Monday, August 9, 2010

Why I bought an iPad


I bought my new iPad a week ago. I thought I’d write a post explaining why I bought one, and kind of giving it a review against other eReaders I’ve used. But I noticed that Steve Jones wrote something similar at SQL Musings a few days ago. I had almost finished my post when I read it, and I decided to go ahead and finish it with this disclaimer. But please read Steve’s post, he raises some excellent points.


I read. A lot. Always have. And since I have a long daily commute I have a lot of time in which to read. My tastes range from light summer reading, books that are perfect for taking to the beach or on vacation, to heavily technical training manuals.

My problem is what to carry with me. I usually use my morning commute to study or to read the news. The afternoons are most likely spent doing research. Nights and weekends are for reading the latest novel. For instance I’m currently studying for the SQL 2008 Business Intelligence certifications so I’m going through the MS Press Training Kit for 70-448. But I’m also reading Carl Hiassen’s latest novel Star Island. And I’ve got James Lee Burke’s The Glass Rainbow on tap.

Older Devices

I’ve been reading eBooks for a while now, on any number of devices. I started by reading pdf files on my desktop computer. Then came Microsoft Reader and their .lit files. Of course Word documents and text files were included.

But the problem with using a desktop computer was that it wasn’t portable. Once I got an IT job I could justify buying a laptop computer. Even more handy were PDA devices, precursors to the smart phones of today. Each of these devices also had issues. Laptops, at least the ones I had years ago, were bulky, took a while to boot up, and generally didn’t have a lot of extra storage. And PDA screens were too small for my liking. If I made the font large enough to read comfortably then I was turning pages constantly. 

My devices now

Enter the Amazon Kindle. I know that the Sony Reader came first, but it never really tempted me. I thought the price was too high and the book selection was too small. I thought the same of the Kindle 1 when it first came out. It wasn’t until the Kindle 2 was released, with a growing number of eBooks and a cheaper price, that I got behind it.

I also had a different laptop now, an HP Pavilion TX2000 that’s a Tablet PC with a swivel screen that can run as a slate or a classic laptop. This 3 year old PC has 4 GB of RAM and a 500 GB hard drive so it can run pretty much anything I want.

And as you can tell from the title of this post, I just bought an Apple iPad. I’ve got the 16 GB WiFi model, more than enough storage for my pdfs and other documents.

I should also say I’ve ruled out the Nook from Barnes and Noble as too much like the Kindle. I know it can share books, but I don’t know anyone else with a Nook and I don’t think the eBook selection is as good as Amazon.

Kindle pros and cons

I’ve been using the Kindle 2 now since it came out and I love most of it. It’s light, easy to hold in one hand while reading. It has a large enough storage capacity of 1.5 GB, free 3G Whispernet connectivity and direct connect to Amazon or other sites to download a book in 60 seconds. You can adjust the font and the number of words per line, and the readability on the Kindle is the best of my three main devices. The battery life is 2 weeks with 3G off, 4 days with it on. And you can read in direct sunlight, so I can read just about anywhere. There’s no back light, but I have a clip-on for the few times I read in bed. The last Kindle upgrade added collections, a way of grouping my books by category.

My only regret about the Kindle is that it’s not the best device to read technical books or pdfs on. Originally, I could email a pdf to a special Kindle account and it would convert it to a Kindle-formatted ebook. Later there was an update that allows me to copy a pdf directly to the Kindle. And there’s always been 3rd party tools like MobiReader and Calibre that could convert pdfs to a format that Kindles can read. However big pdfs are a problem, and converted pdfs never really convert cleanly. The 2.5 update allows zooming into pdfs and you can rotate the screen, but there’s still an uncomfortable amount of scrolling and page turning that makes reading pdfs on the Kindle very difficult, at least for me.    

Tablet PC pros and cons

I love my tablet pc. It fits my needs as a laptop computer, allowing me to run every application I want, plus it’s Wacom and touch enabled so I can take handwritten notes. Amazon and other eBook manufacturers have released a Kindle app for pcs so I can sync my Kindle books between devices. I’ve got built-in WiFi and a Sprint 3G data card so I can connect to the internet from just about anywhere. Using Adobe Reader allows me to size my pdfs to any size I need. And when I’m studying its great to have the ability to work directly in another application to try out some of the things I’m reading about in my current pdf.

But the tablet pc is the most expensive device. It’s also has the least amount of battery life, though I have more than enough for my daily commutes. It takes the longest to start up either cold or warm. It’s the bulkiest by far. And the screen is unreadable in sunlight.

iPad pros and cons

I fought getting an iPad for a while, I really did. I thought for the most part it would just duplicate what i could already do on my tablet pc. But it does have some distinct advantages. First, it’s much lighter. Not as light as my Kindle but pounds less that my tablet. It starts up almost immediately. The larger screen makes the iPad ideal for my technical documents. I can browse the web and read emails through the WiFi connection. And like my tablet, there’s a Kindle app so I can sync up my Amazon books.

Again, like the tablet, I can’t read the screen outdoors. It’s far more expensive than the Kindle ($499 vs $139 for the lowest priced models) but not as expensive as my tablet. Battery life is started at 10 hours. That’s acceptable for my commutes but I’d have to carry a charger for vacations.

My conclusions

I really want to have a single ebook reader but my perfect device isn’t out there just yet. I want a device that can easily read all formats, has great battery life, is small enough to be carried easily, can be read in all light conditions, has Internet connectivity through WiFi or 3G, and is affordable. Until that device is available I’ll be using my iPad for technical readings and my Kindle for my more causal readings.

1 comment:

Lisa Moore said...

So which of the two do you use more frequently? There hasn't been a device yet that meets all of the specs you're looking for, but at least these two gadgets serve their purpose - in fact, they're very good at what they do. Besides, both of them have a solid user base. Both have lots of apps and, in the case of trouble, tech support is always within reach.