I’m a convert to Amazon’s Kindle eReader.
No, my switcheroo was from the iPad, which is much touted by Apple and its acolytes as the ultimate ereading machine. For about a year, nearly all my personal book reading had been on the iPad, either using Apple’s own iBooks app or the free Kindle app that can be added to the iPad.
Since last November, I haven’t read a single book on the iPad. I’m in no hurry to read any more, for two main reasons: one, the Kindle’s reflective ‘e-ink’ screen is easier on my eyes, and two, it’s summer and I like to read in our bright back porch where reflections on the iPad’s glossy glass screen make reading nigh impossible.
(Note: most of my comments here about the Kindle would apply to other ereaders that use e-ink – e.g. the Kobo, Sony Reader and (not available in New Zealand) the Barnes and Noble Nook. Essentially they all have the same screens, made by E Ink, and they differentiate themselves in other ways. The Kindle is the overwhelming market leader. Note that the Kindle Fire model, announced with much fanfare late last year, doesn’t use e-ink, but has similar screen technology to an iPad. )
At first sight, iPad ereaders have an aesthetic edge. Their screen is closer in size to a real book, at 9.7 inches (diagonal) compared with the Kindle’s six inches. Superficially, ebooks on the iPad look more like the real thing. They have more elegant fonts, pages that turn realistically and book design niceties like running heads. Navigating around an ebook collection and administering it is much faster and slicker on an iPad.
iPad ereaders go beyond both real books and Kindle books, in letting you change background ‘paper’ colour – even letting you put the display into inverse with white text on a black background – useful if you don’t want to disturb your partner in bed. And of course iPad ereading will always shine (pun intended) where the ambient light level is low. The display is a backlit computer screen whereas the Kindle has a reflective screen that needs external light, just like a paper book.
It was the iPad’s's backlit display that mainly turned me toward the Kindle. The iPad is…sort of…OK, but the Kindle is just nicer to read for extended periods. Kindle fonts are clunky compared with the iPad, but they are more readable. They just sit nicely like real printed type, on a non-reflective shimmerless background. The Kindle screen seems small at first, particularly if you’ve made the font fairly big. But I get sucked into that little screen…sucked into the book itself…more than reading a real paper book. A new and compelling reading experience. For me it’s just a better way of reading any book that is all or mostly text, like novels and many non-fiction titles.
There is still an honoured place for printed books that are heavy on illustration and good design. I like handling them and I like reading them. I far prefer flicking through them. And I earn my living producing them so yes, there has to be an honoured place for them!
But for most other reading, give me an ebook any day. I know, I know…electronics and plastic can never replace the feel and smell of real paper, real binding and the general ‘handle’ of an ancient and loved cultural icon. Well crap. I don’t care how beautifully put together the paper version of the latest Booker Prize winner is – I’ll read it on my Kindle, thanks. I will spare a thought for bricks and mortar libraries and bookshops, but sorry – in the end, utility trumps.
John's full piece on his blog here.