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a) Kindle b) iPad c) None of the Above

March 15th, 2011 by eTutor
Kindle

The Kindle: simple, light, and pays for itself.

I’ve spent most of my life as a gadget geek, and recently bought a Kindle, opting to pass on the iPad. I thought I’d write about it since some of our e-Tutor students may be thinking through whether one of these gadgets would be useful for themselves.

First things first. I understand the difference between wants and needs. Owning a Kindle or an iPad falls firmly into the wants category for me. I’m fortunate enough to be able to indulge my wants every now and then, which was definitely the case this time around.

In a logical comparison between the Kindle and the iPad, the Kindle was the obvious choice from the beginning:

  • I already have internet access on my laptop and smartphone; being able to surf or check e-mail on the new device would be optional, and maybe even overkill.  The fact that the Kindle only lets you read books didn’t hurt it during my decision making process.
  • I have a hard time with eye strain on most days because I spend so much time in front of a computer.  The Kindle’s simple black and white screen is much easier on the eyes than a computer screen because it’s not backlit.  The iPad, on the other hand, has the same type of screen as my laptop.  It wouldn’t give my eyes a break, and is impossible to read in direct sunlight, more than offsetting the advantage of having a color touchscreen.
  • The Kindle is lighter, more comfortable to hold, and cheaper (though the iPad is sexier).  This still holds true even with the lighter iPad 2 that was just released (I had a chance to look at a couple of them this morning – very cool, but still overkill for me).

With that said, I still dragged out the debate in my head (that’s what gadget geeks do).  As the owner of four Apple products already (iPod, iPhone, Macbook Pro, and Apple TV), the allure of the iPad was and still is strong.  Like other Apple products, the iPad is simple and fun to use.  I borrowed Dr. Angulo’s iPad for a week, and was very tempted to buy one.  Ultimately I passed because I didn’t want to spend $499 for something that duplicates two other devices that I already own, leaving long form reading (books) as the unmet want that would be filled by a new device.

e-Tutor students don’t need a Kindle or iPad any more than I do, but may want one just as much as I do.  The e-Tutor curriculum is set up so that no extra devices (also no workbooks, texts, or downloads) are required to complete a lesson module.  For students who read quite a bit, however, having a Kindle may make sense as an optional tool.  Stepping away from a backlit screen to read on a Kindle is a great way to break up your day a bit, especially if you’re trying to be as productive as possible with your schedule.

These days I read quite a bit, spending maybe an hour a day on books.  This is on top of the hours I spend reading blog posts, e-mail, news stories, etc. on my computer throughout my work day.  For long form reading, the Kindle is tough to beat:

  • I don’t have to chase down books any more.  I used to research books online, drive to a local bookstore, and track them down on a bookshelf.  I’d repeat this until I found the book in stock.  Since I look for technical books (HTML, CSS, PHP, Ruby on Rails, and other fun stuff) a lot, this can be very time consuming.  I’m rarely patient enough to wait for a book to arrive in the mail.  Downloading a book is right up there with the best in instant gratification.
  • I can carry multiple books on a single device instead of overloading my backpack.  Many of the books I buy become reference books after I’ve finished my first read.  Carrying them around is impractical (most of these technical books are 400+ pages) but useful.  I also have PDF versions of owners’ manuals I need occasionally and other reading that is in my “To Be Read” queue.
  • I look up words I wouldn’t otherwise look up.  Having the dictionary built in lets me look up new words quickly, which is a great habit for me and for e-Tutor students.  I never used to do this – I’m glad I do now.
  • I make a lot of notes and highlights.  With paper books, I have a hang-up about marking the pages in any way.  I don’t underline, write, highlight, or dog ear.  For some reason I don’t have that hang-up with the Kindle.  I frequently note passages that I want to revisit later.  You can also see what other Kindle users are highlighting, which can be handy too.
  • I read more.  The Kindle makes the reading experience better for me for all the reasons above, which makes me read more.  This is a good thing.

At a price of $139, the Kindle has been a great addition to my library, especially when you factor in that it will pay for itself.  At the rate that I’m buying books right now, the savings of buying lower priced Kindle editions of books rather than paper editions (plus shipping), the Kindle will have paid for itself by the end of the year.  A great bargain when you like the Kindle reading experience better than the traditional one.

If any of you have a better reading option, I’m all ears – see you in the comments.

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