Kindle Versus iPad - InformationWeek
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12/21/2010
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Ed Hansberry
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Kindle Versus iPad

The Kindle has arguably been one of the most successful consumer electronics with broad consumer appeal. It has repeatedly been the best seller at Amazon. The iPad came along in early 2010 and claimed to be able to out-Kindle the Kindle as well as do so much more. Almost a year later, how is the Kindle faring?

The Kindle has arguably been one of the most successful consumer electronics with broad consumer appeal. It has repeatedly been the best seller at Amazon. The iPad came along in early 2010 and claimed to be able to out-Kindle the Kindle as well as do so much more. Almost a year later, how is the Kindle faring?The Kindle has been snapped up by people that would never consider owning a computer. You don't need one. It downloads ebooks, magazines, basic games and more without the need for a host PC, something other successful consumer electronics like the iPod cannot do. It is entirely self contained.

It is limited though, and the iPad targets those weaknesses. The Kindle's screen is monochrome and unsuitable for video, but that contributes to a fantastic battery life. It's music playing abilities are weak, and those do require a host PC to transfer the MP3 files over.

The iPad excels at everything the Kindle is weak on. It also does a formidable job of what the Kindle was built for, like reading books and magazines.

InvestorPlace has published results from a recent ChangeWave survey of the status of the ebook market. For ereading, the iPad is definitely gaining. In August it represented 16 percent of the ereader market and by November that had doubled to 32 percent. The Kindle declined from 62 percent to 47 percent in the same time frame.

Satisfaction with the devices was pretty even. 96 percent of iPad owners are either somewhat satisfied or very satisfied with the device. The Kindle scored 92 percent satisfaction. Where it differs is just 1 percent of iPad owners are dissatisfied in some way whereas 4 percent of Kindle users are. True, 4 percent is a small number, but it shows that some are disappointed with the device.

I suspect the main reason for a higher dissatisfaction score is related to the limitations of the Kindle. When it comes to ebooks, the Kindle reigns. 93 percent of Kindle owners read ebooks with their device, closely corresponding to the 92 percent satisfaction rate. When it comes to newspapers, magazines and blogs, numbers are typically in the single digit range. Being able to reflow text to the Kindle's screen is well suited to an ebook, but when it comes to print that is typically formatted and laid out in a particular way, the Kindle struggles. I do find the 93 percent number a bit puzzling though. I assumed it would be 100 percent of Kindle owners used it for ebooks. Those 7 percent that don't simply picked the wrong device.

As I said before, the iPad plays to the weaknesses of the Kindle. 73 percent use it for ebooks, but 51 percent use it for newspapers, nearly five times the usage rate for a Kindle for the same content. Magazines and blogs are also used by iPad owners multiple times more than their Kindle counterparts.

For me, the Kindle is the way to go. I prefer its lighter weight, a screen that is readable outside and an insanely long battery life. I carried mine on vacation and left the charger at home. I downloaded a book and perused the Amazon store and still came home with just under half of the battery life left. My primary goal is to read ebooks on it, and it excels at that.

For those that want more though, the iPad may be the ticket. The increasing market share for the iPad for reading material clearly shows that ebooks are not the only thing ebibliophiles want to consume.

One final note to remember - some portion of those ebooks being read on an iPad are using the Kindle software, so Amazon still wins.

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