Apple iPad vs. Amazon Kindle

Apple iPad
Apple iPad

– Hi! I’m an iPad.

– And I’m Amazon Kindle…

So the much rumored “Kindle/netbook/everything killer” is revealed to the public and we can finally make a first guess about it’s prospects in eBook/eReader market that is getting increasingly crowded as well as it’s general chances of success.

First of all it turns out that most of the speculations turned out to be wrong. It’s called iPad (not iSlate), the price point is $499..$829 not $799..$1000. However some people were right – it basically is an over-sized iPod Touch with and optional 3G data connection. It does run all or most of the iPhone/iPod Touch applications that are the main selling point of it’s smaller siblings.

I’ll save readers the suspense: I don’t believe that iPad will be a a Kindle-killer. It will capture a noticeable portion of the eReader market but I find it highly unlikely for it to even become #2. Here’s why:

1) It’s not as mobile as Amazon Kindle because:

1.a) Battery file. Since it uses a back-lit display even according to the specifications it can only sustain 10 hours of usage which is nowhere near week-long stretches eInk based readers can go on a single charge. In reality it may end up being even less than 10 hours since I’m yet to see a device that would live up to it’s battery life spec in a real-world usage scenario. Although 10 hours would seem like a lot, it is not if you think about scenarios like trans-Atlantic flight from the west coast or even domestic flight with several connections. Surely you can charge up while at the airport but then you are likely to end up sitting on the floor next to a restroom. Another option would be to carry iGo Power device or something similar but that’s not too convenient either.

1.b) Size and weight. Although it’s similar in weight and dimensions to Kindle DX, neither of these devices are truly “mobile” as both fail the “coat pocket test”. Personally I find 6″ screen much more convenient for reading on the go than larger 9.7″.

1.c) It lacks free Internet connection. You are either bound to use the WiFi or pay$14.99..$29.99 per month for 3G data plan. It’s nice that this plan doesn’t have a contact commitment but still… I’m already paying a hefty sum for my iPhone plan and another hefty sum for a separate data-plan to keep my netbook connected (AT&T still doesn’t allow iPhone tethering and with iPad hitting the market the chances of that happening are getting even slimmer. There definitely isn’t going to be an iPad tethering option since tethering a notebook to a tablet is as stupid as it sounds) so paying some more on top of that doesn’t seem reasonable to me.

2) There are fewer books available via iBooks and they cost more more. Until recently I though that convenience of books in under 60 seconds is the main selling point of Kindle, however after having to buy some books from Sony store (and finally putting my PRS-600 to a proper use) I would say that book selection is just as significant. What is the use of instant availability of nothing after all. But having fewer books at higher price that are not instantly available unless you pay even more for data-plan doesn’t seem like a recipe for success to me. iBooks app is ePub based to it’s possible that this shortcoming can be supplemented by buying books from other stores. It’s also possible to use apps to add support for other formats and stores. After all there is Kindle for iPhone that would make Amazon’s entire eBook selection to iPad users.

3) iBooks is only available in the US for the time being while Amazon has already gone international. Others will follow in time but it will not be very soon and it will not be easy for the eBook stores because of legal complexities involved.

4) Price. Although iPad is price point is close to that of Kindle DX, if all you are interested in is reading books and an occasional visit to Wikipedia, you can get Kindle 2 for almost half the price and with free Internet lifetime connection to boot.

5) Whether backlit screen is optimal for prolonged reading still remains a point of debate but it’s definitely not a plus for the iPad as far as eBooks are concerned. It will very likely to provide a sub-par experience under strong sunlight.

However not all is bad in the Apple camp. Here’s why the device might become successful:

1) Color screen will provide good reading experience for picture rich books (comics), newspapers and magazines. eInk’s lack of color is not a virtue in itself but result of direВ necessity.

2) Touchscreen canВ enhance the reading experience when properly used. В I consider gestures-based page turns a useless toy, sinceВ ergonomically it’s much more optimal to press a simple button. But navigating table of contents, links etc as well as looking up dictionary definitions is much easier if all you need to do if poke the word with your finger.

3) iPhone applications and almost fully functional browser do add some value to the device (if you are willing to carry it around despite it’s weight and dimensions).

4) Apple products == COOL! This will be reason enough for at least some people. It is possible though not likely that Apple will actually launch “I’m an iPad and I’m a Kindle” ad campaign that might prove successful.

So in short term my predictions for iPad are not great especially in the eBook niche. However I considered 1st generation iPhone to be a joke when it came out. Only after a year when app store was introduced, 3G was added along with at least partial Microsoft Exchange support the ugly duckling was transformed into a swan. The same might happen with iPad but it will not be soon.

Amazon has already introduced 70% commission to publishers and self-publishing authors (although with some strings attached) as the result of increasing competition. It’s likely that we’ll see Kindle DX price drop some time soon to make it more competitive against new rivals. Also it’s quite possible that by the time first iPads will start shipping in March, we’ll see first Kindle Apps become available that will make the entire Kindle product line more competitive.

I promise to get some hands-on time with the iPad as soon as it will become available and share the experience here.

8 thoughts on “Apple iPad vs. Amazon Kindle”

  1. I am a Kindle 2 owner and lover! However, I think IPad will be a significant challenger to the Kindle DX. For the same money it can do WAY more. Yes the Kindle DX does books better, much better, but the iPad can do video, music, games and other useful applications much better. The iPad user interface kills the Kindle DX and the aesthetics of the device will certainly lure many buyers. I’ve always thought the price of the DX is outrageous and now, compared to the iPad, consumers will increasingly look at what level of technology their $500 will buy. However, I believe the iPad will take a bigger bite out of the netbook market.

    Personally, as I write this post on my iMac, I plan on happily sticking with the Kindle 2. I love it for the selection Amazon provides and the eink technology.

    Ultimately the only thing that will kill the Kindle is if Amazon fails to innovate aggressively.

  2. No multitasking – don’t forget about it, since it’s one of the biggest let-downs of iPad. No built-in SD card reader (only via adapter, which has to be bought separately) is another reason why you might not love iPad (or should be call it iFail?). If you’re looking for USB port – go and buy yet another adapter from Apple…

  3. It seems to me that if one uses the Kindle App, the Barnes and Noble App and the Sony App and also has access to Gutenberg, feedbooks, manybooks, smashbooks, Lulu, etc that this reader has access to way more books than any other reader on the market. I think Amazon would be smart to add the ability to buy books off any site, or at a minimum, Adobe DRM ePub.

    Meanwhile I am going to wait until the actual device comes out to find out how long the battery lasts with wireless and whispernet off and no web browsing or game playing to see how it stacks up as an e-Reader.

    If the iPad can display all my RSS feeds as automatically as Apple Mail can, then I would be sorely tempted to buy the 16GB model just to do that and have a lot of other stuff available as well. On the other hand, I fully expect the next Kindle to be in Mirasol Color or some other color screen. Not as vivid as the iPad, but a month on a single charge far outweighs the advantages of the iPad, also ability to read outside, which I do a lot of in the warmer months.

  4. I still love my Kindles. I have a K2i and my wife has a KDXi. The iPad is just an overblown iPod Touch by the look of it. I already have one of those and it fits in my shirt pocket which the iPad can’t do. The K2i can slip into my trousers pocket if I want my hands free. I travel a lot. My next trip will be from Sydney to Beijing, about 19 hours total travel time. I’ll be happily reading my Kindle all the way on a single charge, while the iPad users will be reduced to reading airline magazines and playing tiddlywinks in the aisles. Unless they have an airline power plug (more $$) and their seat happens to have airline power available. I’ve been on a number of flights where they had the seat power socket, but there was no power because the breaker had tripped or the crew simply hadn’t bothered to turn it on. And that was in business class. Not my problem any more with the Kindle! As for ePub (like in the million or so free Google books), I can read those on my Kindles too, by converting them to mobi format on my laptop. It would be nice, though, if the Kindles had native ePub support in the future, as that would save me a couple of small conversion steps.

    Nearly forgot to mention. Apple doesn’t allow me to copy files to my iPod Touch using the USB cable, even though Apple uses it to sync other iPod stuff (Calendars, notes and contact lists) to the PC via the USB. So the technology’s there but they’ve locked it out. App developers other than Apple have to use the wireless network connection, which really sucks if you have your laptop and iPod handy but are not in a WiFi zone, like all day when I’m in the office. What other things will be locked out of the iPad to suit Apple’s convenience?

  5. No multitasking isn’t that bad in itself. I believe that it’s multitasking that killed Windows Mobile. It just doesn’t work as well on mobile devices

  6. I suspect that e-book reading won’t be the primary use of the iPad. Rather, rich media content of all types will find a large audience among iPad users. A new breed of apps is also likely to emerge.

    I’m also not really bothered by the lack of multitasking. On my netbook running Ubuntu UNR I rarely multitask. I think iPad is a really great start for a first generation product. We’ll see what it’s doing in a few years. The mobile & portable computing market is going to be dramatically different then, regardless whether the iPad succeeds or not.

  7. I agree completely with you that the most important thing about any e-reader is content. It is the final straw that pushed me to the Kindle 2 rather than the nook. Other features are useless if you can’t get the books you want. Although it seems the iPad can read Amazon, B&N, and other books with the corresponding apps. It also looks like Apple may be the bully and force book prices up, though, as is being seen with the Amazon/Macmillan fight. We will have to see the ultimate result.

    I also think the price on iPad vs. Kindle 2 is not even close. To get a 3G capable iPad you are looking at a minimum of $629 (close to $400) more than the Kindle, and that does not even get you 3G (a monthly charge). The DX, however, is going to have to do a big price drop or it will be in trouble.

    I completely disagree with your comment that multitasking killed Windows Mobile. Firstly, I think WinMo is still kicking, but it has been hurt by slow development, as WinMo 7 has taken forever to get out (and we are still waiting). I don’t know why any device, especially one more powerful than a phone would not do multitasking. This thing is supposed to take the place of a netbook or other tablet, but anything with Windows is going to multitask no problem. Seems interesting.

  8. A kindLE of Magic (or, why Apple’s Ipad is a bluff)

    February 7th, 2010

    Despite Apple’s claims, Ipad can’t be an Amazon Kindle competitor. Here is why.

    Apple’s Ipad announcement raised the usual hype on general press and even gained the cover of The Economist. Steve Jobs said, during his Yerba Buena talk, that Jeff Bezos, at Amazon, did a great job with Kindle, but Apple is actually going a step ahead whit its Ipad. Well, of course Mr. Jobs needs to say that, but the statement might prove to be incorrect.

    A question first: what is the Ipad? Answer: a keyboardless computer (but if you want, you may purchase a separate one.)

    Sure, you can read ebooks (with some fancy visual trick), you can write your papers and run your presentations, and do your math with Numbers, and enjoy thousand of Iphone application, and surf the Internet and do everything a normal computer does. So, back to the point, the Ipad is just a (not-so-powerful) general purpose computer.

    And now comes Kindle.

    Question: what is Kindle?

    Answer: a book reading machine.

    Kindle does just one thing (allowing people to read books) and does it damn good. The battery lasts for a long time, the download of the purchased book is fast and free almost everywhere in the world, eyes aren’t tired by reading through the screen, usability is at every opposite-thumbs-equipped human being’s range, learning curve is measurable in terms of minutes.

    I don’t actually know whether or not the Ipad will be a bluff, what is sure, is that Amazon Kindle works like a kind of magic.

    Thank you Mr. Bezos.

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