In April, when the iPad came out, I offered to conduct an experiment forBen Stevens’ The Mac Lawyer blog. The plan: read a traditional book, a second on a Kindle, and a third on an iPad, then write about it. Over the past year I’d been used to reading primarily on my Kindle and the occasional tree-based book, and was interested in figuring out the new publishing terrain once and for all.
Part 2 of 3: Failure and Redemption with an iPad and a Kindle.
In Part 1 of this series, I announced my intention to test all three reading technologies via Lian Hearn’s Tales of the Otori trilogy. I read the first volume as a paper-based library book, but I apologize in advance to Mr. Hearn. I just couldn’t get through the second book in the series, Grass For His Pillow, and I have a sneaking suspicion that it doesn’t have to do with his prose.
The iPad contains two great book-reading apps, iBooks from Apple and Kindle from Amazon. Unfortunately, the iPad also contains a zillion other apps that tug at your attention, including access to practically all of the information ever recorded by civilized man, email, news, streaming Netflix movies, and every social network imaginable.
If you’re like me, which is a stone’s throw away from an official ADD diagnosis, it may be difficult to finish book on an iPad unless it’s completely engrossing. The device is just so dang incredible. I finally found such a book, so stay tuned to Part 3 to find out the killer read which helped me overcome the allure of iPad amazingness. In the meantime, I switched back, bewildered and dispirited, to the Kindle.
The Kindle Book: Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life, by Steve Martin
If you like Steve Martin, appreciate the art of stand-up comedy, or ever wondered what it feels like to get very, very famous quickly, Born Standing Up is a book you should put on your list. I read the majority of it on my Kindle 2 and a small amount on my iPhone 3G.
Pros: The Kindle was my first electronic book reader, and for a technophile like myself it will forever occupy a special place in my heart, as do other fondly-recalled first-time experiences. Compared to an iPad or a book, the Kindle is much lighter at 10.2 ounces. Book shopping and delivery is quick and effortless, because in reality the Kindle is a portable spigot through which you pour dollars into Amazon. For example, I decided to purchase Mr. Martin’s book at an airport minutes from boarding my flight. Twelve dollars and sixty seconds later, the book arrived and so I could read it on the flight.
The Kindle screen, leveraging a proprietary technology known as E-ink, does not have a refresh-rate associated with LCD screens, which makes it easier on the eyes by eliminating strain and reducing glare. I happen to be partial to devices that do one thing really well as opposed to a device that performs multiple functions fairly well. The Kindle is definitely in the former category: aside from serving as a terrific reading device, the only other thing it excels at is sucking money from your pocket and sending it to Amazon. And you have to see the battery charge to believe it. I picked mine up after a month of idleness and it was still on.
An aside about e-readers in general, including both the Kindle and iPad…
E-readers are great traveling companions. I like to read different kinds of books depending on my current whimsy, and with an e-reader, I can keep a biography, spy thriller, historical fiction, and business book with me at all times without my carry-on weighing 100 pounds. I can also increase the font size for easier readability, critical as I head towards forty. I’ve noticed e-reader adoption among the elderly, incidentally, in my heavily retiree-laden town of Boca Raton, FL.
Because of the mobile Kindle and iBook apps, and the mechanism Amazon and Apple use to maintain your bookmarks, you can always be with your book. For example, I read my book at night on my e-reader and the following morning use the corresponding iPhone app to flick through some more pages at the exact place I left off the night before while, say, waiting in line for coffee. At night, I pick up exactly where I left off at Starbucks on my e-reader. Now that’s cool, although, my inner civil-libertarian bristles at the thought that Amazon and Apple now know exactly what I’m reading, when, and where.
…Back to the Kindle…
Cons: The biggest con I see with the Kindle or other book readers is the following conversation:
Husband: This book I’m reading is incredible! I can’t put it down.
Wife: Wow. I can’t wait to read it. Can I have it when you’re done?
Husband: Sorry, it’s on the Kindle. And I’m reading something else next.
Wife: That’s so typical. You’re always so damn selfish.
Some headway has been made into sharing books on e-readers, but any features are buried deep enough so that I haven’t stumbled across it. Another general strike against e-readers is their limited portability. I still feel uncomfortable taking a pricey e-reader to a beach or pool, since water and sand wreak havoc on electronic devices.
Compared to other modern electronic machines, the Kindle 2 feels glacially slow. At the risk of sounding like a plump, lazy cruise-ship passenger, moving the little cursor around is an arduous task. Page turns are inelegant: the entire text flashes black before it’s replaced by the next page. Flipping through pages to reread a passage is time consuming and laborious, especially compare to a paper book. The Kindle 2 very much feels like a first generation device.
In the next installment, I’ll return to the iPad. Perhaps I’ll fare better the second time around.
About the Author
Larry Port is the Founding Partner of Rocket Matter, the leading web-based legal practice management product. A speaker and award-winning writer at the crossroads of the legal profession and cutting edge technology, Larry writes extensively for legal publications including Law Technology News, Law Practice Today, ILTA’s Peer to Peer, FindLaw, Chicago Lawyer, and others.