Matthew Fitzsimmons

Kindle vs. iPad

UPDATE: Now that there is a Retina Display iPad, I've updated my thoughts on the iPad vs. the Kindle.

I was going to write this big long article that went into detail about various differences between the Kindle and the iPad, and why I prefer the Kindle to the iPad for long-form reading. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized just how subjective this all is. There are things that I consider advantages of the Kindle, that other people wouldn't care about. There are things that other people would think are advantages of the iPad that I don't care about (when it comes to long-form reading, at least).

So I think I'll make a much shorter article, pointing out a lot of the areas that need to be considered when deciding if you want to use a Kindle or an iPad for reading. I'm kind of assuming that you'll get an iPad just because it's so awesome for other stuff, so the question is whether to actually get a Kindle to supplement it.


  • The iPad has a backlight, the Kindle doesn't.
  • The Kindle is better for reading in bright sunlight, the iPad is better for reading in the dark.
  • The backlight can cause eyestrain, but it doesn't for everybody.
  • The Kindle is better for reading on the beach, or on the bench in the backyard, or in the park.
  • The iPad is better for reading in bed before you go to sleep, or on the bench in the backyard at night, or in the park at night, or in a dark alley, or a bar, or wherever might be darker.

I tend to like the Kindle better because it doesn't have a backlight. I spend enough time staring at backlit screens already. My eyes need a rest. Other people don't seem to be bothered.

Text Rendering

The text on the iPad is a bit fuzzy, in my opinion. The text on the Kindle is fairly crisp (and the Kindle 3 is supposed to be even better).

Some people don't find the text on the iPad to be fuzzy enough to bother them. I do. Eventually the iPhone 4 display quality will make its way to the iPad, and this won't be an issue.


The iPad has much better contrast than the Kindle. I find the Kindle contrast level acceptable for reading, but some people don't. The Kindle 3 has improved contrast, but I have yet to see one in person.

Size and Weight

The Kindle weighs a lot less than an iPad, and is therefore easier to hold in one hand without your arm getting tired. Some people don't really hold the device so much as set it on something, so it's not a big deal. If you do hold it while reading, especially if you hold it in one hand, this could make a big difference.


The iPad is definitely a faster device. E-ink screens, like on the kindle, tend to be slow at turning pages. This has never been slow enough to bother me, but it is slow enough to bother some people. The Kindle 3 turns pages faster, so it may be fast enough for people who were bothered by the old one. Maybe note.

Page Turning

This is a toss-up in some ways, and pretty much depends on your opinion on the preceding two sections: size and weight, and speed. If you like to hold the device in one hand while reading, the iPad can turn pages fine if you're using your right hand. It's a bit more difficult if you're using your left. The Kindle is equally easy with either hand. But if you hold it with two hands, or set it on something, then it really doesn't matter.

Bling Factor

One of my friends pointed out that he feels safer reading on his Kindle on the train, rather than his iPad. It's much less of a theft target, and much cheaper to replace if it is stolen. Personally, I don't spend much time reading in public, so this isn't such a big deal.


I'm easily distracted. If I want to do some quality reading, it's best to get away from the iPhone and the iPad. If I grab the iPad, chances are I'll end up playing Angry Birds instead of reading. Some people probably don't have this problem, but I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Highlighting and Notes

I highlight a lot of stuff in Kindle books. I've gotten used to the whole joystick-based method, and can do it fairly quickly now, but it's still easier to highlight in books on the iPad. The Kindle keyboard blows chunks. Typing on the iPad is way better. I don't type very many notes on the Kindle, and it's probably partly because the keyboard sucks so much. I'm not sure if the Kindle 3 has any new advantages in this regard.


Obviously, the iPad is more expensive, but it can do a lot more stuff. If you're only getting one device, you should probably get the iPad. Unless you don't see yourself using such a device for anything other than reading. But we're assuming you're going to get an iPad anyway, or that you already have one.

So, you'll be out at least $139 to get a Kindle in addition to your iPad. Is it worth it? It is for me. To decide if it's worth it for yourself, you'll need to analyze the issues above (and maybe others).


Instapaper is awesome. If you haven't checked it out, do so.

I have an app that syncs Instapaper articles to my Kindle when I plug it into my computer. This works OK, but I never plug my Kindle into my computer. The iPad and iPhone have an Instapaper app that downloads articles over the air. I was doing all my Instapaper reading on the iPad for a while because of this, but now I'm doing most of it on the iPhone 4 because of the killer text rendering.

If there was a better way to get Instapaper onto my Kindle, I'd use that. There is an option to have Instapaper email a file to your Kindle, but it was having serious problems last time I tried it.

Paper Books

One-handed operation doesn't always work well, and portability isn't very good. And you can't read them in the dark.

On the other hand, they're not big theft targets and you're out less money if you drop it in the pool. And you can read them in bright sunlight.