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.

LCD-compatibles vs LCD-incompatibles (aka eReader owners)

John Biggs at CrunchGear echoes GigaOm’s thoughts that the Kindle Store is very likely to win the eBook wars. He also echoes OM’s belief that eReaders as devices will die out.

This puts me in the awkward position of loving one half of the article and being disappointed by the other. The author realizes the significance of Amazon being the first mover in the eReader space and appreciates just how strong of an eco-system Amazon is building up. Yet, he totally discounts all the people who simply don’t enjoy reading books on back-lit LCD screens.

Since the concept of ‘personal preference’ doesn’t seem to reverberate with people who can read endlessly on LCD screens we should encourage them to think of LCD compatibility as a genetic trait akin to blood types.  

The LCD compatibility gene and LCD Compatibles

What are the distinguishing traits of the LCD compatibles?

  1. An ability to be completely unaffected by LCD screens. This includes reading endlessly on them without any side effects and not having their sleep disturbed even when reading on LCDs late at night.
  2. An inability to notice any difference between reading on eInk and reading on LCDs. 
  3. The inability to appreciate that there might be LCD-incompatibles. This is sometimes accompanied by the ‘LCD lover’s burden’ of wanting to show the LCD-incompatibles that they are simply mistaken and that LCDs are marvellous for reading.

There are also certain traits that are found often enough in LCD compatibles to suggest some link with the LCD compatibility gene –

  1. A fair number of LCD compatibles are struck with multipurposeitis – a condition which creates an extreme loathing of any device with a single purpose.
  2. Another common accompanying trait is color-fixation – This makes certain LCD compatibles able to appreciate ebooks only when they are displayed on a color screen.
  3. There’s a segment of LCD Compatibles that manage to read LCD screens even in bright sunlight and through glare. This is so rare that it isn’t yet well understood.
  4. A few LCD compatibles find the LCD screen to be much better for reading than eInk. This trait is, for some strange reason, usually found in technical journalists who get Apple exclusives.
  5. A rapidly expanding condition is 100dollaritis which is reflected by a desire to see all non-LCD screen devices at $100 or below. This traits evolves and morphs faster than avian flu and is suspected to be a mutated version of 150dollaritis.

The one commonality amongst these 5 disparate traits is that it predisposes affected LCD compatibles to endlessly share the benefits and comparative advantages of LCD screens on blogs, forums, and newspaper sites. In a lot of cases these 5 traits give LCD compatibles extra-sensory powers where they are able to imagine and synthesize the experience of reading on eInk without ever actually touching or seeing an eInk device.

The LCD-incompatibles

It’s painfully clear from their reports and experiences that LCD incompatibles are rather different from LCD compatibles –

  1. Reading on LCD screens for longer than 20-30 minutes tires their eyes. After an hour or so they start getting headaches and their eyes get extremely fatigued.
  2. LCD incompatibles prefer reading on eInk. They claim that the magical and revolutionary eInk screen doesn’t tire their eyes and they can read for hours on end without headaches or fatigue.
  3. LCD compatibles suffer from bookitis – It’s an extremely irrational love of books and reading which usually blinds them to things like how beautiful the device they read a book on is and how aesthetically brilliant the imaginary bookshelves on their reading device are. Amazingly they discount such crucially important things and some are even known to want a device that ‘just disappears’ instead of shining and glittering.  
  4. LCD incompatibles show a disturbing tendency to believe that different people have different preferences and that it’s an acceptable thing. Shockingly, they have no desire to rescue and convert those different from themselves.  
  5. LCD incompatibles have an extreme aversion to the religious zealot segment of LCD compatibles who’re trying to ‘convert’ them to LCD reading.

Just as we have traits that might be associated with the presence of the LCD compatibility gene there are traits suspected to be associated with its absence –

  1. Onepurposeitis is a common affliction where affected LCD incompatibles think that a device should be optimized for a single purpose. This is reflected in an extreme avoidance of swiss army knives and gadgets that are ‘barely good enough’ for doing a lot of things.
  2. An aversion to multi-tasking is found in enough LCD incompatibles to make scientists wonder if  there’s a connection.
  3. Weakhanditis afflicts nearly all LCD incompatibles – This makes them incapable of holding any device heavier than 1.49 pounds with one hand for longer than 5-10 minutes. Weakhanditis is usually accompanied by the irrational desire that a device be painless to use.
  4. A disproportionately high percentage of LCD incompatibles detest advertising and are very difficult to manipulate. There is speculation that this combined with LCD incompatibles’ fondness for reading is why books have never had advertising in between chapters.
  5. There is an almost complete absence of ‘shiny new toy’ syndrome amongst LCD incompatibles. In fact, most actually make rational purchase decisions and focus on value for money and usefulness. P. T. Barnum is claimed to have said –

    There’s a sucker born every minute … and two non-suckers. The latter are usually LCD incompatibles.

Most LCD incompatibles are the opposite of LCD compatibles and don’t endlessly talk up their preferences. Not only are they reluctant to argue mindlessly they actually are polite and put forth reasonable arguments. This has many experts puzzled as the Internet is known to cause even rational people to instantly devolve into rude sociopaths.

Can LCD compatibles and LCD incompatibles co-exist?

This is an intriguing question – While most LCD compatibles have given up on LCD incompatibles some overzealous LCD compatibles are absolutely relentless in their attempts to convert LCD-incompatibles to the church of the LCD. Meanwhile LCD incompatibles seem totally unconcerned about the wishes of these fervent LCD compatibles.

Speculation is that at some point of time the obsessed LCD compatibles might focus on one or more of their other genetic gifts and start helping out other incompatibles. This particular group of LCD compatibles are blessed with numerous compatibilities, a relentless drive to help convert whatever incompatibles they can find (regardless of the extent or nature of incompatibility), and an amazing ability to disregard other people’s lack of desire to do things the compatibles want them to do.

The more promising development is that the overzealous LCD compatibles are getting tired and might take a break from their LCD crusade. That would leave all the LCD-incompatibles in peace which they would probably use to read books on eInk devices – thereby causing the overzealous LCD compatibles to get so frustrated that they spontaneously combust.