I bought the Kindle 2 in May 2009, and liked it a lot. My overall book consumption immediately increased, which was my chief goal. Well, that, and I figured chicks dig guys with new, button-laden hardware.
Just under a a year later, in April 2010, I bought the iPad. Beginning that day, the Kindle was relegated to my nightstand, where it sat neglected and unloved, feeling the way I imagine most Zunes do. Between the Kindle app and the iBooks app, my book-reading needs were well-covered by the iPad.
I continued reading more books than I’d read in my pre-e-book days. At first, my numbers stayed pretty consistent between Kindle reading and iPad reading.
Slowly, though — no faster than Steve Wozniak’s approach on a Segway — my daily book reading on the iPad decreased.
The iPad sports some distinct advantages over the Kindle. I love, love, love that I don’t need to use a book light with the iPad when I read at night. I darken the screen to almost pure black, and can easily read e-books without blowing out my retinas. (Come morning, I have to strain to see the settings to toggle the Kindle app back to normal brightness.) And I like that I can fit so much of the book on screen at once, since the iPad’s screen is so much larger than my Kindle 2’s.
But the iPad is overpowered as a book reader. It’s a bit like using a Mac Pro solely for vanity Googling. And my iPad knows about all the other things it — I — could be doing.
So as I read, I get occasional alerts. A tone signals new emails. A notification pops up for new Direct Messages from Twitter. Another appears when it’s my turn in Words With Friends. I could turn off all those notifications and mute noises whenever I launch into an e-reading app, but that’s not a trivial amount of effort when I try to use the iPad to read multiple times each day.
With the release of iOS 4.2, Apple actually made my iPad-based e-reading habit — which was already slipping like a teen starlet’s blouse — less pleasant. That’s because of the decidedly unpleasant change to the iPad’s hardware switch behavior. I’m not a fan of the iPad’s software orientation lock, and tend to avoid it. That means I too often find myself doing the screen rotation dance as I recline to read.
Don’t be confused. I continued—and continue—to love my iPad. But I slowly became aware that I was reading books less and less. When I had reading time, I ever more frequently heard (and responded to!) the siren call of Instapaper, or Reeder, or The Incident.
Then we went on a cruise. A cruise where Internet cost way too damn much, so we had no WiFi available. My iPad once again became a compelling e-reader, cut off from the world as it was. I read four novels on a 7-day cruise. (Unrelated: I also ate about 45 meals.)
My wife Lauren had brought along my old Kindle for the trip. As it turned out, she ended up spending more time playing with her (offline) iPhone than reading on the Kindle, but I kept seeing the device—and thinking of it fondly.
The iPad has advantages, and the Kindle does too. It’s dramatically lighter, and far more comfortable to hold in one hand. The battery life is awesome, and when that’s true compared to the iPad, you know it’s exceptional. And, though Amazon has tried rolling out a few games for the Kindle and it has its rudimentary web browser, I’m comfortable describing the device as distraction-free.
When we returned home from the cruise, I sought out the Kindle. I found the book I was midway through on the iPad and downloaded it to the Kindle, via the Kindle. And of course it ended up on the right virtual page.
I wish the Kindle 2’s contrast were a bit better. I wish Kindles had their own light source solution, instead of requiring that I use a book light, which in turn requires that I use a case so there’s something to clip the light to. I wish I could figure out how to turn off seeing what sections of a book other people highlighted.
But I am really enjoying rediscovering the Kindle reading experience. Despite iBooks’s page curl and sepia tones, and despite the iOS’s swiping vs. button-clicking to turn pages, the Kindle still feels more bookish.
If I’m traveling, I think I’d still take just the iPad rather than both devices. But for at-home reading—or a day trip where reading is on the agenda and multitasking isn’t—I’m once again a Kindle devotee.