I'm an e-book fan from way back. Ever since my trusty Pilot 5000 rescued me from terminal boredom on a seemingly endless train ride, I've made sure to keep my current pocket companion (be it PDA or smartphone) stocked with a good book or two.
And I've never had a better e-book experience than with the iPhone. Sure, my editor Robert Strohmeyer is all pumped up over the new Amazon Kindle, but if he thinks it can beat the iPhone in a head-to-head match, he's delusional. Much as I'm glad to see Kindle selling like hotcakes (turns out people still like books after all!), the iPhone trumps it at almost every turn. Here's why:
1. Duh: It's a phone. The Kindle is a single-purpose device. Make no mistake: It's great at what it does, or so I've been told. (Confession: I've never actually used one.) But my iPhone, well, do I really need to list all the things it can do? Last I checked, the Kindle doesn't offer maps, music, video, games, e-mail, Web browsing, or, gee, a telephone.
2. It fits in my pocket. While the new Kindle 2 is undeniably sexy (unlike its predecessor, which was undeniably butt-ugly), it's still too big to fit in a pocket. Or ride shotgun on a belt. My iPhone goes where I go, and does so with ease. The Kindle is something extra I have to remember to bring, and, unlike Robert, I don't routinely carry a purse. Where am I supposed to put the thing?
3. It has a backlit screen. I like to read in bed. 'Nuff said.
4. It can download books (and more) on the fly. The original Kindle scored well-deserved points for its wireless connectivity: Users can shop Amazon's bookstore and download new purchases on the fly--no PC required. Well, guess what? iPhone e-book apps like eReader and Stanza can do likewise. You can get commercial titles from the likes of Dan Brown and Stephanie Meyer and thousands of freebies from Project Gutenberg and other sources. Even voracious readers will find an endless supply of material. And need I mention that an iPhone can also download music, podcasts, apps, and more?
5. One day soon, it'll gain access to the Kindle bookstore. Amazon didn't announce it today, but I'm guessing it won't be long before there's a Kindle app for the iPhone. It's a no-brainer: iTunes still doesn't sell e-books, so there's no competition from Apple. Meanwhile, Amazon can tap a huge installed base of iPhone and iPod Touch users. It's easy money for them.
So there you have it: five slam-dunk reasons the iPhone wins the e-book challenge. Robert will point to the Kindle's lower book prices and total cost of ownership ($359 out the door, versus $199/$299 for an iPhone plus $70 monthly...forever), but don't forget point #1: The iPhone is way more than an e-book viewer. And for $229 you can get an iPod Touch with nearly all the same capabilities, but no monthly fees.
What would it take for me, a longtime lover of e-books, to buy a Kindle? A lower price. A pocket-friendly design. (Does an e-book reader really need a full QWERTY keyboard? Um, no.) A backlit screen. Hmm...sounds a lot like the device I'm already carrying.