iPad vs. Kindle

Lately there has been a lot of discussion in the media, online, and in Amazon’s advertisements comparing the iPad to the Kindle. So which should you get? It seems that most people have been mislead, not realizing that these products are not competitors at all. Just like choosing between tennis shoes and sandals or between a mini-van and a sedan, you may very well want both or you may want neither. Both products seem superficially similar: They are both flat tablet-like devices that show you something on a display. However, that’s about as far as the similarities go. Anything I would want to do on an iPad I would not want to do (or could not do) on a Kindle, and anything I would want to do on a Kindle I would not want to do on an iPad.

The Kindle (or the Nook, or Sony Reader, or other devices with e-ink technology) is fantastic for reading books. That’s it. But it’s an amazing book reader. E-ink technology is nothing like a typical computer screen. It looks like paper. When you press a button to change the page the device turns on, rewrites the electronic ink, shuts down, and then waits for your next command. It’s more closely related to the Magna Doodle than a computer screen. The screen consists of thousands of tiny bubbles filled with metal filaments. Tiny electromagents pull the filaments toward the back of the bubble to turn it white or push the filiments to the front of the bubble to make the bubble turn black. This only takes a fraction of a second, so it’s fine for reading a book one page at a time but it’s painful for flipping through a reference book and nearly impossible for watching a video (but the technology is getting faster all the time). Because power is only required to turn a page, the battery will typically last through reading a few books.

The iPad is ok for reading books, but the glossy screen can be difficult to read outdoors, the backlight can burn through your battery quickly, and your arms might get tired holding your iPad up in bed. However, it’s a speedy little computer with a display that is great for consuming multimedia content, reading full-color magazines, browsing the web, playing games, and flipping through reference books and PDFs.

Amazon does have a Kindle app for many devices such as iPhone, iPad, Android and computers, allowing you to read your purchases on multiple devices. Your bookmarks and highlights will keep in sync so you can use whatever device is most convenient to you at the time.

Last fall Amazon released the Kindle Fire which is not an e-book reader despite the similar name. The Fire is a tablet computer that is attempting to compete with the iPad.