Listen and learn
At four times the price of Amazon’s basic Kindle e-reader, this latest edition of its most advanced model needs to justify itself. And it does. Not only is the Oasis now fully waterproof, with a throw-it-in- the-pool IPX8 rating, but the screen is a whole inch bigger, giving you a generous book-sized greyscale page at a sharp 300dpi resolution. While other ebook readers tend towards a clunky black plastic design, the Oasis packs all its electronics into a bar about a third of its width, then cuts away to a slim profile with a classy metallic grey finish (see image below).
The asymmetrical design feels unusual, but it’s comfortable to hold. You can use the Oasis horizontally or vertically, and it rotates the page automatically. A sensor also adjusts the lamp that illuminates the paper-like electronic ink display (it casts light across the front, rather than through from the back like a computer screen). Amazon’s Kindle software has already been much improved, and there are even more options here, including 14 font sizes, up from eight, and new layout choices.
Some people will still miss having each book professionally designed and typeset by its publisher, making reading a more distinctive experience, but there are undeniable benefits in picking your own settings to suit your eyesight and how often you want to have to turn the page. That can be done with two physical buttons as well as by swiping the screen.
A significant new feature is support for Audible, the audiobook site bought by Amazon in 2008. You can download all your Audible purchases to the Oasis, and shop for more on screen. Cleverly, it also links ebooks to audiobooks, so if you have a book in both formats you can opt to listen from where you last stopped reading or vice versa.
The ultimate ebook reader, albeit with avoidable flaws
This is all very welcome, but there are some flaws. Only about 85,000 of Audible’s 200,000 books – a fraction of the 3.5 million ebooks on Amazon’s Kindle Store – have this Audible Narration’ feature, and there’s only a small discount for buying the ebook and audiobook together. As for the Oasis, it has no speaker or headphone port, so the only way to listen is via Bluetooth wireless headphones or speakers. This doesn’t seem very well thought-out.
Audible files also present a storage problem. Although the Oasis is pricey, it’s less than the previous model and comes with twice the storage (8GB).
That’s enough for several thousand plain-text ebooks, but a single long
7in E Ink touchscreen • 8GB memory • 802.11n Wi-Fi (3G optional). Reads AZW, AZW3, MOBI, PRC. PDF formats • 159x141x8.3mm (HxWxD) • One-year warranty
Audible book can take up a quarter of a gigabyte or more. There’s no microsD card slot to add capacity, so audiobook fans should definitely consider buying the 32GB version.
Alternatively, you can delete books you’re not currently reading, then download them again (free of charge) when you want them back, but that relies on having Wi-Fi available. You can get an Oasis with 3G mobile-data capability, but that brings the price up to an eye-watering. That does at least include all data costs – you don’t need a mobile phone tariff or pay-as-you-go – but the catch is that you can only use 3G for ebooks, not audiobooks. For most people it won’t be worth it.
Audiobooks aside, though, the Oasis has just about all the features you could want, and with Amazon’s choice of titles still beating Kobo, its only surviving rival, this is the ultimate ebook reader.
Not everyone will have to spend on an ebook reader, but if you do, the Oasis won’t disappoint
Reviewed in Issue 503, this waterproof reader is good value if you don’t have Kindle books and don’t want Audible