It's no secret that I've been a convert to the Amazon Kindle for more than a year now. And now that Amazon has announced its second generation of the Kindle, I'm even more impressed with the device than I was before. But some misguided souls, like my colleague Rick Broida, are throwing down the gauntlet on my favorite eBook reader, saying it's no match for that little all-in-one wonder from Apple, the iPhone. Here's why they're wrong.
1. It's easy on the eyes. And no, I'm not talking about the design. The Kindle's 6-inch E-Ink display sports a crisp 600x800 resolution that closely rivals the look of a real printed page. And because it's as wide as a typical trade paperback, there's plenty of space on the page to increase the font size to a large, comfortable level while still fitting more than 5 words on the screen.
Rick points out that the Kindle lacks a backlight, but he's missing the point: E-Ink's lack of backlighting is a critical factor that makes it so easy to read on. The iPhone's bright backlit screen may be fine for the kind of infantile picture books Rick likes to "read," but for those of us who really like to spend a day immersed in a great novel, the iPhone is practically blinding. Sure, I wish the Kindle had some kind of built-in light that would allow me to read in the dark without clipping an external book light to its cover, but backlighting is not the best solution.
2. One-handed control. When I first picked up my Kindle, I wasn't sure I'd like the layout of its buttons. But by the time I had finished thumbing my way through my first downloaded title, I was sold. The Kindle's controls make it easy to hold the device in one hand and advance to the next page with a light flick of a thumb or finger, no matter which hand you choose to hold it in. This is one case in which the Kindle trumps both the iPhone and old-school paper books.
3. Low cost of ownership. Yes, the Kindle itself costs $359 out the door, but once you plunk down that cash, you're done paying for the device. Plus, the books themselves are dirt cheap. New titles typically cost $9.99, even when their dead-tree versions are only available in $30 hard covers. And many titles cost much less, including a huge selection of classics for as little as 99 cents.
4. Free 3G Internet. In addition to being a phenomenal way to carry and read hundreds of books, the Kindle comes with free Internet access for the life of the device. That means you can access just about any information on the Net without spending an additional dime. How much does Rick spend on his iPhone's wireless service? $70 bucks a month? Win for Kindle.
5. Crazy long battery life. The Kindle's E-Ink display sips power so efficiently that it can go days at a time without a recharge, so it's perfect for taking on long trips where you won't have ready access to a power outlet. And while the iPhone actually gets pretty impressive battery life for a phone, it's not even in the same sport--let alone the same league--as the Kindle. Considering that the iPhone will inevitably spend most of its day serving as a phone, there's little guarantee that it'll have much juice left when book time rolls around.
Ultimately, the iPhone is a great all-around smart phone, and I'm not trying to knock it for that. But compared with a dedicated eBook reader like the Kindle, it's just another mobile device with a color display. Rick points out that the iPhone will someday support Kindle books, and I'm glad for that. The more devices support Amazon's format, the better it will be for everyone who loves eBooks. And if Rick wants to read his books on an inferior device, that's his choice.