Tepring

Adventures into the Madness

Kindle vs. the iPad

February26

The other day, I had to pull my head out of reading a long, academic blog and take my daughter to gymnastics. I really wanted to continue reading. Kindle usually goes with me to gymnastics, but its web browsing is very limited and I couldn’t assume I could get to the blog. The iPhone zapped up the content in a heartbeat, but the screen is so tiny that the scrolling and zooming quickly became very annoying. It was at that moment that I “got” the iPad (if it is anything like a giant iPhone). But I have yet to see it as a “Kindle-killer”.

To be fair, I do love my Kindle. It’s one of those devices that generates loyalty (like my TiVo).  And that is partly why Apple won’t “win” the e-reader audience until they prove that they’ve got the content to justify a switch.  The Sony e-reader is considered by many to be the superior device, but I don’t have one because I have no idea how one buys or installs books.  Barrier.  The end.  Apple will sell the iPad to their drooling early adopters for all those other reasons, not because of an e-reader ground surge (my prediction until I see their plans and marketing for how they’re going to sell books).  Kindle has captured attention exactly because it does NOT require early adopter attitudes to understand and use.  I think constantly back to the retired couple at the pool last summer who caught me reading my Kindle and came over to enthuse about theirs.  They were far from geeky, but they LOVED the kindle because they could take their “heavy” book club books with them when they traveled.

What Amazon has done that sets the bar high for future e-readers is that they have created more than just a device – they’ve created a library and the means to access it.  The device is admittedly flawed. The REAL value is the Kindle’s access to books.  Lots of books.  Books I actually want to buy.  And I can get them without plugging the thing into my computer.  I can buy on impulse, just like in a store.  I can email it my own stories and documents and read them.  The device itself really only offers one necessity: I can read comfortably for hours, just like from paper.

I can see a future where the iPad replaces my Kindle IF they meet the above criteria, if only to reduce device clutter.  Somehow, though, it seems like the thing developers miss consistently on the e-reader scene is that it’s the content that’s important.  I don’t expect Apple and Amazon to behave sensibly as the technology goes forward.  Instead of partnering on open standards for books, I fully expect that Apple will try to do their own store, their own incompatible e-book formats.

Which is a shame.  Remember the 90′s Apple/PC debate?  Where you decided what machine you got based on what software was available? Um, yeah.  Apple finally figured out on the desktop computing side that they could compete much more successfully by simply having the better machine (and UI) and actually helping the user port software across platforms.  Even the iPhone 3G took off only after Apple allowed independent developers to create content for it.  (see the theme?  content?) Maybe they’ll figure that out faster this time… yeah right.  Amazon constantly gets slammed for their devotion to a fairly boring, flawed device, but providing content (while unlauded) is where and why they’ve tipped many readers over to ebooks.

Are you getting this?  1 Device company + 1 Content company = Marriage made in heaven.  Let’s partner people!

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