I get asked this a lot: “should I buy an iPad or should I buy a Kindle?” The TLDR; answer is: no, you should buy both.
When the iPad was announced, I immediately thought “LCD? Well that will be crap for reading.” Actually, it wasn’t half bad… for about ten minutes. The next ten minutes are an odious trudge towards complete ocular misery. By twenty minutes, I develop a throbbing headache, and focusing on the text becomes difficult. I begin reading the same sentence over and over and struggle to shake the idea that if I don’t hurry up and finish the page in a reasonable amount of time the photons it is shooting into my brain might give me cancer. You wouldn’t want to read a whole book on this, unless you could do it five minutes at a time. So what are you to do? Buy both already! You can get the pair for $640 US. If you’re even a “book a month” sort of reader, you’ll use them both enough to justify it.
Don’t fret. They have nearly zero functional overlap. Magazines and news sites on the Kindle? Nah, you want the full color graphics, speed, and interactivity of the iPad. Books on the iPad? Not unless you’re willing to self-trepanate every quarter hour. You’d quickly run out of skull to bore. Beyond that, they have completely different usage attitudes.
With the Kindle, you’re becoming absorbed in a story for an hour or more at a time. You can read in bed, right before you go to sleep, without worrying that it will rile you up. To the contrary, the Kindle relaxes you. You might even take it outside to the pool or to the hammock. Flight attendants will chastise the iPhone-using passenger next to you as the plane descends for landing; but you, the gentle Kindle user, she’ll merely touch on the shoulder and tell you with a smile to make sure your seatbelt is securely fastened.
The iPad wakes you up. BAM! Here’s the news, with pictures and video. TWEET! Here’s the torrential banality of Twitter to distract you from something (or everything) important. TWEET! Here’s the same exclamation used again because you’re paying the insanely addictive Angry Birds game. ZAP! Here’s you firing off an e-mail over your morning coffee.
I’ve never found myself struggling which to pick, much in the same way that nobody is ever torn between having tea and going sky diving. They are different devices, for different purposes. And that’s a good thing in the case of the Kindle. There is something almost drug-like about having a device that can do anything. It’s hard to turn off that ability. With the Kindle, you won’t be thinking about increasing your Fruit Ninja high score, or frantically checking and re-checking your e-mail. You’ll be in the only state that is appropriate when reading a book: completely lost in it.
And the iPad? It lets you live your soul crushing, hyper connected, vanity searching, e-mail enslaved life in any room of the house, instead of being planted in a desk chair in a darkened basement. And it has two other things going for it: it’s easy to set it down and rejoin the world, and sometimes you’ll lose it in a stack of mail for a day and be forced to do something edifying instead.
Update: Jeff Bezos agrees, and says the data bears this out
We’re seeing that many of the people who are buying Kindles also own an LCD tablet. Customers report using their LCD tablets for games, movies, and web browsing and their Kindles for reading sessions. They report preferring Kindle for reading because it weighs less, eliminates battery anxiety with its month-long battery life, and has the advanced paper-like Pearl e-ink display that reduces eye-strain, doesn’t interfere with sleep patterns at bedtime, and works outside in direct sunlight, an important consideration especially for vacation reading. Kindle’s $139 price point is a key factor — it’s low enough that people don’t have to choose.