Monday, May 17, 2010

After Trying an iPad I Bought a Kindle

An alumnus of the school I work at donated an iPad to be given to a teacher to use in the classroom. The iPad was given to me first so that I could figure out how it might be useful in the classroom, and then pass it on to a teacher. I had it for about two weeks trying out its various capabilities. It's a nice device, but I decided since I already had a MacBook and an iPhone, getting an iPad of my own wouldn't be that useful to me. That's not to say I wouldn't make use of one if I had one, but not enough to justify the cost.

One evening that I was playing with the iPad, I turned my attention to eBooks. I installed both the Amazon Kindle Reader and the iBook applications to see what they could do. I had used the Kindle Reader on the iPhone to read one short novel (Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson) and had started reading another book on it (John Adams by David McCullough). I enjoyed always having the availability of a book in my pocket, but the iPhone was not good for extended periods of reading. The Kindle app on the iPad was the same thing, but with a bigger screen. You didn't have to turn the pages as often, but it was still a computer screen that caused eye-strain. Apple's iBook application had some nice features, but it was still the same screen. It was getting late in the evening, and after having used a computer all day, I was in no mood to stare at another computer screen to read a book, even if was the latest touch-screen tablet.

I did some research on eBooks, including the two major eBook formats: Mobi which is used on the Kindle, and ePub, which is used by everyone else (Sony, Nook, iBook, and others). I found out that for books that did not use DRM (Digital Rights Management), it was easy to convert between the formats using a program called Calibre. I also found out that it was easy to take any text and convert it to one of these eBook formats. I realized that if I got a Kindle, I could do the following cool things:

  • Read new books at a reduced price, since Kindle prices were usually lower than printed book prices.
  • Read older books for free, or a very low price ($1-$3).
  • Have the same book on my Kindle device and my iPhone. The iPhone allowed me to always have something to read in my pocket, but the Kindle was much better for long reading. Amazon's Whispersync feature would keep my reading position synchronized across both devices.
  • I could put study materials for grad school on the Kindle rather than printing them out, especially when it came time for comprehensive exams. I've seen some of my friends who were further ahead in the program carrying huge ring binders full of stuff they were reading for their comps.
So, I ordered a Kindle, and it arrived on Saturday. I'm really happy with it so far. After I've used it a little longer, I will write more of a review.

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