Kindle is iPad for those who use their imaginations

This comment about the Kindle and the iPad from Danny is so hilarious (and perhaps true) it’s worth highlighting -

I call a Kindle an iPad for those who use their imaginations.

It seems that the only books worth reading on the iPad are the ones that are animated… and not too long.

Amazon should adopt it as their new marketing slogan.

Danny comments at NewsWeek’s rather bland ‘press release pretending to be an article’ article titled Why the iPad hasn’t killed the Kindle. The only thing exciting about the article is its title.  One thing it does reveal is that Amazon’s ‘Kindle sales growth rate has tripled’ press release did convince people the Kindle isn’t dying out.

Let’s get back to our comment.

Is the Kindle really iPad for people who use their imaginations?

Well, there are a few things that are pretty clear about the iPad -

  1. iPad is a device meant for consumption.  
  2. iPad is focused on games and video and TV and surfing and entertainment.
  3. One of the few things involving imagination on the iPad is reading and the iPad, contrary to claims, isn’t exactly tailored to encourage long-form reading. So, most people won’t be reading on the iPad, and the ones who do won’t be reading as much as they would on a dedicated ebook reader.
  4. Steve Jobs has put a lot of focus on Winnie the Pooh and reading in color. Perhaps he feels that’s what reading is about.
  5. iPad isn’t very good for creating things or doing things yourself. It’s tailored towards ‘consumption’ type activities and relatively mindless apps – You could argue that it almost encourages people to not think too much.

There just aren’t that many things involving imagination on the iPad. You could point to the 6,000 or 10,000 iPad specific apps or the 200,000 iPhone apps – However, there are very few that have to do with people using their imaginations. Most are relatively mindless. They are basically apps that let people pass the time without having to exercise their minds too much (or to be precise – at all). Someone else has already done the imagining and iPad owners just sit back and watch as spectators.

There’s obviously great demand for a device that lets people turn off their brains – There have been 3.3 million iPads sold.

However, it doesn’t really seem like those people are exercising their imaginations. They just seem to be giving their imaginations and their minds a break – No?

Playing Devil’s Advocate

Perhaps the iPad does exercise the imagination.

What are some things that are relatively positive (in terms of exercising users’ imaginations)?

Reading, word games (perhaps), a few interesting puzzle games. Perhaps Games do. You could make a case for comics. There’s always reading on Wikipedia – though that’s factual and not necessary what we’re looking for. Surfing might be good if you’re reading lots of intelligent posts and articles. News probably isn’t very imagination-positive.

You know what – it’s not that easy.

It takes too much imagination to imagine the iPad as being good for the imagination

My head’s beginning to hurt a little bit from trying to put a positive spin on all the apps on the iPad that have been wasting my time and all the things that are wasting people’s time.

It’s hard to argue that games are exercising the imagination – However, people who makes games and those in love with gaming will argue voraciously. All they do is try to get you addicted so you’ll buy the paid version or buy add-ons.

The gold standard of the App Store is currently Angry Birds and whatever part of the imagination it’s exercising is lost on me. You could really stretch it and claim that it’s teaching physics and angles – but it’s nothing 5 to 10 minutes of reading a geometry textbook won’t teach you. And that game has 137 levels – People are spending tens of hours on it.

There aren’t really that many education apps and the book apps are pretty humdrum – a lot of the Top 100 book apps are comics and who knows how comics compare with books when it comes to using our imaginations. Comics may or may not be good for the imagination.

What about productivity apps – Well, how much imagination could making a ToDo list take? Not sure many people use a To Do list on their iPad. You have to imagine it would be a rather unique ToDo list -

To Do:

Watch YouTube – Brain expanding video on cats jumping into walls.
Check Facebook – Exercise Imagination on how to make my boring day into an exciting status update.
Play Exciting New Game – Master geometry by throwing birds into pigs and blowing them up.
Watch Jersey Shore – Expand social skills and learn how to fist pump like a champ.
Farm on Farmville for iPad – OMG. Now I can farm from bed and harvest my crops every 4 hours without having to turn on the lights.

It’s hard to play devil’s advocate because everyone talks about using the iPad as a living room computer to read email and to check Facebook. They talk about watching YouTube videos and TV shows and reading the news. None of those things seem particularly imaginative.

Even if they read a book a month they’re spending 10 to 20 times that amount of time on non-imaginative things. With the Kindle most of their free time would go into books.

It almost seems like a dichotomy – What people say the iPad’s good uses are; What people actually use it for. The argument will be – Just because people aren’t using it for things that exercise their imagination doesn’t mean it’s not good for the imagination. However, the question is not what’s possible with the iPad. The real question is -

What things does the iPad encourage users to do? Is the iPad causing people to use their imagination more or less?

The answer to that is pretty clear. iPad specializes in video, TV, games, entertainment, and none of those is exercising anyone’s imagination. Which brings us back to Danny’s comment -

I call a Kindle an iPad for those who use their imaginations.

It’s pretty true and you could probably add ‘those who want to read more books’, ‘those who want to become smarter’, and a few other things to that list.

2 Responses

  1. Good article, as always. However, I would be wary of degrading games in general, as to do such would be to degrade the mediums which make them up–film, graphical art, music, storytelling, etc. Though, this does come from the angle of one who looks at game as an art medium itself; and in my case as a Nintendo purist, doubly so for innovation, interaction, and the encouragement of imagination perhaps as much as books have, educating players not in the way of words, but of simulative idea. Furthermore, one must be wary of oversimplifying games, as many come to mind in recent years that are not only profitable for mental acuity, but even physical. (Though, again, I see this from the angle of Nintendo whose innovative platforms have only just allowed titles such as these to emerge, constantly redefining the nature of games and what they can do.) And even then, I believe game-design is still quite in its infancy.

    But like I said, this comes from a ‘game as art’ mentality which only dedicated consoles (handheld or otherwise) can effectively achieve. I have every reason to believe that the games released for i-whatevers are almost completely geared towards addiction and senseless instant-gratifications. In fact, I have yet to see anyone use an i-whatever otherwise. (Though this is not to say there aren’t game-developers with the same destructive mentality in the video game industry, of course. Only that I believe Nintendo to be redefining the medium to eventually make them the exception and not the rule.)

    In my nutshell: The iPad is a multimedia device,
    the Kindle a learning device.

    • You’re right. Those definitions are very precise.

      I agree that games are art. However, you need a dedicated console or a high power PC to access those.
      The iPhone just has games as casual entertainment.

      The iPhone is the dream device for dilettantes.

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