Four weeks ago, I wrote a quick review about my new Kindle, the electronic book reader from Amazon, and explained why I chose it over the popular iPad. The price was the biggest factor at the time, with my 6″ Kindle costing about a quarter of the cost for an entry-level iPad. The size was also more convenient — about the same dimensions as a trade paperback book, it fits a little easier in coat pockets and in the hand while going about town. For a man in his late forties and suffering from very mild presbyopia, the lack of backlighting on the screen makes it a little easier to read for longer periods of time without tiring my eyes. I’ve been very happy with the Kindle and my decision.
However, thanks to an incentive program at our company, both AP and I got our own iPads this past week, the first time I have ever owned an Apple product (my father bought an Apple IIe when I was 17, my only real exposure to the Apple world). I’ve had a chance to get a few hours in with my new device, much to the amusement and consternation of the First Mate, and I’m impressed. But do I now regret my initial decision?
Actually, I’m glad I have both — and I think I’ll use both in the future, too. I’ve certainly had plenty of opportunity to use both now as book readers, and each has its own advantages. I covered the Kindle’s advantages in my earlier post, so I’ll focus mainly on the iPad. The iPad is much more flexible than the Kindle in that the iPad has applications for not just iBooks but also Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook libraries as well. Amazon coordinates Kindle purchases across both devices; I can pick up a book on the iPad where I left off on the Kindle, and vice versa, so switching between devices is effortless, as long as you have an Internet connection. (Note, though, that not all of the newspaper and magazine subscriptions will transfer to the iPad from the Kindle store.) The iPad’s interface is closer to the look and feel of an actual book, right down to turning the pages. However, while the bright white page presentation is more aesthetically pleasing, it is harder on the eyes for lengthy book reading, and the weight and size of the iPad is not quite as comfortable in the hand in its Apple cover as the Kindle is with the Amazon case, both purchased separately and similarly priced.
But the iPad is a great deal more than an e-book device, although it is something a little shy of a laptop or notebook computer. The tablet is akin to a large smartphone in that it runs applications downloaded through the Internet, or iTunes while connected to another computer (either PC or Mac works). Its large presentation and ability to reposition from landscape to portrait orientation immediately gives it great flexibility for entertainment applications like Netflix or social-media apps like Tweetdeck. There are plenty of free applications, and most of the others are priced in the manner of the smartphone market — low prices designed to attract customers. I purchased NFL HD 2011 just for fun, even though I usually stink at sports games on Wii and other systems, and it’s impressive how detailed and interactive the application was for just $7.99.
How about work? It does have a native browser, Safari, which allows me to access my work websites and conduct some level of business, as well as e-mail which doesn’t work quite as well as I’d like in managing my inboxes while away from my main computer at home. The apps market has several feed readers for keeping up with news sources. I bought the Bluetooth wireless keyboard to see if I could make this a remote work station, and it’s possible — but my laptop is almost the same weight and dimensions, and much more suited for that kind of work.
The iPad is an excellent combination of book reader, entertainment center, and limited productivity assistant, as well as a great way to run social media applications for Facebook and Twitter. For those with the means to buy it, the iPad will probably be all anyone needs. For those looking primarily for just a book reader or needing a lower cost entry into the reader market, as well as those that either need to avoid the backlighting while reading or wanting to avoid the distractions of easily-accessed entertainment to get reading accomplished, the Kindle is an excellent choice.
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