For Reading: Kindle > Kindle Fire > iPad

Just finished reading The Hunger Games on Kindle Fire.

Based on the limited experience of reading that one book on Kindle Fire, a few books on iPad, and lots of books on Kindles, here are my thoughts.

Note: I have read quite a few books on Nook Color (another 7″ reading tablet, which happens to be very similar to Kindle Fire).

Kindle is by far the best device for reading books

Why is Kindle better than Kindle Fire?

Kindle’s eInk screen is optimized for reading. The eInk really is better than LCDs. It does not tire your eyes (which Kindle Fire does, to a noticeable amount). It does not tire your hands (which Kindle Fire does, a bit).

If a person had both, and didn’t have to read in the dark, the person would almost always pick the Kindle for reading.

Things like size and weight are not things you should gloss over. If you like to read without resting the book on something, then Kindle is the best option because it is very compact and light. Kindle Fire is manageable but iPad isn’t. With iPad, you absolutely must rest it on something because it’s just too heavy for one-handed reading and it turns into a work-out if you do two-handed reading.

Kindle Fire provides a good reading experience, but nothing like the Kindle

If we strip away all our strong feelings of love and belonging, and look at just the quality of reading experience, then a few things stand out -

  1. Kindle Fire is good for reading.
  2. The LCD screen isn’t as good as eInk. It does tire the eyes.
  3. The IPS LCD screen isn’t very readable in sunlight. By ‘isn’t very’ we mean ‘basically isn’t’.
  4. The weight is a bit much – you’ll have to switch hands after half an hour or so. Or you’ll have to get something to rest it against.
  5. The size is very good. Not as great as Kindle but still good. This is a BIG advantage of 7″ Tablets over 10″ and even 8.9″ Tablets. 7″ is very close to a paperback and manageable.
  6. Kindle Fire is very good for night reading – after you dial down the brightness.
  7. Kindle Fire’s size and weight and wieldiness (ability to handle it easily) make it considerably better than iPad for reading. The mainstream press can throw all the ‘animated page turn’ nonsense it wants and claim iPad is better for reading than Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet – However, the size and weight of the 7″ Tablets are far more suited to reading.

My theory of there being LCD compatible people and LCD incompatible people seems weaker and weaker. I think it has more to do with people being in love with their device and not being willing to admit that eInk really is better for reading. OR there are just people who use a different definition of reading (one book a year) to claim LCD devices are as good for reading.

After now owning an iPhone, a Nook Color, and an iPad for over a year each, and reading quite a few books on each, it just seems to me that the feeling of ‘Tablets and Smartphones are so pretty and lovable’ is really the root cause of all the ‘LCD is as good as eInk’ claims.

You can see it in extreme effect in people who claim – LCD is fine for reading in sunlight. Just find the shade. Just dial down the brightness.

LCD compatible people = People who love their devices so much they morph LCD compatibility into themselves. A sort of placebo effect.

For anyone who claims that LCDs are just as readable as eInk:

Q1: Do you love your LCD device? Are you very fond of it?

Q2: What about the Kindle you played with for 5 minutes before dismissing it? Does it hold any more meaning for you than a hole in the wall?

That right there is why LCD seems as good to you as eInk. Everyone who owns and uses BOTH a Kindle and a Tablet (Kindle Fire, Nook Color, iPad) for a reasonable period of time (6 months) can attest to the fact that eInk really is better for reading.

Your eyes and your hands can attest to it too – ask them right after you’ve read a book on a LCD tablet. Ironically, the situation in which an LCD outshines a Kindle (reading at night) is the situation that most hurts your eyes and body (due to your sleep patterns being affected and due to the huge contrast between the LCD screen and the dark environment).

iPad isn’t really suited for reading

Three reasons:

  1. LCD isn’t as good as eInk. It’s not even close. This includes things like tiring the eyes and not being readable in sunlight.
  2. The size isn’t very convenient. A 10″ Tablet is quite a bit larger than a paperback. That makes it unwieldy and a horror if you’re reading a book (as opposed to 10 minute snippets of reading between other things).
  3. The weight is a real pain. You can always rest it against something and claim the weight isn’t an issue. But that introduces newer problems (reading in something other than your favorite reading positions, what it does to your neck, the reading distance becoming unoptimal). Bottom line: If you can’t hold your eBook Reader in your hands while reading, that’s a good hint it isn’t really an eBook Reader.

There are lots of redeeming qualities for the iPad. The first few are things related to reading:

  1. It can be read on at night. Note: So can the 7″ Tablets and they eliminate the weight and unwieldiness problems.
  2. It has Color. This is admittedly important for some categories of books.
  3. You can get books from any store. Note: Kindle Fire allows this by letting you sideload apps from other sources. Not as convenient, but doable.

There are also things unrelated to reading: It’s great for movies, it has a bigger screen, it has a touch screen, and so forth.

Qualities unrelated to reading are NOT a killer reason to buy an iPad for reading. This is something that people who don’t read much don’t seem to get. You aren’t going to buy an umbrella if you’re looking for a pair of pants just because an umbrella is rain-proof.

If you’re looking for a device for reading – There’s no competition. Kindle is far better than iPad, and it is clearly better than Kindle Fire.

Note: Kindle and Nook are pretty close. Nook Touch (with eInk) is going to be available on sale for $79 on Black Friday. You might want to take a look.

If you own an iPad, don’t despair – You can get a Kindle for $79, or you can think yourself into being LCD compatible. Do keep in mind that the cost on your eyes and neck and wrists might not be something you’ll be able to wish away. The cost on eyes part also holds for Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet.

If you’re choosing between Kindle and Kindle Fire, it becomes really interesting. The weight and unwieldiness problems are gone with 7″ Tablets like Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet. So it comes down to how much you value reading. If your main reason for buying a Kindle Fire is reading, then my very strong recommendation would be to buy a Kindle 3 instead (the one with the keyboard). If your main use of the device will be for reading, then it makes sense to get the device that is the very best for reading.

For Reading: Kindle >> Kindle Fire >> iPad. For Reading: eInk >>>> LCD.

14 Responses

  1. You write…

    “Kindle is by far the best device for reading books…”

    That is my experience as well.

    Amazon seems to want to compete in the tablet market… not really Amazon’s strength, ignores the loyalties they have cultivated among their customers, and… according to some… will seriously lower their profitability.

    Too bad!

  2. Thanks for all that pertinent info.

    So, what did you think of The Hunger Games? I haven’t read it yet but have been told the series is heavily marketed to middle schoolers here in the States.

    • I really liked it DESPITE all the cliches (girl has to decide between two boys, girl has no idea of her emotions, that sort of stuff).

      It’s well written. It’s also a HUGE relief that it’s a complete story in itself. It’s part of a series and at the same time it’s a full story in itself.

      I really should write a review at some point of time. It’s a book worth reading.

  3. I love my HTC EVO and read on it constantly. I am a book a week reader, not a book a year type. It’s my go-to device for reading because I always have it. Make me an eInk reader that makes phone calls and fits on my waist and I’ll switch.

    • I’m a book a day reader and my KK fits my needs perfectly. I think the most important consideration for anyone should be that it does what they want/need it to do.

      I had a doctor’s appointment the other day. I was reading on my Kindle when he came into the room. The first five minutes were spent answering his questions about the kindle. He said that he is getting one for Christmas and he is only getting a basic one as he wants it simply for reading.

      Hmmm. Can a reader really be called a reader if it makes phone calls?

  4. I don’t share your anti-Apple prejudice, and I still agree with the point you’re making here. The only time I read books on my iPad is when I want to check ePUB formatting. I mostly use Stanza for that.

    An eInk-based Kindle or Nook is a far better choice than an LCD-based anything for heavy reading.

  5. I am a bit of an Apple fan, as I think we’ve established before, but this is a conclusion I entirely agree with, with one caveat: that we are talking about reading text-only books, mostly fiction, perhaps with the occasional b/w illustration. The mass-market paperback market essentially.

    The iPad (the first version more so than the 2) is indeed too heavy, still, for comfortable long-term reading. And anyone who buys an LCD tablet *just* to read that type of book is making the wrong choice. Once you move into more niche types of books, however, the order can change and indeed reverse. For reading comic books, for instance, I would argue that the iPad is by far the best one of the three, and the Kindles (the real ones) the worst, with the Fire in the middle.

    A similar dynamic applies to for instance textbooks, scientific publications and magazines. The Fire and iPad are probably closer on those categories, but even so the screen which is twice as big is a major factor. $300 worth, maybe not, but that is something anyone will have to decide for themselves.

    I can tell you that if and when the iPad 3 comes out with a 2048×1536 Retina-type display, I will be buying one — and I expect that it will improve reading considerably. I have seen both the 3G/3GS and 4/4S iPhone displays in the Kindle app, and it makes a *huge* difference. On the iPad, the current display has lower pixel density than the 3G (as will the new one compared to the 4), so I would expect the difference to be even larger.

    It won’t be replacing my Real Kindle, and for 80-100 I’d still recommend a real Kindle as an accessory for any iPad owner who is a reader — but for the categories of reading in which the iPad is already the winner, it will extend the lead by a lot. And for the type of reading in which it doesn’t win — it will shorten the gap enough that if you’re a low volume reader you could get away with it.

    (Typed on my iPad — this is slightly more text than the onscreen keyboard is really good for ;) )

  6. A semi-related question: have you received your Kindle Touch yet, and do you know yet when you are planning to release the Touch-v-KK-v-K4 review yet?

    • Yes, I have the touch with me. It’s pretty good though a few things like the keyboard are driving me nuts. Not the use of it but the fact that they didn’t smooth the edges of the buttons. It’s the shoddiest looking keyboard ever. I will add a comparison review.

  7. First, thanks for acknowledging that weight and size matters. This was my cause from the beginning and not many on this blog understood it. It is vital for reading anywhere and anytime.

    Now, it is not clear what you mean as “Kindle”.

    Third, neither Amazon nor anyone else has focused on after-use or during-use breakdown of 3G and WIFI for Kindle, Kindle T and Kindle KK. These are three different devices. It would be good to have a graphic of 3G and WIFI for all these three devices.

    • By Kindle I mean eInk Kindles.

      I consider the Kindle 3 (Kindle Keyboard) to be the best and assume that. Kindle 4 is decent but the lack of a keyboard gets in the way sometimes. The Kindle Touch I don’t have enough experience with.

  8. Last night at a pre-Thanksgiving dinner I played with the iPad, Kindle Fire and the Samsung Galaxy 10″. They are all great devices but for reading, I love the Kindle 3G the most. The crisp clear words on “paper” is easy on my eyes and the device is light enough for me to hold comfortably for an extended period of time.

    The Fire is a great device but I think it is a bit on the heavy side for reading. The device is fast and the screen is clear. I think it would be good for email/browsing.

    The iPad and Samsung are almost the same to me. The iPad is lighter and thinner. I don’t think I would like to read on them because they are just too big to hold comfortably.

    If only Amazon would come out with the e-ink/IPS hybrid Kindle!

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