Kindle or IPAD - Which shines over the other in terms of economy and usability?

A few months ago I bought a Kindle and what a joy it's been. I've not been this attached to a gadget since I persuaded my mum to buy me a pair of battery-operated walkie-talkies way back in the 1980s.

And I'm not the only Kindle convert in town. Look around you: e-readers are everywhere.

Commuter trains, that most natural habitat of shiny gizmos, are awash with Kindles - yet I see far fewer tablets.

I don't own an iPad. I don't plan to buy a tablet of any stripe. So why did I buy a Kindle and not an iPad? Here are 10 reasons why an e-reader rocks my world while a tablet leaves me cold...


1. The Kindle does one thing really well
The Kindle has one clear purpose: reading. Apple's Jobs has described e-readers as 'dedicated devices' as opposed to 'general purpose devices' such as tablets, implying that specialised devices are somehow a luxury when the opposite is true. My take: tablets are the gadgets without a sense of purpose.

The iPad struggles to sell itself to me because it does not have one clear function. Sure it can do many things, including acting as an e-reader - heck, there's even a Kindle iOS app - but as the saying goes, if you're a jack of all trades, you're a master of none. Or to put it another way, if you're a gadget without a clear purpose you're going to end up languishing unloved in a drawer.

Being a dedicated device works in the Kindle's favour. It's a really great reading device. It's been designed for this, from its e-ink screen to its slender form factor to its book-friendly features - built-in dictionary, bookmarks, note-taking. If you like reading it's truly a pleasure to use.

2. The Kindle's screen is easy on the eye
Reading a lot of text on the iPad is possible but it's never pleasurable. Staring at an LED screen always gets tiring and the last thing you want to do after a hard day's work is stare at yet another screen - no matter how bright or brilliant it is. By contrast, e-ink screens are designed to be easy on the eye, reducing glare and mimicking the restful nature of the printed page. Their screens are matte not shiny, unlit not bright, monochrome not colourful.

E-ink may seem to hark back to the LCD gadgets of yesteryear but when it comes to reading I don't need flashy graphics and a palette of thousands of colours. Actually I really don't want any of that stuff. Less is definitely more when it comes to immersing yourself in a good book, which brings me to point 3...

3. The Kindle's form is tailor-made for its function
Apple makes gadgets that people want to own just to own that Apple gadget. By which I mean they're shiny, great-looking aspirational items in and of themselves. As a company Apple cares about function, but when it comes to hardware its first love is form - and that aesthetic focus can sometimes take away from function. Just look at the design of some Apple mice and keyboards over the years.

So yes, the iPad is a great-looking tablet, easily the best-looking tablet there is. But, like all Apple products, it's been designed to be looked at not looked through. It's designed to stand out and that's distracting. I don't want a gadget that stares back at me. I want something tailored to fit, so when I use it I forget I'm interacting with a piece of technology because it performs its function so well. And that's exactly what the Kindle does.

4. The Kindle taps into an established ecosystem - of book readers
The mobile industry is all about ecosystems these days. For smartphones this means apps. For the nascent tablet market an ecosystem of apps is arguably even more important, since a tablet's function is so multifaceted it has to offer more not less. But for the Kindle, apps aren't the key - its ecosystem is its users.

E-readers tap into a healthy and well-established ecosystem of book readers. People have been reading for hundreds of years so the Kindle benefits from standing on the shoulders of so many book lovers.

I don't need to invent lots of new processes for interacting with this gadget - it's just a book in a new incarnation. It feels intuitive because I've been reading forever so it gets to bask in a halo effect generated by this love of reading. If you're a reader, getting emotionally attached to the Kindle is almost inevitable. But getting emotionally attached to a shiny slate of glass? Well, good luck trying.

5. The Kindle sits on top of Amazon.com
Of course a Kindle without any ebooks is like a pasta fork without any spaghetti. The Kindle needs a solid ecommerce infrastructure underpinning it, to smoothly deliver a pipeline of ebooks. And it's difficult to imagine an online store more solid than Amazon.com.

Of course, Apple has its own ecommerce behemoth in iTunes, but I don't think people use iTunes by choice - they use it because Apple forces them to. On the hearts and minds index, and on the usability front too, Amazon beats iTunes hands down.

6. The Kindle's price tag hits the sweet spot
On the price front, the Kindle sits in what can only be described as a gadget sweet spot. The wi-fi-only Kindle is £111 versus a whopping £399 for the cheapest wi-fi-only iPad. The recent HP TouchPad firesale with its price cut to £89, down from £349, illustrates how much appetite there is for gadgets around £100. For this price, people will buy a gadget because they don't have to justify the expense to themselves. But there's no sneaking £400 under the radar.

Frankly, the Kindle is a steal at £111. Even the 3G Kindle is reasonably priced at £152. By contrast, the iPad's price tag is a barrier I'm just not willing to cross - not for a secondary gadget.

With a £300 price difference between a dedicated device - the Kindle - and a general purpose device - the iPad - plenty of people will be willing to pay for the former, yet won't touch the latter with a barge pole.

7. The Kindle's battery life lets you forget it's a gadget
Gadgets have never been so powerful but all that power comes with a price: battery drain. Being tethered to power sockets and chargers is always tedious. And if you forget to charge your shiny gizmo or use it so much it runs out of juice it's about as powerful as a potato.

How refreshing to step outside this cycle. Of course, the Kindle doesn't do away with charging entirely but the longevity of its battery life makes the cycle much less tedious.

A single charge of the wi-fi Kindle lasts up to two months, depending on how many pages you're clicking. A single charge on the iPad yields up to 10 hours of use. No contest there then.

8. The Kindle offers headache-free 3G
For those not content with a wi-fi-only Kindle, there's a 3G version of the e-reader - just as there are 3G and wi-fi-only iPads. But unlike the 3G iPad, the 3G Kindle does not require signing up to a tariff with a mobile operator. If there's one thing that annoys me more than gadgets running out of juice too quickly, it's having to navigate a million mobile tariffs.

Apple has tried to simplify life for the 3G iPad owner - it will ship you a micro-SIM direct, from one of four operators, each offering a choice of plans. There are also iPad 3G plans that don't require signing a contract, with rolling month-to-month plans that can be cancelled at any time.

But despite Apple's attempts to make the process a bit more human, it's still a headache. How much better to not have to worry about dealing with mobile operators at all - as 3G Kindle owners can (smugly) tell you.

9. The Kindle packs a free library of ebooks
And talking of free, Kindle owners can tap into a wealth of free ebooks. In the US, Project Gutenberg has made some 36,000 out-of-copyright ebooks available for free download. BookDepository.co.uk offers 11,000 free titles for download as PDFs. Amazon.co.uk also lists thousands of free Kindle-friendly ebooks such as out-of-copyright popular classics. Ebook reader? More like a whole e-library in your bag.

Of course, the iPad can also tap into free ebooks but you'll need to devour an awful lot of free ebooks to make up the £300+ extra spent on the gadget in the first place.

10. I also own an iPhone...
Gadgets are often used in combination rather than owned in isolation. So here's the thing: I'm an Apple owner too. I own an iPhone. And having an iPhone makes owning an iPad even less compelling. Smartphones are tablets in miniature - they offer all the functionality of the iPad in a handier, pocketable package. The natural companion for an iPhone is not, in my view, a larger version of the iPhone.

I've got email, web browsing and apps galore on my phone. It's bursting with functionality, entertainment and distraction. The last thing I need is more of the same. What I need is the inverse of all that flashy distraction - which is exactly where the cool, calm and collected Kindle comes in.

Smartphone ownership is generally on the rise - most mobiles are getting smarter and cheaper. And with all that power sitting in people's pockets there does seem to be an opportunity for a different kind of gadget to complement the iPhones, Androids and BlackBerrys out there. And that's the opportunity Amazon's Kindle is quietly capitalising on.

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