iPad vs. Kindle: Is It Fair to Compare?

I’m very indecisive when it comes to new technology. It took me a long time, for instance, to finally start purchasing my music solely as a digital format simply because I couldn’t do without the CD cover. I think the same can be said of books. Can’t do without that tactile sensation of lounging back with a book? I’ve accepted that, given time, I’ll get over that and enjoy an ebook reader.

The problem is, the market is so young for e-readers, it is difficult to decide what to buy. The forerunners are the Amazon Kindle and Apple’s iPad. But both are so completely different, it almost feels unfair to compare them.

In this corner, we have the Kindle. A device whose sole purpose is to read books. Its display is made of a new technology called e-ink. The screen does not require back-lighting like computer monitors. It reads like paper. It is only currently available in grayscale. This leads many people to think it is antiquated technology, but if you really look into it, it is quite a remarkable screen. The refresh rate is a little sluggish and the contrast is arguably difficult on those with poorer eyesight. The screen is about the size of a paperback book; the bigger version is about the size of a hardback book’s page. The Kindle itself is very light. Books are available through only Amazon’s store, and in the tumultuous new market, e-book prices are on the rise slightly. Books can be downloaded in seconds at no data cost; an embedded dictionary lets you look up words as you read.

In the other corner is the iPad. A multifunctioning, revolutionary portable device. Its limits are in the hands of developers. It has a backlit screen, just like a computer monitor. Some say this leads to eyestrain. I say staring at ANYTHING too long leads to eyestrain. Brightness and color can be adjusted in the ebook apps available. And that’s another “pro”: you can shop around…Amazon Kindle app, Barnes and Noble Nook app, and Apple’s iBookstore. You get color covers and images. The Kindle app doesn’t have the dictionary. It would be difficult to read in sunlight, and the device is heavier than a Kindle, albeit still lighter than most hardback books (which is what I prefer to read). Around 8% of people buying an iPad said they bought it primarily to be an e-reader. That’s really not many and makes me wonder why. Seems like the reading aficionados go for the dedicated e-reader.

I guess there is room for them both. The Kindle for heavy reading; the iPad for everything else. But I don’t want to carry around two devices. I remember how silly it was to cart my iPod and iPhone until I got enough memory in the latter to sync all my music.

Another side note, a recent article said that reading on an iPad in bed can cause insomnia. Melatonin is a hormone in the brain that influences our biological clock. Its release is induced by light. The light of the iPad’s screen could cause melatonin’s continued release and thus throw off your sleep cycle. (That also goes to show why it is not good to watch TV right before bed, and why many parents choose to not let their kids do so.)

I go back and forth between the two, but all I know is I do want an e-reader. I’ve been patiently waiting for the market to resolve into some semblance of order, just like I did back in the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD war days. I know I would want the bigger Kindle, which weighs in at $489….$10 shy of an iPad. And that’s why I’m like “why don’t I just get an iPad and get multiple functions”? Then I think “will I like reading on a backlit screen?” I don’t suppose I’d get that much extra use out of an iPad having an iPhone. I don’t watch TV/movies on computers; my phone can check email just fine.

I wait for Amazon to release a new hardware version of the Kindle or at least drop the price…but no word is coming about that any time soon. At some point, one just has to buy into a technology, realize there will be upgrades, and commit to not buying again for a certain period of time. I get that. But the indecision in my mind about the two devices–again it seems unfair to compare them–keep me holding on. I’ve just about saved enough for either one. I may buy the smaller Kindle to see if I like it, then if I do, either keep it or possibly return it and upgrade to the bigger one. If not, return it and go iPad. They give a 30-day return guarantee.

Anyone have an opinion?

iPad vs. Kindle: Is It Fair to Compare?

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