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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Kindle or iBook? An Author Discusses . . .

Kindle v. iBook

Co-authoring a book (Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason, with Dan Van Haften: see puts one in a unique position to evaluate Kindle v. iBook.

Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason is $9.99 on Kindle. It is $16.99 as an iBook. That relative price difference seems generally within the range of other similar newly published books.

The price difference is even greater because for $9.99 one can load the Kindle version on three platforms: For instance, a free Kindle reader on a Mac desktop, a free Kindle reader on an iPhone, and a free Kindle reader on an iPad. I don’t own a Kindle machine but one could substitute the Kindle machine for an iPad.

There is no desktop iBook reader. So forget about displaying an iBook on a Macbook or a PC.

iBooks can be used on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, and can be synched to all iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches you own. But most people do not need more than one cell phone; and if you have an iPhone you don't need an iPod touch. Nor does one normally need more than one tablet. But, it is useful (for limited purposes) to be able to view a book on a desktop computer. So, in my view, Kindle’s three loads that work on three different kinds of hardware (small cell phone, a book-sized reader, and a full-sized computer) are more valuable than iBooks’ infinite loadability on an infinite number of iPhones, iPads, or iPod touches. You probably have no more than two of those three that you use, and you are restricted to Apple hardware (nice as it is).

But what about features.

Kindle sparkles on Apple hardware. However, as one might expect, there are some little touch, look, and feel aspects to iBooks that make iBooks marginally superior to Kindle. Except for one such feature, most of these pluses, though real, are trivial. But there is one iBook feature that to me is significantly more than trivial. Both iBook and Kindle have a slider on the bottom of the screen to quickly move through a book. But the Kindle slider is kind of like the old UNIX command line game of "Find the Wumpus," being blind in a maze of caves. An iBook shows chapter names as you slide. This is a huge plus.

If Apple wanted to improve that advantage, it would be great if there were a click when the slider reached the first page of any chapter. Usually that is where you want to go when you use the slider. Then, even better, would be a human factor automatically going to that chapter’s first page if one’s finger is lifted within the appropriate fraction of a second (since one is nearly always going to go just past that click).

David Hirsch


Anonymous said...

So which one will go the way of 8-track tapes and Beta-Max?

Or will yet another format eclipse both Kindle and the 'i' devices?

"He who demands the future, commands the future!"


Anonymous said...

I am part way through your book and enjoying it. It is a deep book, and not an easy read, but it is new and fresh and I am enjoying it and recommending it already.


dw said...

Great post. I am a Kindle and iPad owner, but I prefer the Kindle for reading books despite the iBook's extra features. The non-backlit screen on the Kindle is easier on the eyes, and you're not tempted to check your email. The Kindle is just about reading. It's lighter, too.