Mark Terry

Sunday, July 04, 2010

iPad Versus Amazon Kindle: Initial Impressions

July 4, 2010
In my house we now have an iPad and a Kindle. The iPad was initially bought with the idea that we'd all use it, but primarily Leanne would use it. It has become about 99% Leanne with the remaining 0.9% split between the kids with me about 0.1% of the time. Leanne uses it for everything--email, watching movies, playing solitaire (yeah, I know, a very expensive deck of cards), an e-reader, for NPR, USA Today, CNN, USA Today. I thought she would probably be the ideal user and she probably is. She doesn't create content, she uses content.

Most of the surfing things and video watching I can do on my 15-inch MacBook Pro, plus I can actually work on it.

So with that in mind, although I had been saving up for an iPad of my own (and probably still am), when the prices dropped significantly for the Kindle, pretty much at the same time that I signed a contract for a $15,000 gig and finished up another one for the same price, I thought, "Well, let's get a Kindle and see for yourself what the future of the e-book revolution is going to be."

So, with both on hand, both having been used, here are initial impressions.

The iPad is a Ferrari. The Kindle is a Yugo.

When you first get your hands on them, you realize the iPad is a typical Apple product--beautifully designed with human beings in mind. It has an astonishing feel, the processor is blazingly fast, the color screen pops, and the touch-screen is both cool, fun, and responsive.

Initially the Kindle feels like a piece of junk. I'm sorry, Amazon, but it's true. Pull it out of the box and think: "I just paid almost $200 for something that seems junkier than an Etch-A-Sketch." It seems slapped together. The buttons are ugly and small and the design, at least at first, seems stupid. Definitely not intuitive, whereas the iPad is all about intuitive.

Now, I have not read a book all the way through on the iPad yet, although I have read significant chunks, both on the Kindle app on the iPad and on the iBookstore. Impressions here, and these are not first impressions, but a little lengthier--the iBookstore has a long way to go. I don't like the way its search function works or looks and it doesn't have the depth of Amazon. On the other hand, the reading interface for the iBookstore is awesome. You turn the pages, just like you would with a paper book. Yes, there's glare on the screen if you're sitting in the sun.

Now, I have read an entire book on the Kindle. I immediately ordered three. The three I ordered were: Magickeepers: The Pyramid of Souls by Erica Kirov; 206 Bones by Kathy Reichs; 9 Scorpions by Paul Levine.

And just for the record, I'm particularly pleased by 9 Scorpions. I'm a huge fan of Paul Levine's books, but I missed 9 Scorpions and it went out of print, but he brought it back for the low, low price of $2.99, as well as his earlier Jake Lassiter novels, which are tres excellente!

Anyway, I read Erica's book this weekend on the Kindle and found that the Kindle reading experience is terrific. Once you figure out which buttons to push (except for once leaning on them accidentally and having to figure out where I was in the book), it's a terrific reading experience. It's lightweight, the e-Ink technology is very easy on the eyes, and the damned thing makes it way too freakin' easy to buy books. I'm going to have to be careful I don't go broke buying every book that comes to mind.


Well, let me say that I expect to have slightly more nuanced impressions over time. And let me say that I'm still saving up for an iPad. It's a luxury item for sure (so is a Kindle, as far as I can tell), but a great one that has a coolness factor that the Kindle can't come close to matching. However, the low-end iPad goes for over $500 and I'm going to want one that has 3G capabilities so I can use it when I'm not near a wi-fi hotspot when I'm traveling. The Kindle currently runs $189.

That said, all the Kindle does is be an e-reader. Which, for my "needs," if that's the right word, is wildly sufficient.

The iPad, however, allows me to do a million things, most of which I can already do on my laptop, which I take with me whenever I travel anyway, except for quick weekend trips (and even sometimes then, too). Work rarely gets very far away from me and so the iPad probably doesn't give me anything I don't already have, particularly now that I own a Kindle. But for people like Leanne for whom a laptop is overkill, the iPad is pretty much a revolution.

Which brings up perhaps the most annoying thing I find about using the iPad as an e-reader--there are too many distractions. Start reading a book on the iPad and it's not long before you think, "hmm, what's going on on Facebook..." and you pop on the Safari browser; or check the weather report; or the time; or YouTube; or whatever games you have on the thing; or whatever movies you've downloaded, or what movies are instantly available to stream on the NetFlix app.... Using the iPad as an e-reader, for me (and my son Ian first mentioned this) is a little bit like trying to read while sitting in an amusement park--there are a hell of a lot of shiny and exciting distractions right there at your fingertips. I don't need to read, I've got the whole freakin' universe right here in my lap!

One thing I don't much like about the Kindle is the black-and-white. Shopping on the Kindle, all that cover art--black and white and you can barely see it. What a waste. I'm not going to bother with magazines on it--the iPad is totally awesome for magazines and comic books and graphic novels. My kids both use the Marvel comics app and there's a magazine app I've used, too. I do, however, receive 5 or 6 newsletters every month that I can also get as PDFs and I plan to load those onto the Kindle in hopes I'll actually keep up on reading them.

For just an e-reader the iPad is total overkill (and overpriced). But as I said, the iPad isn't really an e-reader, it's a slate computer that functions quite well as an e-reader. (By the way, last time I was in the Apple store swapping out my dead iPhone, I tried an iPad that has iWork, the Apple version of Microsoft Office. I used Pages, which is roughly equivalent to Word. I've written novels on Pages and it's very, very similar to Office. On the iPad, I couldn't type a complete sentence using the virtual keyboard that didn't come out as gibberish. You can use a wireless bluetooth keyboard with the iPad, but if you're going to go to all that fuss, why not travel with a laptop?).

I warmed up significantly to the Kindle. It's light, the e-ink is great and the price is getting competitive.

So what am I reading next?


Blogger Natasha Fondren said...

Love the amusement part comparison! It's true. I'd never get reading done if it weren't for the Kindle. I love that it forces me to do just one thing. I still jump over to the web browser now and then, but it's perfectly clunky enough that I'm only there for a few minutes.

The iPad does look shiny and fun, though. I think you have to be an iTouch/iPhone/Apple person to call it an intuitive interface, though. When I tried one in the store I was about ready to throw the thing across the aisle.

I'm thinking about getting an iPad and scanning all my music into it. There's an app that has the ability to make notes on the music. I don't know how I'd ever have the time t do all that scanning, though. I'd sure like to have it done, but I probably couldn't afford it!

Is it possible to... write on the iPad, or would that be very clunky? I like your note about content user vs. creator. I'm thinking maybe Glenn should get an iPad instead of a new laptop, when it comes time for that.

11:42 AM  
Blogger Stephen Parrish said...

Thanks. This is great.

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Mike Dennis said...

Mark, thanks for this valuable comparison report. I too am considering an ereader, and am torn between all the selections out there (I've even heard good things about Sony's ereader), but yours told me what I wanted to know about iPad and Kindle, the two big boys.

12:43 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Natasha--well, I have an iPhone & the iPad is the same interface.

Is it possible to write on the iPad? Well, I don't think so. David Hewson doesn't think so. But Allison Brennan is going to try it using Pages and Tobias Buckell probably already is, although based on what I know of Tobey he's probably doing it through some online Google app rather than on pages. I found the virtual keyboard to be too clunky for my fingers. Part of that is my big fingers and part of it might be that I'm a fast touch-typer. I imagine I'd adapt, but when I tried it at the Apple store it was a mess.

If Glenn uses a laptop like Leanne does--surfing, email, some other content-use things like games or even basic accounting type things--then the iPad may very well be the way to go. No USB port though.

2:40 PM  
Blogger Jon VanZile said...

Thanks. I haven't made the plunge yet (I'm still reading Kindle books on my iMac app). This is helpful.

7:12 AM  
Blogger The Thriller Librarian said...

It's the amusement park distraction (I call it the ADD factor) that keeps me from taking the plunge with the iPad. I want my e-reader to be as close as possible to a traditional reading experience. I feel like I'm "alone" with my book when reading it on the Kindle. I am, however, severely bummed that I bought it before the price went down. I've also become quite the sample junkie. I browse through the Kindle store, constantly downloading the reading samples. And the freebies.

10:29 AM  

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