Kindle 3, iPad and specialization for reading

We don’t have the new Kindle 3 shipping yet so will include my experience with both Kindle 2 and Kindle 3 when contrasting Kindle, iPad with respect to their specialization for reading.

You can also check out my complete Kindle vs iPad review (based on Kindle 2).

Kindle 3 , iPad, Specialization - How does Kindle 3′s specialization for reading improve readability over the iPad

There are a few different ways in which Kindle’s specialization for reading will help improve your reading experience.

The eInk Screen

Kindle uses an eInk screen that reads like print on paper. Its reflective so it works in sunlight. It doesn’t tire the eyes because the contrast is very good and there is no backlight to hurt your eyes. The Kindle 3 uses a new generation of eInk called Pearl that has 50% better screen contrast so the gap between Kindle and iPad for readability will increase.

Is eInk really better?

There is a small percentage of the population that can read on LCD without any side effects. Some of them even claim to be able to read on LCDs in direct sunlight. You have to consider how you feel -

Do you prefer eInk? Do LCDs hurt your eyes? What about when reading a book on a LCD screen? Do you want to keep stressing your eyes with backlights and LCDs?   

If one screen has been built specifically to replace paper and another has been built to show movies and video games then the argument that reading will be the same on both is rather flimsy.

Kindle 3, iPad – Focus on reading and reading related features

If you want a device that makes no compromises when it comes to reading the Kindle 3 has a clear advantage. Kindle 3 is giving up on color and touch to ensure readability is excellent. Depending on whether you’re looking for a great reading device or a do-everything device this decision will seem either brilliant or stupid.

You have to contrast the two -

  1. Kindle 3 is a device built from the ground up for reading. 
  2. iPad is a device that was built to bring the the Tablet PC market to life and it’s trying to cover reading as a side project.

If you read once in a while (less than a book a month) then the iPad is good enough. If you read more you probably want a device that is really great for reading.

Also note that Kindle 3 is $189 and Kindle WiFi is just $139 – That’s a lot cheaper than iPad at $489.

The Kindle 3′s focus on reading is evident from its reading related features -

  1. Kindle 3 has up to a month of battery life with wireless off and 10 days with wireless on. iPad has 10 to 12 hours battery life.
  2. Kindle 3 is very light (8.7 ounces) and compact (7.5″ by 4.8″ by 0.335″). iPad is 1.5 pounds and its 10.1″ screen makes it rather large. When it comes to reading the difference manifests in a lot of ways – One-handed reading and even two-handed reading are difficult on the iPad. You have to rest iPad somewhere. iPad is not as portable as Kindle.
  3. Kindle 3 is like a book in that it reflects external light and thus there is no glare and Kindle is readable in bright sunlight. iPad reflects objects and in bright lights turns into a mirror (well, it is multi-purpose). You can read the Kindle in the park or on the beach and pretty much anywhere there’s light. iPad’s backlight makes it great for reading at night but useless whenever there’s sunlight. Bright lights are also a problem since they cause glare and reflections.
  4. Kindle 3 has Text to Speech. Apple is trying to pass off its VoiceOver Accessibility feature as text to speech. It works – however, it also turns buttons into ‘accessible buttons’ and is not very easy to work with.  
  5. The Kindle Store has a lot more books. You can use Kindle for iPad to get Kindle Store books on the iPad too. 
  6. Amazon has a bunch of Kindle Apps that let you read across various devices – PC, Mac, Blackberry, iPhone, iPad, and Android. This is a sign of the focus on reading because Amazon has taken into account that you might not always have access to your Kindle or might prefer a back-lit device at night.  
  7. Free Global 3G wireless with Kindle 3. If you get Kindle 3 (as opposed to Kindle WiFi) you get free 3G access in USA and in 100+ countries. This includes browsing the Kindle Store, buying books, and Internet Access via a basic experimental browser (Internet Access is only for US Kindle owners). Amazon has basically made it easy to shop for books anytime and convenient to use reference features when reading.

iBooks on iPad is one out of tens of thousands of apps - there’s only so far you can go with software when the underlying device itself is not suited to reading.  

The absence of distractions

Apple is trying to kill tens of thousand of birds with one stone.

Reading is just one thing it’s trying to do and whenever you’re reading the other tens of thousands of things are trying to wrest away your attention.

There are quite a few iPad owners who’ve realized this, mentioned that they weren’t reading nearly as much as they thought they would, and bought a Kindle.

A related problem is that iPad prioritizes video games and TV and movies over reading – that means it’s much closer to a portable TV or a portable game console than to a book. If you’re using a device that specializes in something other than reading it’s safe to say the temptation to do other things, which the device does much better, will be much stronger.

Kindle eliminates distractions by being terrible at everything other than reading. You can’t play games except for very basic games and you can’t watch movies at all. You’ll end up spending most of your free time reading books.

Are there disadvantages to the Kindle 3′s specialization for reading

Yes, there are lots of disadvantages -

  1. It’s not good for anything other than reading.
  2. You’ll end up reading more.
  3. There’s no color so books that depend on multi-color illustrations won’t work.
  4. There’s no touchscreen. Not sure how that’s relevant as there are physical keys and a physical keyboard – However, some people feel a touchscreen is important.
  5. You’ll end up buying more books as you’ll be reading more and having a bookstore with 630,000 books in the palm of your hand is very tempting.
  6. The new WebKit browser is supposed to be better – However, the browser will probably still be pretty basic and the 6″ screen is a little small for viewing websites. Note that mobile sites work fine including mobile versions of all the big email providers.
  7. Use of eInk means page turns take around .6 to .7 seconds each. As eInk is evolving this has come down a lot. However, it’s still much slower than LCDs.

The two main disadvantages are that Kindle’s specialization for reading makes it terrible at everything else and that it’s specialization for reading makes it great for reading - you’ll end up reading more books and buying more books than you expect.

Kindle 3, iPad – How big is the difference in readability?

It’s really difficult to quantify how much better Kindle 3 is for reading than iPad – It’s significant enough that if you can afford $139 for a dedicated reading device like the Kindle WiFi you should definitely get one.

We can talk about the qualitative difference between reading on iPad and Kindle 3 -

  • Kindle’s eInk screen is much better to read on. At night you need a reading light so the iPad wins due to convenience and its back-lit screen. For every other lighting condition the Kindle is clearly better.
  • You’ll almost certainly enjoy the reading experience more on the Kindle than on the iPad.
  • There are very few distractions on the Kindle. You are likely to read more books if you buy the Kindle 3. With the iPad you might end up reading very little. Not an issue if you have immaculate will power.
  • iPad lets you carry one device to do lots of things – So though you might not choose it over Kindle at home you might decide to carry it and not the Kindle.
  • Kindle is much lighter and easier to hold so you won’t strain your hands as you would with the iPad. Resting iPad on your knees/lap strains the neck if you read for long stretches.

It comes down to your personal preference and what you believe – If you think reading isn’t important enough to merit a dedicated device then get the iPad. If you want a device that’s great for reading get the Kindle. If your eyes are unaffected by LCD screens the iPad is good for reading. If you believe a device can excel at everything and beat even best of breed devices then perhaps the iPad is right for you.

From my perspective the only viable argument in iPad’s favor is ‘value for money/it can do more than read’ and that was only viable when we were comparing the $259 Kindle 2 with $499 iPads. Now, we have two completely different devices at vastly different price points - It’s an easy decision since only one of them is great for reading.

By introducing Kindle WiFi at $139 and Kindle 3 at $189 Amazon has made the decision automatic - If you read one or more books a month, or read lots of PDFs/documents, then the Kindle 3 is the right choice for you. If not, or if you can read entire books on LCD screens without any discomfort, then get the iPad

Kindle 3, iPad thoughts

Not quite ready to review/compare the Kindle 3 and the iPad so writing a post with Kindle 3, iPad thoughts for Eorse.

Extent of iPad experience: Owned it since launch (US launch). Read lots of books on it. Stopped using it because it was affecting my sleeping patterns (which are already a little messed up).

Extent of Kindle 3 experience: 1 hour with the device, 5-6 pages of notes, lots of time reading user guide and forums and product page. Lots of Kindle 2 experience.  

Kindle 3, iPad – the reading experience

Kindle 3 screen was just like the Kindle 2 screen with better screen contrast and sharper fonts. Compared with the Kindle 2 it felt like it was more than a 50% screen contrast improvement. It’s so light weight that reading will be even easier. Buttons are placed in a way that makes one-handed reading more convenient.

It’s going to be significantly better than the Kindle 2 for reading.

iPad screen is stunning. Having the light lets you read in bed. It did start affecting my sleep so cut out night-time reading. After that there was never a situation where it was preferable over Kindle 2. Then Kindle DX 2 arrived and it was the clear #1 choice. The eInk Pearl screen is just amazing.

Kindle 3, iPad - It’s not a competition

It’s easy to see the $139 Kindle WiFi and $499 iPad WiFi co-existing. It’s hard to subscribe to the theory of -  Get an iPad because it can do more than just read. It’s better to think of it as – If you have the iPad and read a book a month you don’t really need a Kindle. If you read once a week it’s not much to spend $139 on a Kindle WiFi. It’ll be well worth it.

There really shouldn’t be a situation where you have to choose between the two – At $259 for Kindle 2 and $499 for iPad WiFi you can understand someone taking time over which to get. Now, you can either get a 3G iPad for $629 or for $639 ($10 more) you can get iPad WiFi and Kindle WiFi. So maybe AT&T doesn’t get to steal your money – Is that such a bad thing?

Kindle 3 will be MUCH better than iPad for reading during the day, anytime you have lights on, and in sunlight (direct or indirect). iPad will be readable at night. It might also end up being the one device you carry everywhere and you can read on it on the go.

LCD is just as good as eInk is a fallacy. Yes, there is 5% to 10% of the population that isn’t affected. The rest of us are human.

Kindle 3, iPad thoughts – thoughts on Kindle 3 and iPad

Kindle 3 really is Kindle 3.0. It’s beautiful. It’s light – it feels super-light compared to the Kindle 2. Thinner and more compact. $189 for Kindle 3, $139 for Kindle WiFi. 

iPad isn’t really a Kindle Killer. It’s beautiful. It’s too heavy. Having the light at night is so good. It has a good feel to it – it’s a little too big. $499 is expensive. The battery life is stunning for a color screen device.

The Screen (of the Kindle 3). The price is ridiculous (meant this more for the WiFi – it had become obvious when Kindle 2 went out of stock that Kindle 3 would be $189).

The Screen is amazing (for the iPad). It’s cheap for an Apple product. That’s strange – any other company and would have felt ripped off paying $499 for a no-purpose device.

It’s easily the best eReader available (the Kindle 3).

It’s a decent eReader. It’s useful – with the iPad you always feel like the right apps for it haven’t been invented yet. Perhaps a wall painting app or an app that lets you use the iPad as your interface to everything in the real world.  

More words per page. Screen looks oversized since Kindle 3 is so small. Feels much lighter than 8.7 ounces. PDF support is great – notes and highlights are really important. The Lighted Cover is Amazing (in conjunction with quiet page turn buttons it probably solves the reading at night problem for most people).

With the iPad you don’t need the Kindle if your reading is in between other things. If you snack on reading in 10 minute spurts or half an hour at night a few nights a week then you really don’t need Kindle 3. Stick with the iPad.

Thoughts on Kindle 3 after a few days of contemplation

When first saw the Kindle 2 and Kindle 3 side by side thought – the difference is stunning. There’s no comparison.

That feeling is still there. Now, we know around 40% to 50% of the Kindle 3′s improvements are software and should eventually make their way to the Kindle 2. However, the eInk Pearl Screen and graphite case make too much of a difference.

  • Like the Kindle 2 form factor MUCH more than Kindle DX 2 and still prefer reading on Kindle DX 2 because of eInk Pearl and the graphite case.
  • Felt Kindle 3 in graphite didn’t look as good as it would in white and still got kindle graphite for the case.

For reading the combination of eInk Pearl and the graphite case blows away everything else. For iPad we’ll have to see how Retina Display looks on iPad. That’s still 4 months away.

Kindle 3, iPad – Concluding Thoughts

Get an iPad if one or more of the following apply -

  1. You read in short spurts of 10-20 minutes. 
  2. You read around a book a month or less.
  3. You read mostly at night and would prefer not to use a reading light.
  4. You want a device that lets you read and also lets you surf the Internet and play games and watch TV shows.
  5. You are unaffected by LCD screens.

Get the Kindle 3 or a Kindle WiFi if one or more of the following apply -

  1. You read a lot.  
  2. You’d like to read more and waste less time on TV and random Internet surfing.
  3. You don’t like reading on LCDs.
  4. You tend to get distracted and would like something that will let you focus on reading.
  5. You like reading on eInk Pearl (check out the videos at the Kindle DX 2 video page for what eInk Pearl looks like).

The biggest benefit of the Kindle 3 is that you’ll read more. If you like/love to read and wish you could read more the Kindle 3 is it.  

Kindle 3 and iPad result in different things

You have to assess what impact devices have on you.

With the iPad my time was going into playing Chess (which doesn’t even interest me) and reading books at 3 am and playing random games. It was good for reading at night and it was also good for finding other things to do and staying up way too late.

With the Kindle there is reading late into the night but it’s always reading. It’s a different feeling – read that book till 1 am is pretty different from played that game for 4 hours. Reading never really feels like it is a waste. Also, there’s no backlight blasting into your eyes so it doesn’t get tiring or mess up your brain’s sense of what time it is.

The iPad is beautiful for what it is – but it isn’t exactly clear yet. People have figured out how to entertain themselves with it and how to waste time with it. However, we haven’t yet found the perfect application to make it useful (as opposed to cool or trendy or the membership badge for an elite secret society). Hate to say it but that application might be FaceTime (when iPad 2 gets a camera).

Kindle 3, on the other hand, is a device that has found what it’s meant for and it’s evolving more and more towards it. It’s still stunning to see the eInk Pearl screen next to paper and realise we are just a couple of generations away from actually replacing paper.

The third generation of eReaders (Kindle 3, Nook 2, the new Sony Reader) are going to change how we think of eReaders. More importantly, they are going to change how non-readers think of eReaders.

If you want to read, or you want to read more, then a dedicated eReader device with eInk Pearl, such as the Kindle 3 or the Kindle WiFi, is it. At $139 for the Kindle WiFi there really isn’t any good reason not to get it. Perhaps you don’t like it – sell it for $120 or return it within the 30 day return period.

Kindle, iPad Price Comparison

The prices of the WiFi and 3G models of the iPad and the data plan prices are very relevant - How do they compare to the Kindle and its free 3G WhisperNet?

  1. Kindle, iPad comparisons are hard to do because the prices put the devices in two different brackets.
  2. The eInk screen and the battery life make the Kindle a better eReader. Meanwhile, the iPad is better at everything else (including things the Kindle just can’t do).

Let’s dig into Kindle, iPad prices and total cost of ownership and see what value for money they provide.

Price Comparison for Kindle, iPad

The Device Cost

Here are the prices -

  1. Kindle – $259.
  2. iPad WiFi – $499 for the 16 GB model, $599 for the 32 GB model, and $699 for the 64 GB model.
  3. iPad 3G (includes WiFi) – $629 for the 16 GB model, $729 for the 32 GB model, and $829 for the 64 GB model.
  4. Kindle DX – $489.

This is what it comes down to -

  • Kindle 2 is $240 cheaper than the WiFi version of the iPad.
  • Kindle 2 is $370 cheaper than the 3G version of the iPad.

That clearly makes the Kindle 2 the best choice for anyone who is cost conscious.

The 3G Data Plan Cost – $180 a year for limited, $360 a year for unlimited

With the iPad you get to choose between -

  1. No plan and using just WiFi.
  2. $14.99 a month for up to 250 MB of data.
  3. $29.99 for unlimited data.

Both plans give you free use of AT&T WiFi hotspots.

One great feature is that you can activate the plan at any time from the iPad itself and you can cancel any time – there is no contract.

You get two categories of uses for the iPad -

  1. Someone who gets the unlimited plan and surfs the Internet a lot and watches movies and more. That’s a completely different use-case from reading and will cost $30 a month i.e. $360 a year.  
  2. Someone who mostly reads and uses the Internet for reference. Here you pay $15 a month – that’s $180 a year.

With the Kindle you get free wikipedia and free internet – However, the browser is too basic to compare to a device optimized for surfing.

Free is good though – you can do things like use twitter, check up on weather and news, and even check email.

Kindle, iPad Comparion – The Cost of eBooks

If reading is the main thing you’ll be using each for it’s worth looking at the cost of ebooks -

  1. Kindle has $9.99 books and lots of cheap books from independent authors. 
  2. Kindle for iPad is probably going to be released and offer the same prices for the iPad.
  3. The default iBooks Book Store for iPad is supposed to be promoting $12.99 and $14.99 prices.

As long as you stick with Kindle for iPad you should be fine.  

What is the Total Cost of Ownership?

Let’s assume you own the device for 3 years.

With the iPad, your options are -

  1. $499 WiFi model and surviving on free WiFi – Just $499. That’s $166 a year approximately. 
  2. $629 3G model and using the $15 a month limited data plan – Total of $1,169. That’s $390 a year approximately.
  3. $629 3G model and unlimited $30 a month plan – Total of $1,709. That’s $570 a year approximately.

We get a decent amount of functionality with the 2nd and 3rd options -

  1. 250MB a month allows for a decent amount of surfing and even some amount of videos and photos.
  2. With the third option you get a ton of use – movies, unlimited surfing and more. That being said, $570 a year is very, very high.

With the Kindle, you have no data plans (neither on the Kindle, nor on the Kindle DX) -

  1. $259 Kindle with free whispernet and free surfing (on a basic browser). That’s $86 a year approximately.
  2. $489 Kindle DX with free whispernet and free surfing (slightly better due to larger screen). That’s $163 a year approximately.

Kindle and 16 GB WiFi iPad offer the best value for money

When you look at it in terms of value for money the best options are -

  1. Kindle offering free wikipedia and free basic browsing for just $86 a year. The Kindle 2 offers absolutely amazing value for money.
  2. The $499 WiFi iPad offers the next best value for money. For just $166 a year you get a device that offers a lot.
  3. Next is the Kindle DX – a larger screen than the Kindle 2 and free basic browsing for $163 a year.
  4. Then you have the 3G versions of the iPad with the limited data plan – the data might be limited but it’s $180 a year which is not bad.
  5. Last you have the unlimited data plan with the 3G iPad – It’s ridiculously expensive at $570 a year and it’s also unlimited browsing and video.

Please note that this assumes you use Kindle for iPad to buy your books. If you choose iBooks you might end up paying $3 to $5 more per ebook.

Recommended – $86 a year Kindle 2 and $166 a year WiFi iPad

This little analysis clearly shows what your best options are -

  1. For a reading device the Kindle, with its amazingly low $86 a year total cost of ownership, is the clear winner.
  2. For a multi-purpose device (or a textbook or newspaper reader) the 16GB WiFi iPad is the winner.

Assuming 3 years device life isn’t unreasonable - plus both devices hold their value very well so you could sell either after 1.5 to 2 years without losing much. 

The Kindle, iPad price comparison again highlights the fact that we are dealing with two very different devices. It also shows that both the Kindle 2 and the WiFi iPad offer surprisingly good value for money.

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