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.

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