The Kindle is in the same category of gadget as my Apple TV. Both are great gadgets that I use often and seem like a steal at their relatively inexpensive prices.
The Kindle Paperwhite has a lot going for it: the e-ink screen, million-year battery life, illuminated display, improved software, the iOS Kindle apps that sync with my iPad and iPhone, and the lightweight yet rugged build of the device hardware. The biggest compliment I can give the Kindle is that thanks to it, I read more books and I read more often.
Rather than re-hash Shawn's excellent review, I'll simply lend my support to his conclusion.
The Kindle Paperwhite is in every way an improvement upon its predecessor. The weight, aesthetic, display, and lighting all deliver an utterly wonderful experience that is befitting of the unhindered reading environment that the Kindle has been designed to provide.
Moreover, with the lighting and improved resolution of the display, the Kindle now allows for a more versatile and enjoyable experience. Rather than having to worry about bedside lighting or disturbing other passengers on a darkened plane, the Paperwhite allows for a private and uninhibited reading experience.
As Shawn highlights, the lighting of the screen is, indeed, somewhat uneven. There are distinct spotlight areas at the base of the display. Although somewhat annoying, however, these inconsistencies quickly disappeared from view after some light usage. Several weeks into ownership, my eye is rarely drawn to these spots whatsoever.
The software is an enormous improvement upon the Kindle Touch. Gestures are well-received, products are graphically represented, and the various UI elements are well-sized for touch usage.
In essence, Amazon has provided an iterative update to an already phenomenal purpose-built product. The Kindle Touch was an invaluable product in my life, and the Kindle Paperwhite improves upon that in virtually every respect. Despite my experience with the iPad Mini, the Nexus 7, and even the traditional iPad, no device has yet to usurp the position of my Kindle Touch or Paperwhite. A fact which speaks volumes about the utility of the product-line.
Of note, Amazon's official leather Paperwhite case is a wonderful accessory for the device and it boasts one bonus that initially caught be complete surprise. Beyond its pleasing aesthetic, the official cover is equipped with a magnetic latch. Whilst this appears designed to hold the cover in place, it also serves to replicate the screen activating functionality of Apple's Smart Cover.
So, when in bed, I need not worry about the bedside light, nor do I need to worry about switching off the Kindle as I begin to doze off. I simply close the cover, the light and screen go to sleep, and I do the same.
All in all, if you care about reading traditional literature in a lightweight and eye-friendly form factor, I cannot recommend the Paperwhite highly enough. The Kindle line is designed to do one thing well, and the Paperwhite deftly succeeds in the furthering of this goal and lineage.