iPad vs. Kindle

April 30, 2014Filed under techMarkdown source

I’ve been a happy owner of both a Kindle and an iPad Mini for the last several months, and it occurred to me tonight that I use them very similarly in some ways. Both are primarily reading devices for me. What is different is the kinds of material I read on each.1

My Kindle is a first generation Paperwhite, in fairly good condition. (It has one significant quirk in that it sometimes turns on without the power button being pushed. Alas.) I use it nearly every day right now. I have most of my school books on it, and several of my favorite novels. I’m rereading Patrick Rothfuss’ The Wise Man’s Fear right now, and so I spend a good half a hour a day on the Kindle for that alone. I also get a lot of my seminary reading done on the device.

On the iPad, on the other hand, I read a lot of web pages, nearly all via Instapaper. I had sometimes had Instapaper items delivered to my Kindle, and that worked fairly well, but I much prefer the experience of using the app on the iPad. I opt to do pretty much any technical reading on the device: its screen just works much better for dealing with things like code samples embedded in a blog post—not least because I can scroll easily if I need to! I also do basically all my Bible reading on the iPad. It is far easier to navigate to different parts of the text, switch translations (or original languages!) while keeping my place there on any of the top-tier iPad apps than on the Kindle. And I sometimes read comics on the iPad—something I would not try in a million years on the current Kindle screen!

A friend asked a few months ago if I thought one would obviate the other. Given the qualification that neither is in any sense truly a necessity—we could quite easily get along without either—my answer after several months with both is no. Though the devices are similar in a number of ways, they fit into very different niches. The things I actively enjoy on each are very different. The Kindle is good for much longer-form reading, and its lack of distractions is nice (though I often take advantage of the Do Not Disturb mode on the iPad when I actually want to accomplish things besides talking on social media). The iPad is better for anything with color, for technical documents, and for anything where navigation more complex than one-page-after-another is important. I would not particularly want to read a novel on it, though!

I will be curious to see if the devices converge at some point in the future.2 At present, no technology gives both the responsiveness and gorgeous color of the iPad and the low-contrast, pleasant long-form reading experience offered by the Kindle’s e-ink. If at some point we get a technology that does both, it will be pretty amazing. In the meantime… we still have pretty amazing pieces of technology, and I enjoy them both a lot.

  1. I also use the iPad for a number of other things: App.net and Twitter and so on, Paper, starting some ideas for blog posts, etc. But mainly I read on it!

  2. No, Amazon’s Kindle Fire series of tablets are nothing like that convergence: they are functionally just poor-man’s-iPads hooked into Amazon’s ecosystem. Note that I’m not making a comment about the quality or lack thereof on the devices—only that they’re much reduced in capabilities compared to an iPad or Android (e.g. Nexus 7).