I like little local hardware stores. I can quickly get in and get back out with the thing I went there for. In a superstore it’s way too easy to get distracted by all the shiny "oh yeah I forgot I need that" things I have to walk past.
Picking up the iPad to read a book is a lot like walking into a superstore. Before I get to the iBooks or Kindle app, I have to juke out Twitter, Mail, RSS apps, and other attention defensive backs.
I'm not saying the iPad fails as an e-reader. Honestly, it revolutionized how I read by being the first e-reader I ever took seriously. I've read at least a dozen books on it in the last two years.
But when it comes to reading longer form content (books), the Kindle Touch has made me realize that the absence of features in an e-reader is a feature itself.
These are my thoughts on the $99 Kindle Touch (Wi-Fi model) after reading the equivalent of about 500 paper pages on it.
The form factor
The Kindle Touch is feather light. So light that it almost has this child’s-toy-fakeness feel to it.
It’s easy to walk around reading it with one hand (something I’m tend to do with really good books). As you walk, the E Ink display’s hue changes with light in the room—like a real page.
The amount of text served by the Kindle Touch’s screen is just right. I actually prefer it to seeing two pages at a time in a real book.
Kindle is patient, like paper
A paperback is inherently a mono-tasking device. It can only do one thing: exist in front of you while you turn its pages.
If you put a paperback down for a few minutes, the pages don’t go dark. It will never never ever display unread counts or push alerts. And you’ll never have to ration your use of a paperback: You don’t rely on it for communication, and it’s battery will never die.
The Kindle Touch is much closer to a tree product than iOS. The battery life of any Kindle is so good, they might as well run on oxygen.
There is a long delay before the screen saver comes on. Even if I have to put the Kindle down for a few minutes, when I pick it back up, I don’t feel a sense of urgency to finish the page quickly—something I’ve noticed that I do when reading on an iOS device.
The Kindle patiently waits while I read each page. It’s a subtle nuance, yes. But I like it a lot.
The external perception
When someone sees you reading a paperback, they might ask, “what are you reading?” Same for the Kindle. But no one will ever ask you that question if you’re holding an iPhone or iPad in front of your face. They’ll assume you’re on Twitter, reading email, or playing a game.
Do I care that much about what other people think? No, not really. But sometimes it’s interesting—and constructive—to be asked what you’re reading.
The not-so-good; the wish list
- Page turns can be jerky. Honestly this isn’t a huge deal to me, but for a guy that’s been using iOS almost daily for about two years, it’s noticeable. It doesn’t bother me at all while reading, but menu navigation can get kinda rocky.
- Light, please. I wish Amazon would figure out some way of adding low-power lighting to the Kindle. I’d gladly trade some of the Kindle Touch’s (purported) two-month battery life for the ability to read at night. Fortunately, Whispersync works really well, so I can easily switch to iOS.
- Search is weirdly absent at times. The first time I tried to do a text search within a book, I got a message saying that the book wasn’t indexed. I tried another book. Then another. Same, same. I rebooted the Kindle by holding down the home and power buttons simultaneously. It fixed some books, but not all. Like I said, weird. And disappointing. Search is one of my favorite aspects of e-reading, and it works flawlessly in the iOS version of every e-book app I’ve tried.
- Ghosting happens. The E Ink screen usually does a decent job of clearing itself after each page turn, but not always. It’s never too distracting, but for a device whose sole purpose is serving crisp text, I’d like to see Amazon polish things here.
- I don’t need to know page locations. There’s no option to get rid of the location information at the bottom of the screen. Yeah, this is nitpicking. But one thing I love about the iOS Kindle app is that it only shows text. To me, there’s no utility in knowing my location on every page of an e-reader. If I really need to know, I can just tap once to see it.
- Entering text is somewhere between tolerable and frustrating. I like to make notes in books that I read. The Kindle’s screen just isn’t responsive enough to tap out more than a few letters at a time.
Given that the entry Kindle Touch is one fifth the price of the entry level iPad, I’m willing to forgive a lot of its touch-related design flaws, which are probably things I never would have perceived had I never used iOS.
And I'm not comparing the iPad to the Kindle Touch because I think they're competitors. They're not. If anything, one extends the other. I'm comparing because they're the two e-readers I've used the most.
If you like to read e-books, I think you’ll like the Kindle Touch. As I said, its best feature is its lack of features. Who thought that'd be worth paying for a few years ago?