Matthew Fitzsimmons

Updated Thoughts On the iPad vs the Kindle

I've written about the differences between the iPad and the Kindle before, and why I continue to use both devices. Now that the new iPad with retina display is out, the game has changed a little bit.

My previous conclusion was that the Kindle was far and away the best device for reading. The iPad hurt my eyes reading for long periods, and was also rather heavy. I assumed that part of the reason it hurt my eyes was the backlit screen, and part of it was the fuzzy text.

The Short Answer

I still mostly prefer the Kindle for reading, but the iPad is much more useable for reading than it used to be.

The Long Answer

Now that I have a new iPad with its much crisper text, I find that I can read for long stretches without any eye discomfort. This apparently means that the backlit screen doesn't bother me, and the previous issues were all related to the fuzziness of the text.

There are still several reasons I prefer reading on the Kindle, however:

  1. It weighs less. It's easy to hold the Kindle comfortably in one hand for long periods of time. The iPad can sometimes be rested on something, but is often inconvenient due to the weight.
  2. It's readable in bright sunlight. Some people don't have this need, but if I'm sitting outside at a coffee shop or in my back yard, the Kindle is easy to read and the iPad is either very difficult or impossible to see.
  3. Screen size. I think the screen size is actually somewhat better for reading. This isn't really a big issue to me, but I think the width of the column of text ends up being better than on the iPad. Some apps on the iPad probably allow adjusting the width of the text column, but I don't think the Kindle app does, which is what I use most of the time.
  4. Physical page turn buttons. When reading one-handed, especially, I find the physical page turn buttons a little more convenient than swiping or tapping the screen to turn the page. I would hesitate to get a Kindle Touch for this reason as well.
  5. Matte Screen. The glossy iPad screen is fine in most situations, but glare can be a problem when reading. I think the glossiness of the iPad screen (probably combined with the backlight) also makes smudges more obvious and more distracting in certain situations. The smudges are usually not really noticeable whan playing games or something, but they can cause enough distortion when reading that it gets distractiong. Of course I can easily clean the smudges, assuming I have something handy to do it with.

There are some things the iPad is better at in regards to reading by virtue of the fact that it has better application support and is much faster. This includes services like Instapaper or Pocket, and things like Bible apps if you want to easily be able to jump to a specific passage or follow cross references.

So I use the Kindle for general reading, and particularly reading outside. I use the iPad for things like reading in bed (the backlight comes in handy) and Instapaper/Pocket. Sometimes I use the iPad for Bible reading, but other times I use the Kindle. It kind of depends on the situation. Sometimes I just use the iPad put of convenience. If I'm already sitting on the couch and want to read a book, I may do it on the iPad instead of the Kindle if I have the iPad with me already.