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Everything you should know about a Basic Kindle vs Kindle Paperwhite

Every time Kindle readers go on sale, my messages fill up with people asking about the differences between a Kindle and a Kindle Paperwhite.

Consider this your roadmap to all the differences between the Kindle and Kindle Paperwhite so you make the best decision for you.

The good news is that you can’t go wrong with either – they’re both excellent ereaders and you’ll most likely be delighted with whichever one you choose. It’s really a question of budget (the Kindle Paperwhite is generally about $40 more expensive than the basic Kindle) and what features matter to you.

I personally have a basic Kindle and it’s been terrific. I’ve been super happy with it and have no desire to upgrade when the basic Kindle does the job so well, but plenty of people SWEAR by their Paperwhite and can’t imagine downgrading to a basic Kindle.

Another thing to know is that the basic Kindle and the kids basic Kindle are the same device (literally, there is no hardware difference whatsoever – the only difference is how Amazon packages them. The kids Kindle comes with a case and a 2 year warranty and a year of Amazon Kids+. You can buy either one and use it as a kids Kindle or an adult Kindle, depending on how you sign in). The same goes for the Kids Paperwhite Kindle and the adult Paperwhite Kindle – identical products. So based on the current pricing, you can decide whether you’d rather choose an adult version or a kids version because you’ll end up with the same product either way.

One last thing to note – the features of the Kindle and the Kindle Paperwhite have changed over the years as new generations come out. So some people will say “Oh, a Paperwhite is so much better because it has a built-in light” but actually now EVERY Kindle model has a built-in light. Similarly, you used to have to upgrade to a Paperwhite in order to have dark mode on your Kindle (which is where the screen is dark and the text is white), but now it’s standard on all Kindles. So don’t necessarily take the word of someone who has a five year old Paperwhite and swears you have to go Paperwhite to have those features.

With all that said, here are the major differences between the Basic Kindle vs Kindle Paperwhite:

kindle vs paperwhite

Everything you should know about a Basic Kindle vs Kindle Paperwhite

  • The Kindle Paperwhite has a bigger display. The display on the Paperwhite is 6.8″ while the basic Kindle display is 6.0.” The Paperwhite screen is also flush front, while the basic Kindle’s display is slightly recessed.
  • The Kindle Paperwhite has a warm light option. This warm light option is wildly popular with Paperwhite users – I’ve heard from many users who love that for bedtime reading or if they’re nursing a baby in the middle of the night. While the basic Kindle has a built-in light, it’ll only display in one color (and it’s not warm!).
  • The Kindle Paperwhite battery lasts longer. The battery on a basic Kindle lasts up to 6 weeks while the Paperwhite battery life can go up to 10 weeks.
  • The Kindle Paperwhite is waterproof. If you’re a bathtub or pool reader, you’ll probably want to spring for the Paperwhite so you don’t have to worry about it if it gets wet.
  • The Kindle Paperwhite has more LEDs on the front light. The basic Kindle has 4 LEDs on the front display while the Paperwhite has 17 for more even lighting.

And if it’s helpful for you to see the things that are the same on the Kindle vs the Kindle Paperwhite:

  • Both Kindles have glare-free screens. Reading on a Kindle is not at all like reading on a phone where you have an LCD screen with mega glare in the sunlight. On any Kindle reader, you can read outdoors in full sunshine with zero issues.
  • Both Kindles have built-in lights. This didn’t use to be the case – my first basic Kindle did NOT have a built-in light and it was a huge upgrade when they added that functionality to every Kindle.
  • Both Kindles can play Audible audiobooks. In both cases, you’ll need bluetooth headphones and ONLY Audible audiobooks will work on a Kindle reader (no Libby, Hoopla, Libro.FM, etc audiobooks).
  • Both Kindles have a 300 dpi resolution. In previous generations, the basic Kindle’s display was not as a good (about half as good) but now they’re consistent across the board, including up through the high-end Oasis reader.

Any other questions about the differences (or similarities) between a basic Kindle vs Kindle Paperwhite? Let me know in the comments and I’m happy to help!

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21 Comments

  1. I have owned a variety of kindles and the paperwhite was my favorite. I miss mine something awful. You failed to mention the most important difference.- the way they can organize/categorize the books.
    Most awesome.

  2. That was the best comparison I’ve read, and I’ve been through tonnes!
    Thank you!

  3. I purchased the Kindle Paperwhite Signature on Prime Day this July. I do love it but I probably should have chosen the regular Paperwhite – I was swayed by the huge amount of storage but have since learned I will likely never need 32g of storage. I’m nervous about the battery though. The Amazon listing suggested I would get 10 weeks out of a charge, and even accounting for a lot of reading it looks like I’ll only get about four weeks of reading on one battery charge. I see that your post mentions getting about six weeks. Four weeks isn’t terrible, but I’m worried the battery might not be in perfect condition or something. I’ll have to search out some Kindle users and take a poll on how long their batteries are lasting!!

  4. Thanks for an informative article. I use kindle oasis and I am very happy with it. Our daughter in kaw just had a baby and I suggested she use a kibdle while nursing. I will get one for her but I am not sure she will love it so I am planning to get the basic and if she wants she can get the paperwhite one. Thanks ❤️🥰

  5. Danke für die hilfreichen Informationen. Ganz klar ist mir aber noch immer nicht, ob ich mich wegen möglichen Blaustichs doch den Paperwhite statt des Standardkindles kaufen soll.

  6. Thank you for this article. Another difference between the two Kindles is that the basic kindle actually has much more storage (16Gb vs. 8Gb) than the paperwhite which I thought was strange. Anyway, I hope that also helps.

  7. , I have a Kindle with keyboard purchased in 2011. I would like to replace the Keyboard kindle
    with a Kindle Paperwhite but don’t know how difficult it would to replace/substitute the Kindle keyboard listed as “device 1” at my Amazon login with a Paperwhite . Would it be difficult to transfer my archive and inventory now on Kindle keyboard to a Paperwhite and start receiving purchased ebooks on the Paperwhite

    1. No, not hard at all. That is all stored on your Amazon account. It will transfer if you tell it to download.

  8. I’m in the market for a new Kindle and am deciding between the Kindle and Kindle Paperwhite. I saw your comment regarding the 8 vs 16 GB…I was hesitant to only buy 8 GB, but you think this will be plenty of space if I am only using for a few ebooks at a time? Also, do you know if/how you are able to read ebooks through local libraries/Libby on any of the Kindle devices? Thank you!

  9. Loved your article. I am thinking of buying a Kindle for my grandson’s 21st birthday. Dithering between basic Kindle or paper white. Any thoughts?

    1. You really can’t go wrong with either. The Paperwhite is a little fancier with some extra features and I’ve loved mine, but I miss the more portable size and price of my basic Kindle!

  10. Thank you so much for this article. Really cleared up many of the questions I had finally looking around for an e-book reader. Been a steadfast believer in getting the hard book so this would be my first. My wife doesn’t want me using up any more space in the house though, so probably going to have to go this route. 😀

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