm
Weight: Without cover 131g /
With cover 238g
Just like the Paperwhite and the Voyage, the Oasis has a resolution of 300ppi - but the LEDs that illuminate the screen have been rearranged to fit in a few more - 10, compared to the Voyage's six and the Paperwhite's four - making for a brighter screen.
The Oasis also promises even less screen glare - boosting further one of the advantages pure e-readers have over reading an e-book on a multitasking tablet.
Physically, it's also that bit tougher than the screens on the existing Kindles.
To make such a thin and light device - without the cover it's a good 70g lighter than the Paperwhite, and 60g lighter than the basic Kindle - it's not just the battery that's had to shrink.
The plastic shell and page surround has been toughened without adding bulk by electroplating, and the e-ink display itself is also thinner - at just 200 microns thick, or the thickness of a sheet of aluminium foil.
So to protect that superfine display, Amazon have tinkered with the way they toughen the glass - by cutting it to shape before hardening it - which should make it more durable and reduce the risk of any chips that do occur spreading across the screen.
A good read?
But at £270, £100 more than the Kindle Voyage, and £160 more than the almost unbeatable Paperwhite, who exactly is going to buy the Oasis?
Without the cover, the battery life is laughable when it comes to serving a heavy reading book lover, and talk of the grip evoking the feel of the spine of a book seems like wishful thinking.
The addition of a "premium leather" cover - even in the classic olde worlde choices of "Merlot" (red) and "Walnut" (brown) - isn't going to swing people who've stayed with real books because they prefer the experience of holding and reading a paperback, or even an un-jacketed hardback.
Instead, that cover, and the technology that's gone into the new device suggest that this is an e-reader for people who primarily like gadgets.
There's nothing wrong with that - plenty of mobile phone sales are made on similar grounds - but once people have bought a dedicated e-reader, they tend to stick with it for a very long time.
Even though they haven't been on sale for some years, there are still plenty of older Kindles - dating back to when they had keyboards under a smaller reading pane - going strong with the help of the occasional software update.
Waterstones stopped selling Kindles last October, with the bookshop's boss James Daunt describing their sales as "pitiful".
It's not just sales of the devices that are slower than they were: the Bookseller reported that the top five publishers saw their digital sales in the UK drop last year.
Admittedly Amazon have a number of advantages, including being the major player in numerous markets - as US bookstore Barnes and Noble have found to their cost.
Including Kindle in Prime is an obvious and clever move on Amazon's part; Prime members can "borrow" up to one e-book a month with the Lending Library - although they can't take out another book until they return the one they've got on loan.
By offering free samples of millions of their e-books - and making it so easy to get the rest of the book after finishing them - Amazon have also worked out how to keep non-Prime readers coming back for more.
We're just not entirely convinced that, given the price tag, they'll choose to do so using a Kindle Oasis.