eBook Reader: Kindle vs iPad


With the latest release of Apple’s iTouch/iPhone/iPad device (yes it is a device and not a computer,) I have begun to contemplate forcing myself into the 21st century by ditching tree based books for eBooks.  Truth be told, I am not a big reader of tree-based books (made from chopped up trees and that thing that is becoming more and more obsolete: “paper”.)  I probably read about 2 non-tech books a year and maybe buy 5 techie books per year that I don’t read cover to cover but instead use more as a reference most of the time.  Most of my reading is via blogs, tweets, and online articles on Wall Street Journal’s web site or other news sites.  But eye strain and the computer’s convenience is detracting, so I like backup reading material such as magazines, tech books, newspapers when I am in a situation that makes reading on a laptop or desktop inconvenient or prohibited, for example, taking off or landing in an airplane. Actually, writing this blog post makes me realize how much reading I actually do.  I always feel a bit ashamed because I don’t read very many “normal” books.  The last normal book I read was The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  Most of the time the books I read are the likes of “Expert F#” by Don Syme or Joe Armstrong’s “Programming Erlang.”  Also just side note, I’m not completely new to eBooks.  I read the entire Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on my Samsung SPH-i500 Palm Pilot SmartPhone back in 2003, a monumental feat on a very small 162 x 176 pixels screen.

So, if I dive into the world of eBooks as a true replacement of paper based books, I want to choose the best device for my lifestyle and needs.  I have narrowed down to two of the most popular devices: Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad.  For the Kindle, I am considering either the Kindle or the Kindle DX.  For the iPad, I’m considering the cheapest one.  The specs that are most important to me are price, weight, display, and convenience.  Convenience will be described in detail below.  So here are the specs:

 

Kindle

Kindle DX

iPad16 GB Wi-Fi model

Price

$259

$489

$499

Weight

10.2 ounces

18.9 ounces

24.0 ounces

Height

8 inches

10.4 inches

9.6 inches

Width

5.3 inches

7.2 inches

7.5 inches

Thickness

0.33 inches

0.38 inches

0.50 inches

Display Resolution

800 x 600 pixels

1200 x 824 pixels

1024 x 768 pixels

Display Detail (Pixels per Inch)

167 ppi

150 ppi

132 ppi

Display color/gray scale

16 levels of gray

16 levels of gray

(specs not found on apple.com but assuming 32-bit color)

Display Size

6 inches diagonal

9.7 inches diagonal

9.7 inches diagonal

System Requirements

NONE

NONE

Mac (OS X) or Windows PC (XP or later) and iTunes 9.1

Battery Life

1 week with wireless on 2 weeks wireless off

1 week with wireless on 2 weeks wireless off

10 hours

Wireless connectivity

Global broadband

Global broadband

Wi-Fi

Cost to connect

Free

Free

Depends on the local Wi-Fi connection

 

So let’s interpret these stats with my priorities.

Price: The Kindle is half the price of the Kindle DX and iPad. Note that the iPad I’m evaluating is the cheapest one and does not include 3G.

Weight: The Kindle wins hands down in this comparison with the iPad as the heaviest device.  Ounces mean a lot to a road warrior and I’m always trying to trim down my luggage.

Display: The Kindle also has the best resolution measured in Pixels Per Inch (ppi).  As far as display real estate, the iPad sits right in the middle between the smaller Kindle and the Kindle DX which has 25% more pixels than the iPad (988,800 pixels on the Kindle DX vs 786,432 pixels on the iPad.)  The Kindle DX and the iPad actually have the exact diagonal display size of 9.7 inches.  The non-DX version of the Kindle may be a bit too small, but based on my conversations at airports with Kindle owners, they don’t have a problem with the 6 inch screen.

Convenience: Convenience will mean different things to different people, but for me it boils down to 3 things, battery life (I hate hunting for power outlets, especially in airports), connectivity, and dependency on a computer.  Well, I have to admit that the iPad completely fails in this measurement for me.  First of all the battery life in the Kindle is measured in weeks (not hours like the iPad.)  Second of all, the connectivity sounds so amazing in the Kindle that it does not even seem real.  Imagine a Sprint based global wireless connection that has no dependency on a home Wi-Fi, a hotel or airports Wi-Fi service, or any contracts.  Plus it is completely free.  If I need to download a book on the iPad what are my choices?  Well, I can connect the iPad via USB cable to one of my of computers.  Plus I need to make sure that the computer has iTunes 9.1 installed.  Plus I need to connect iTunes to the iTunes Store or synch a PDF or some other file into iTunes first and then synch it with my iPad. 

The alternative approach to connecting to a computer via USB cable is to use Wi-Fi.  Well, at home that may not be a problem (although iPad has been getting some bad press lately with the issues with some Wi-Fi routers.)  But what about at the airport, or hotel, or worse, sitting on the runway on an airplane?  Can I get free Wi-Fi, probably not.  So I have to pay $10 or $20 to connect for 10 minutes to download a book.  What happens if I run out of time and don’t find what I want?  It’s happened to me before where I end up paying for wireless at an airport and I end up not having enough time to do all the things I planned on when I shelled out the money for a day pass at the airport before my flight departed.  Plus the whole inconvienence of pulling out my credit card in an airport chair and typing the data into a Wi-Fi screen and agreeing to the contract can burn 15 minutes of precious time.  I’m not considering the iPad with AT&T 3G because first of all the device is too expensive for me to justify as an eBook reader. Plus the contract required will end up costing probably up to $600 a year, which is more than the price of the device itself.

So based on these specs the obvious choice, the reasonable choice, is the Kindle.  Either the small cheep one or the iPad size one which is the same price as the iPad.

So why am I having such a hard time resisting the iPad?  Is it the color screen?  Is it the accelerometer and all the snazzy apps?  You have to admit that the iPad is much sexier than the Kindle.  But to be honest, I should give my eyes a bit more rest by reading on the Kindle’s display over the iPad’s display.  I am told the Kindle causes less eye strain and is almost like reading a paper based book.  Well, once I make my decision and jump into the 21st century of book reading I will update this blog post with the choice I made.  So what book reader do you have?  And what do you like about it?

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One thought on “eBook Reader: Kindle vs iPad

  1. I’ve got the small Kindle 2, and I completely agree with your assessment. However, while the 6" screen is great for novels, it’s not so hot for technical PDF’s – you have to switch to landscape mode and view the PDF half-a-page at a time, and even then the text can be too small. If you plan to read a lot of technical books in PDF form, you might want to consider the Kindle DX.

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