MacSparky: Thoughts on iPad v. Kindle for book reading

Posted on by Mike Evans

Author: David Sparks 


I used a Kindle for two years. As of today, I’ve been using my iPad for two weeks. I thought I’d share some initial thoughts and impressions between the two units.

User Interface

The iPad interface is intuitive and gorgeous. The Kindle interface can’t compete. While Amazon has made strides, its lack of user interface experience combined with the lack of touchscreen prevent it from matching the iPad. Once you get in the process of actual reading on the Kindle, the interface is fine. Click a button, turn the page. It is everything else that feels like pulling teeth compared to the iPad

About the Screens

There is a lot talk about how much better the Kindle is in direct sunlight. All of it is true. The idea that everyone is bringing their electronic devices to the beech sort of baffles me. I can’t imagine bringing my iPad or Kindle to a place where sand always gets in everything. Reading on a park bench or in the backyard however is a different story. Outside on a sunny day is right in E-Ink’s wheelhouse.

The Kindle simply doesn’t work in the dark. iPad, however, is very low light friendly. The built in brightness slider in iBooks was a stroke of genius. For daily use, both devices look great, but different. The full color screen of the iPad trumps the text clarity of the Kindle in my opinion but to each his own.

The Weight

The iPad a significantly heavier than the Kindle. This could be an issue for some people. If you are used to reading for long stretches holding your book (or Kindle) in front of you, this will be difficult with an iPad. Having used the iPad for several weeks, the weight has not been an problem for me although I have found myself reading it on my side in bed, as opposed to holding it up in the air while laying on my back. I generally read books laying on a table so your mileage may vary on this point. Since my transitions is from a generation 1 Kindle (which had a sharp corner in the lower left side that always dug into my palm), the easier form factor trumps the weight.

The Battery Life

The Kindle runs for days. Because the battery lasts so long, I often forget to charge it and am shocked when I find my Kindle battery is drained. If you are going somewhere without power for several days, the Kindle can keep you occupied. The backlit iPad will not compete with the Kindle battery. However, it certainly holds its own often lasting more than 10 hours in a day. Because I use the iPad as a picture frame at the office (when not working on it) my charge rarely gets below 70%

Unitasker vs. Multitasker

At the end of the day, a comparison between the Kindle and the iPad is not fair. They are entirely different devices. The Kindle is an outstanding book reader. It doesn’t work so well with periodicals (navigation is a pain), and is not much good for anything else, if you like to read books cover to cover, you’ll be happy with the Kindle.

While the iPad is a very capable book reader, it is much more. We are only a few weeks into the iPad and there are already amazing productivity, news, and gaming apps that could never exist on the Kindle. As an example, I use the Instapaper service, a lot. While there are solutions to get your Instapaper documents on a Kindle, they aren’t pretty and they don’t sync. Instapaper on the iPad is, for lack of a better word, luxurious.

Take Away

I’m giving my Kindle to my daughter. Unless you only want to read books in the sun, save an extra month or two and get the whole enchilada.

* This guest post is by David Sparky, editor of His blog is excellent and recommended but, even more, I love his in-depth Mac-centric podcasts, Mac Power Users, which he produces together with Katie Floyd. I'm hooked.

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