The iPad is perfect for media and has become my favourite way to read blogs, news and articles I’ve saved to Instapaper. I do have an issue with reading full books on it though – I have read quite a few, but usually on holiday, in situations where I haven’t had an internet connection.
Whenever I try to read a book at home or in a café here in Munich, Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity have an endless stream of short, easily accessible content that keeps me from long-form reading.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve read about a dozen novels and other books on my iPad using the Kindle app – and it’s perfectly fine. It’s the amount of other content that is available on the iPad that is the problem.
Reading things I’ve come across online often feels more valuable: I follow a bunch of clever people, and the articles and posts they recommend are often work-related, or contain useful information that I tend to prioritize over traditional books. It feels more productive and efficient to consume online “knowledge”, rather than novels or non-fiction books.
While short nuggets of information from the web are enjoyable and entertaining, I don’t relax the way I do when I’m reading a good novel. “Switching off” after a stressy day is important, but I have to make an effort to mentally switch off when using an iPad. I stopped reading on the iPad in bed and went back to dead-tree books for a few months and I found myself more relaxed as a result.
Amazon’s latest e-ink reader is very nice: the hardware feels good, but not quite as nice as Apple’s products. The single on/off button is easy to find and the surface is nice and grippy, but not too rubbery.
Since I tend to read a lot on holidays and we’re so close to Austria and Italy, I splurged and got the model with free international 3G, so that’s what I’m basing this on.
The Paperwhite is light enough to be comfortable to hold for long periods of time, and the e-ink screen is as nice as Amazon promises. The backlight (the omission of which always stopped me from buying earlier Kindle models) is easy on the eyes and you barely notice the slight unevenness while reading.
The light definitely impacts battery life though: whilst older e-ink Kindles measure their battery life in weeks, the Paperwhite’s battery will be noticeably drained after an evening or two of reading with the backlight on. It’s hardly an issue though – Amazon claims you’ll get around 20 hours, which is still more than enough.
I do occasionally still struggle with the best way to hold it while lying down: it rests quite comfortably in one hand against my thumb, but page turns can be a little bit awkward in that position. Every now and then I swipe fractionally too high and open the menu (which is activated by touching the very top of the screen) accidentally instead. A physical page turn button along the side where you hold the device would be much better.
The e-ink screen feels much more responsive than those found on earlier Kindles I had played with – nothing like a real tablet of course, but fast enough to not be annoying. I had no trouble typing, highlighting passages or browsing the store – all of which felt extremely inconvenient on non-touch Kindles.
If you’re a casual reader, the Kindle Paperwhite may not be for you: it’s perfect reading for long-form content and nothing else. If my only issue with the iPad for reading was that it is too large and heavy, I would get an iPad mini.
But the total lack of other features, content and distractions is what I’m enjoying most about the Kindle. I can relax and read, without skipping back to twitter, Instapaper articles or other content. Material that is designed to be digested over the course of a few hours or even days, not a minutes.
It feels quite superfluous to have both an iPad and a Kindle, but it’s already helping me read more, so I’m happy.