Since my friends know I am a bit of an early adopter, the main question I have been getting during the holiday season is “should I buy my “husband / wife / child / best friend / Mistress / pool boy” a Kindle or an iPad?
I suspect your Mistress or pool boy would prefer cash or an easily marketable trinket, but for the other significant others in your life I am happy to offer my somewhat educated advice. My caveats…. I own stock in both Apple and Amazon, so I have no financial motivation. And I have owned both devices almost since they were released, so I have some first-hand experience. I still use both, for different reasons detailed below.
First understand that while you can read books and periodicals on both devices, they are certainly not created equal. Here are the big differences:
The iPad – While the Apple iPad is much more expensive (it runs $499 to $829 depending on memory size and features, versus $139 to $189 for the Kindle) it is essentially a multi-function tablet PC. It combines many of the best attributes of a book reader with a really convenient device to send and receive e mail, surf the web, keep a calendar, and watch video. While it would not be a full replacement for a laptop for most people, for me it is an occasional replacement on short trips. It starts up fast, so in the morning it is a great device to quickly check your e mail, and it is easier to respond on it because the keyboard is so much larger than on a phone. There are thousands of Aps like you use on your cell phone that can be downloaded to the iPad, so it has many of the attributes of a smart phone, except you can’t make phone calls, and many new Aps are developed specifically for the iPad, with many new ones introduced every day. But since the screen is much larger than a phone it is much better for many Aps. For instance, the iPad is a great device to play games on. A few of my other favorite Aps for the iPad:
- Netflix. When I travel and stay in a hotel with broadband. I stream movies on my iPad from my Netflix account. It works great and the screen looks terrific, and I save those Spectravision charges. Also, when my wife is sleeping and I still want to watch a little TV it is a great little device.
- NPR. I love public radio, and again when I travel I can stream Oregon Public Broadcasting so it seems like I’ve never left home (except for the unfamiliar woman cleaning my room). The speakers on the iPad sound good for their size.
- Newspaper Aps. I get The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, AP, and The New York Times on my iPad, and it is incredibly convenient and easy to read. USA Today and AP are free, the Times has a free and a paid version, and there is a monthly charge for The Wall Street Journal.
- The Kindle Ap. While I love my iPad, I prefer to buy my books from Amazon as opposed to from Apple. Amazon offers a free Ap for the iPad (and for most mobile devices) that allows you to buy books on Amazon and send them to your iPad. The great thing about buying from Amazon is that you can share books with everyone on your account. So for instance, when I buy a book, my account is linked to my wife’s Kindle and her iPad, as well as my Kindle, iPad, and my smart phone, so the book is sent to five devices to be read at our convenience, but we are only charged for one download.
My wife particularly likes the cooking Aps. She can watch videos and read recipes easily in the kitchen with an optional cover for the iPad that props up nicely on the kitchen counter.
So what’s wrong with the iPad? Well, the only problem I have discovered is that the computer-style screen is not readable in the sun. So if you are looking for the ultimate beach or poolside reader, go immediately to the Kindle – otherwise if you have the budget, this is a great full functioned device.
The Kindle – Amazon started the huge digital book reader craze with their iconic Kindle, and it is still a wonderful option if you are primarily interested in a book reader. It is smaller, lighter, and less fragile than the iPad. It is available in a less expensive unit that downloads via Wi-Fi, or for $50 more a combination Wi-Fi / 3G unit. For most people the less expensive Wi-Fi model is fine, since you typically just download books and don’t use it as a streaming device like the iPad. The Kindle will even read the book to you (albeit not in a seamless manner). My friend Milt listens to his while he drives.
There is also a big model available, the DX, which carries a price of $379 if you want the uber screen. The DX screen is 3.7 inches larger so it feels more like reading a newspaper, but it also weighs more than twice as much and is too big for most people.
The bottom line – If you are just a reader, or read outside a lot, the Kindle is the best choice. If you want a handheld entertainment device that is part computer, part television, and a great reader, the iPad is for you. For either, buy your books from Amazon and use their Ap as the reader on the iPad.