Amazon's Kindle Voyage E-Reader. YBLTV Review by Katie Hernandez.

The Kindle Voyage – A New Graphic E-Ink Experience

YBLTV Review: Amazon’s Kindle Voyage E-Reader

When Amazon released the first-generation Kindle e-reader in 2007, uncertainty rang out in the book aficionado community – how could a smooth, black-and-white screen ever replace the feel and, most importantly, the smell of a genuine book in our hands? Nearly 10 years later, with our Kindle shelves packed with every sort of digital e-book imaginable, we have our answer: storage space and options. What reader has not suffered the back pain of lugging a book from every genre from location A to location B? The Kindle became the answer to that problem, and to problems a variety of readers didn’t even know we had; fast-forward ten years later, the Kindle has expanded beyond novels and magazines and is changing the way comic book and manga (Japanese comic books and graphic novels) are read. Though I still read traditional manga in paperback form, I began the search for an e-reader that would allow me to read my beloved manga in a consolidated collection while maintaining what I felt were the four most important features an e-reader could offer my manga experience:

  1. Quality Retention of Scans
  2. Expanded Selection of Manga Options
  3. Maintaining the Original Format of the Manga
  4. Ease of Reading on Eyes

I have read manga on other, screen-based devices before and while they were adequate options, they often fell off on one or two of these four areas (most frequently on #4 – ease of reading on eyes. However, the Kindle Voyage E-Reader delivered on my expectations in all four areas:

1) Quality Retention: The Kindle Voyage utilizes the Amazon e-book store for its selection of manga, which runs through the Kindle & Amazon comiXology system. This provides an unbiased selection of manga to shop from (unlike sponsored apps that only run specific titles). Since these scans have been edited from Japanese to English, the text is extremely readable, given the fact that it is in e-ink format. Even though you sacrifice the colored aspects of the original paperback (or even sponsored manga apps), I found that I genuinely didn’t miss this because I either already had the original copy or because only one or two pages of the original were even colored. The e-ink felt the most like a traditional manga in my hand, keeping the original feel of reading manga close to me even as I made the transition to digital. However, it is important to note that I did not specifically test graphic novels, which are almost entirely done in color – this could be the deal breaker if you’re looking for a comic/graphic novel e-reader or if you enjoy the color sections of the original manga.

2) Expanded Selection of Manga Options: While I know that there are people who will scan the original manga and store the files on their device (which I do not condone – please support your favorite manga-ka through the purchase of their works!), I thought it was important to mention the Kindle & comiXology team-up for the Kindle Voyage. While comiXology does have its own app through the Apple App store, I found that the Amazon partnership in tandem with the 1-Click purchase option made purchasing manga extremely easy on the Voyage. Additionally, unlike sponsored apps from manga companies, the title range is extremely expanded. I have never been particularly loyal to a specific publishing company; this means that my favorite manga were often unavailable digitally through a legitimate channel. The Kindle & comiXology partnership allows me to own both Kodansha and Viz publications with a dash of Dark Horse as well. Additionally, the digital copies of these comics are often cheaper than the listed price online, which could save you quite a bit overall. It may not seem important to some, but when you have an affordable e-reader with this wide a selection, the opportunities seem endless. However, one thing to note is that the Kindle Voyage E-Reader only has 4GB of storage, which does prevent it from being the top answer to the manga collector’s dilemma. Meanwhile, Amazon Japan released a version of the Kindle Paperwhite that contains 32GB of storage and was marketed specifically for manga aficionados. So the problem is more in the fact that Amazon HAS the capacity to market larger storage systems, yet does not offer that option to U.S.-based consumers.

3) Maintaining the Original Format of the Manga: Instead of this being an additional feature – like a cherry on top of a sundae – I listed this requirement because it’s more akin to the banana at the bottom of a banana split. Maintaining the original format is a basic expectation that should be an expectation of any comic e-book, not an add-on feature to impress. Most, if not all, devices deliver this option in one way or another. However, I wanted to commend the Kindle Voyage for the fact that it takes this concept and runs with it. It maintains the format of the original manga or graphic work while adding on the original experience of reading manga. Almost all manga fans are accustomed to reading in black and white/toned print; this is part of the integral aesthetic of traditional manga. The Kindle Voyage E-Reader, with its 6” glare-free, e-ink screen, increases the original feel of manga reading because it fits almost identically in size to the page of an actual manga volume in addition to retaining the original right-to-left reading experience. Coming in with this being my most basic expectation, the Kindle Voyage met that expectation and more. However, it is important to note that, because of the single screen, there are often instances where a panel in the original work – which was intentionally designed to stretch over two individual pages for dramatic impact – is now forcibly cut in half. Most tablets would correct this by the horizontal screen rotation built into their systems; however, this is probably the least satisfying thing about the manga e-reader experience.

4) Ease of Reading on Eyes: This is, in my opinion, what sets apart the traditional e-reader from other current devices. While other devices boast the ability to read manga and graphic novels through third-party apps, one of the biggest sacrifices is the screen aspect. These devices typically emit harsh lighting that, in my experience, has kept me awake at night and has increased my reading prescription over the last two years. The screens may be attractive and smooth in store, but when it’s 3am and you’re just trying to finish one more volume, your eyes are going to be the ones to pay that price. Even if you bring the lighting down on those devices, it causes additional eye strain because the manga is no longer bright enough to read clearly. Enter the Kindle Voyage: the 300ppi screen in combination with the e-ink feature of the manga provides an extremely smooth reading experience that is only enhanced by the backlight feature. What makes this so much easier on the eyes in the clarity of the scans through e-ink, in addition to the adjustability of the Voyage’s backlight and the tap-and-zoom feature. This allows manga readers to zoom into specific sections of a page to assist in viewing, while preventing the scan from losing any noticeable quality. This feature has been a significant help to my eyes, not only in reading manga but in also reading fiction and non-fiction novels; however, I brought this up specifically in order to better inform on options for die-hard manga and graphic novel fans who may want a more compact way to enjoy their favorite media while having a comfortable reading experience overall.

In addition to these four basic features, the Kindle Voyage E-Reader also features an increased battery life (I’ve had mine for a month and have maybe charged it once or twice this whole time); PagePress sensors, which feature on the frame of the case and emit a light feedback when pressed versus the Kindle Paperwhite, where pages were turned solely by touching the screen; and a shifted power button now placed on the back versus the bottom of the device. My only major issue was with the new PagePress sensors, since they force the book forward, regardless of which side you press; however, it’s nice to have the secondary page turn option versus just tapping the screen. The interface is extremely responsive and makes navigating the device a breeze. Having been a fan of the Kindle series since 2007, it took me until this year to even consider the Kindle as a legitimate device for manga on the go. In spite of this delay, I find that the Voyage is now the star of my Kindle line-up and is always in my purse wherever I go.

Pros

  • Expanded selection of titles to purchase
  • High quality of scans
  • Ease of reading enhanced by e-ink and built-in light
  • Maintains original format of comic and graphic novel
  • Comes with a micro-USB cord included in the box in addition to being charged prior to shipment

Cons

  • Single Screen splits the intentional layout of some manga
  • Kindle Voyage has limited storage space for actual downloaded content – may be more of a quick fix than long-term reader solution
  • I would have liked a version similar to the Kindle Oasis with an external battery built into the cover, but this isn’t necessarily a make or break option since the battery life is already amazing. This is more a desire from people like myself who often forget to charge their devices.
  • Does not include a wall adapter for charging, but again not a deal breaker – it just would have been convenient
  • Because of the new button placement, you have to buy one of the new Voyage cases (I attempted to use my Paperwhite case and because the power button was located in the back, it simply did not work)

“The Kindle Voyage provides avid manga and comic fans with a device that works as hard as they read,” Katie Hernandez, YBLTV Writer / Reviewer

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a way to consolidate an extensive comic collection, I would look more towards a tablet with the comiXolgy app, which can offer more storage for both manga and graphic novels. However, if you’re looking for an e-reader that allows for traditional layout and compact, on-the-go reading with your must have volumes at the ready, the Kindle Voyage E-Reader is definitely for you.

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