Essays on Technology and Culture

Back to the Kindle

Not long after I bought my first iPad, I decided to hand down my much-loved Kindle Keyboard to my girlfriend. The iPad became my book reader of choice. And why not? It has a sharper and easier to read screen. I could read PDFs and ePubs in iBooks, as well as my Kindle books with Amazon’s app. I could also read with Instapaper, and Flipboard, and even read comics! The screen is backlit, so I can even read in the dark. What did I need this Kindle for, anyway?

It didn’t last. The iPad I have is just too bulky to whip out on the subway and read with, so I often used my iPhone. (This had its own set of problems.) I often read in the evenings at home, and the bright blue light of the iPad, even with all my reading apps in white-on-black, was probably messing with my sleep from reading before bed. The amount of reading I did on my iPad, and elsewhere, reduced to a trickle. Instapaper articles piled up, eBooks I bought sat unread, and my brain atrophied just a little. I knew I had to get back into reading, and pronto.

So, I bought a Kindle Paperwhite.

And I love it. It solves all the problems I had with the Kindle Keyboard, and is a far better reading experience than my chunky (yet, beloved) iPad 3. E-Ink displays have generally been extremely readable, but usually on par with newsprint, not real books. The Paperwhite has a 200+ dpi display, which—while no Retina Display—is at least as sharp as a well-printed paper book. Swiping to change pages is much more comfortable than tapping narrow edge buttons, too. The Kindle Paperwhite’s front lighting is great in dark rooms, though I’m not sure if the blue tint will still be great for my sleep. Either way, I keep it turned way down from its default setting, even in the brightest rooms. Finally, the smaller size means it fits neatly in my pants pocket, so I have no excuse not to carry it around with me. [1]

The iPad still has a role in my life. It’s my portable writing machine, my comic reader, my preferred way to use OmniFocus, and much more. However, for a pure reading experience, it just doesn’t hold up. Sure, an iPad Air or iPad mini would fix the portability issues, but they’re much pricier and still glow in my face at night. I’ve often maintained that I’d prefer something several things that do one thing well to one multi-function device that does a bunch of things poorly. The Kindle can do a bunch of things: browse the web, play rudimentary games, edit some text, but it does these all so poorly that it may as well be a single-purpose device. And I’m glad for it.

  1. I also sprung for an $20 Omoton case, the same one recommended by The Wirecutter. This way, I don’t have to worry about damaging the screen, or accidentally turning it on in my pocket.  ↩