iPads vs. Kindles

My systems administrator really likes Mac products and software, and when the iPad was announced he was exceptionally excited to try one out.  It seemed like something that could replace his school-provided Macbook, so we struck a deal that he could be an early adopter.

He took the iPad home and immediately started using it for most Macbook things, such as remote access to our servers, email, online research and reading ebooks.   For about a year, he made progress in these area, but after a year he admitted that he needed a Macbook again to be more efficient.  Some basic things just seemed to take four times longer on an iPad compared to a Macbook.

At the same time, I took on an iPad and then an iPad2, and I used it for many of the same things.  However, I also picked up two of the version two Kindles for use at home.  Personally, it wasn’t long before I had read 40 books on the Kindle, but I had never completed reading a single book on the iPad or iPad2.  Whenever I tried to read a book on the iPad, there was something about the weight of the device and the screen that was somewhat uncomfortable, and I also felt nervous putting an iPad in a pack full of sailing gear as I travelled down to the boat on weekends.  I also didn’t like showing off an iPad2 on the London Underground or on a public bus.

In contrast, the epaper of the Kindle screen seemed more like a paperback to me, and I could read it for hours.  It was much lighter than the iPad, and easy to hold with the leather case on.  The battery lasted as long as a month instead of 1-2 days.   I could download books via Whispernet for free with no monthly contract, even when travelling in the US.  We had a single Amazon account for our family, so our Amazon library can be downloaded to either my Kindle or my wife’s, or onto my iPhone or my kid’s iPod Touches.  I also took and used the Kindle everywhere, because it cost only £90 and everything is backed up, so losing it or breaking it wasn’t a deterrent.  So, we’re buying two more Kindles this month for our kids.

Meanwhile, my system administrator bought two of the third generation Kindles for last Christmas, and now he reports that his iPad use has dropped by about 90 percent.  He and his wife are having the same positive experiences as I have had, and he finds the screen much more comfortable to read for hours.  He’s also done some test work with Calibre and similar software for making content delivery easy directly to Kindles or any device with Kindle software (or iPads as well).

So, we like Kindles, even if they are more single-purpose and they likely are not the best tools if you need to annotate the text a great deal.  In some ways, I wonder if the optimal “2:1” program might be a school-provided 10-month laptop for academic use (but only partial personal use), with the additional expectation that students will own and maintain their own Kindle or iPad.  We could move most faculty-created reading packets to the delivery system for Kindles and iPads, and quite a few books could be read on the devices.  We’re also hoping that our OverDrive Media account will soon enable the direct-to-Kindle option like they have in the US.

iPads are cool and can do a lot of things (maybe the most exciting would be math software like xThink once it is out of beta for iPads and Android tablets), but it’s funny that a more single-use device might be more effective, especially if a thin, light laptop is readily available for the other needs.  (And none of us seem to like reading books on laptops.)

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