Amazon's pricey Kindle Oasis is worth the cost, if ...

A bad experience with a refurbished Kindle Voyage ereader led CIO.com reviewer James A. Martin to splurge on a brand new version of Amazon's most expensive Kindle, the Oasis. But the pricey device isn't for everyone.

amazon kindle oasis primary

Amazon e-readers, like this Kindle Oasis, were strong sellers during the company's Prime Day sales event.  

Credit: Amazon / Rob Schultz

Kindle Voyage was Amazon's thinnest, lightest ereader when the company released it in October 2014. At the time, I owned a first-generation Kindle Paperwhite and was perfectly satisfied with it.

However, when a "thinner" and "lighter" device is dangled in front of me, I quickly become destabilized. I was able to resist the temptation to buy a Voyage, which, at a minimum price of $200, seemed too expensive.

Then, Amazon in April announced Kindle Oasis, which is even thinner and lighter than Voyage. It's also even more expensive, with a starting price of $290, though the cost includes a battery-powered Amazon cover.

So I made what then seemed like a reasonable compromise: I bought a refurbished Kindle Voyage for $152 on Amazon.com. The decision proved to be a mistake ... but it also ultimately worked out.

kindle voyage Amazon

Kindle Voyage

A trouble-free first month with refurbished Voyage, then…

For the first 30 days, I was a satisfied customer. Voyage was noticeably lighter (6.3 ounces for the Wi-Fi-only version) than my first-generation Paperwhite (7.5 ounces). That's not a huge difference, but when you hold a device for an extended period, you notice.

After the 30-day return period ended, however, my refurbished Voyage started to misbehave. It frequently froze and had to be restarted. While I read the nonfiction book Grit (which I highly recommend), the Voyage at one point lost all my highlighted notes. And on several occasions, it lost my place in the book.

The problems grew more frequent, so I called Amazon customer support. I explained that I knew I was beyond the return period, but I wanted a refund. I did not want a replacement refurbished Voyage or to have mine fixed. The agent put me on hold to speak with his supervisor, and after a few minutes he said he could offer me an 80 percent refund on the $152 I paid. That seemed fair enough, so I sent the bum Voyage back to Amazon.

It's worth noting that I've had very mixed results with refurbished tech products. Along with my ill-fated Voyage, a refurbished Dell monitor I purchased stopped working after about a year, and it would have been more expensive to repair than replace. On the other hand, I had no trouble at all with the refurbished iPad Air 2 and MacBook Air I bought from Apple.

Moving from Kindle Voyage to Oasis

Complications aside, I was hooked on the concept of a thinner, lighter Kindle. Even though my Apple iPad mini makes a great ereader, it can't compare to Kindle when reading outdoors. Kindle also helps me stay focused when I read ebooks.

As soon as my refund arrived, I splurged and bough a new Oasis. It was expensive, but Amazon lets you divide the cost into five monthly payments, with no interest. And if you purchase a Voyage and the company's Protective Cover for Kindle Voyage ($45), the total price jumps up to $245 — only $45 less than an Oasis, which comes with a cover.

The Oasis is super-light at 4.6 ounces (without the cover), and its handgrip makes it easy to hold with one hand for long periods. Kindle Oasis also has 60 percent more LED lights than Voyage, but I honestly don't see much of a difference.

Oasis has longer battery life, as well, which Amazon says lasts for "months" versus the "weeks" of its other ereaders. However, I'm not sure "months" instead of "weeks" battery life is an important advantage, because I don't plan to trek across the Australian Outback with my Kindle in the foreseeable future.  

Amazon this week made its entry-level Kindle ($79 and up) even lighter, down from 6.7 ounces to 5.7 ounces. But the basic Kindle lacks several features, including the built-in light that's found in the Paperwhite, Voyage and Oasis models.

If you can afford Oasis's steep entry price, you'll appreciate the lightest Kindle ereader ever, and if you're ready to upgrade from a basic Kindle or Paperwhite, I say go for it. If, however, you already have a Voyage, it's not worth the upgrade. And if you're considering a refurbished Kindle, well, I hope you have better luck than I did.

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