I have an iPad. I have a Kindle. Although it seems to be common consensus that the iPad will kill the Kindle, the larger question is, does Amazon care? The even larger question is, should you worry for the future of reading itself?
OK, people seem to feel that the iPad’s screen is superior to the Kindle’s. Hogwash, I say. Yes, the iPad has a gorgeous super-sharp screen and HD video is simply amazing. And yes, the Kindle’s screen is smaller and shows only 16 shades of gray.
Yet for reading a book, the Kindle is superior. It is lighter, the screen has less glare and the “e-ink” feature is much easier on the eyes. The form factor is more suited to reading as well. For real reading (as opposed to browsing, the iPad’s strength), there is simply no contest.
The two devices are fundamentally different. The iPad is a multi-function tablet computer that happens to have the ability to function as an “e-reader”. The Kindle is a conduit for buying Amazon content — primarily books — easily and constantly.
If you get a Kindle2, it’ll cost you about half of what an iPad does (unless you pony up for more storage or the upcoming 3G models of the iPad, which cost even more). When it comes to selection, Amazon claims to offer nearly a half a million titles compared to iBook’s measly 60,000, roughly half of which are public domain (read: older) books from Project Gutenberg.
So I reiterate: right now, the Kindle is a superior platform for serious readers.
But let’s face it, a lot of people won’t see it that way, especially if Amazon doesn’t lower prices for the Kindle. Put yourself in the place of someone considering a purchase. The iPad shows movies, complete web pages, has apps for just about anything you could imagine — and displays books too.
The Kindle lets you read books. Well, it lets you do more as I mentioned back in January, but you see what I mean. The Kindle isn’t just competing with other e-readers anymore. It is competing with the Internet and movies and lots of games (reportedly the highest-selling category in the App Store) and other forms of light entertainment.
But as things stand now, the folks at Amazon probably aren’t too worried about the possible demise of the Kindle. Let me put it another way. The Kindle exists because Amazon is in the business of selling content, primarily books. The Kindle is a loss leader for them.
Apple, on the other hand, is in the hardware business. They created iTunes just so you’ll have something to do on your iPod/Phone/Touch and now iPad and buy more of them. If Apple were worried about Amazon, they would never have allowed Kindle for iPad to be made available. Apple is happy as long as people are buying hardware.
Now if Apple turns its steely gaze on the book publishing market (99 cent books?) I’ll be singing a different tune. But that’s a topic for another day.
Reading for Pleasure: R.I.P.
But anyway, back to what I was saying before, the iPad is a lousy way to read a book. The look and feel, while super-slick, does not make you want to curl up and read a novel-length work. It makes you want to scan a book like you would a web page and then jump off and play with an app or watch a movie. And that, my dear readers, is what’s at the heart of the matter. It is not the Kindle you should be worried about but the pastime of reading itself.
Even I, a pretty voracious reader, found myself fighting the urge while reading on the iPad to check my email or my feeds or any of the other million distractions that I read books to get away from in the first place. So will the iPad kill the Kindle? Probably, but few will mourn its passing. What is in greater danger is as people tote their iPads instead of their Kindles/e-readers, they won’t read at all as they answer the clarion call of the web or apps or whatever.
I love my iPad, I really do. But I hope I’m wrong about what it is going to do because I love books more.