Why I Chose Kindle over iPad: Because Less is Better

I have been pondering  buying a good e-book reader but couldn’t decide until now, because I heard the iPad, the Terminator for everything between mobile phones and laptops, is much better than Amazon’s Kindle.

  • iPad allows access to as many books as Kindle (the Kindle app is available in iPad)
  • iPad is as readable as Kindle.
  • iPad is colored.
  • iPad plays movies.
  • iPad syncs with iTunes.

Okay, iPad is so much more than Kindle. Therefore, I realized that Kindle might be the right device for me, because it does less.

Kindle weighs less

Fred Wilson says the iPad is a bit heavy for long reading. That’s a big red flag.

I showed the Gotham Gal several books she has just read on the Kindle displayed on the iPad. She grabbed the iPad and immediately said "This thing is way too heavy." I guess I will be reading on the iPad and she'll be reading on the Kindle. I agree that the iPad is heavy. I've been holding it for about five minutes so far while typing this and can feel the strain in my left forearm. The Kindle never feels that way even after hours of reading with it.

I used to carry a digital camera everywhere I went, occasionally taking snapshots of events and objects that interested me. Frustrated by its bulkiness and frequent need for a battery charge, I decided to buy a smartphone to solve all my mobile needs with one device. Its camera function looked reasonable, aside from lack of zoom and longer snapshot time; just three seconds more, three meters farther.

After a month, I took twelve photos with that smartphone. In my digital camera days, I was taking more than fifty in the same period. What changed? With the smartphone, I was discouraging myself with each photo I took. I discarded more than half of snapshot opportunities because I was too far away or my smartphone was too slow to respond. With my digital camera, I discarded only 30% of the opportunities, which motivated me to take more. What looked initially like a small difference turned into a huge dividing factor, after all.

I expect the same thing to happen with an e-book reader. That extra 300g or so might not feel like a big deal in the beginning. I can cheat my brain into dismissing my muscle ache; but my body won’t forget. I could imagine myself buying dozens of books in a surge of excitement, only to leave them unopened. Worse, I might blame my weak determination for the decreased reading time despite the increased cost.

Kindle does less

Evelyn Rusli at TechCrunch says the iPad provides a kitchen experience while the Kindle stays in the microwave position.

But even if Kindle drops the price to, say, $100 from the $259 baseline, I think many will look at the purchase decision as microwave vs. kitchen. Why spend $100 for the microwave, if you could get a whole kitchen for $499— the economics favor the kitchen (that is if you plan to use all the appliances, like e-mail, internet, multimedia and the app store).

I think a better analogy would be the living room in your house. iPad has everything, from the television (movie player), stereo set (music player), game console (game apps), NetFlix (iTunes), to the bookshelf, the only function for Kindle. And here is the question: Do you read more books when you are surrounded by those luxury items? Me, no. I read best when I have nothing but reading to do.

Or let’s use the analogy of a long flight—one of the best occasions for reading. Having an iPad is like sitting in a business class seat in Singapore Airlines, complete with exotic food, superior service, a warm blanket, and the latest movies. I might never reach out to my books in that environment. Having a Kindle, on the other hand, is like sitting in a center seat in United Airlines’ economy class, sandwiched by two overweight gentlemen. I wouldn’t be surprised if I could open that book’s reading club by the end of the flight.

In order to read deeply, I need to be in my study area, close the door, and face nothing but the books, notes, and my pen. I want to gently force me to immerse myself in the world that only a book can offer: a world told by the writer, but owned by the reader.

I ordered a Kindle.

P.S. There is one more thing that matters. Kindle is V2.0 and iPad is V1.0. You cannot expect a virgin to be good in bed (-time reading).