when the ipad can't cut it

Why my Kindle is still part of my mobile reading

I’m a voracious reader. On average I read about 50–60 books a year (and that number may be conservative). Up until I got my iPad I had a library room in my home overflowing with books. Shortly after I got my iPad I stopped buying paper books and went ebook-only. About two years ago I finished replacing the majority of my paper books with electronic copies and donated most of my paper books. The only ones left were either books that I could not get an electronic copy of, were signed by the author (or had a note from my father in them), or were coffee-table books.

So as a power reader, I wanted to outline how I read these days, and why my Kindle still matters.

My purchasing habits

Generally speaking, my purchasing strategy is to avoid device lock-in. It’s hard to avoid any sort of lock-in, so I’m more willing to lock myself into a store that lets me read the book on whatever device I want, as opposed to a platform like iBooks, where I need both iBooks and an Apple device to read the books.

Almost all of my ebooks I buy on Amazon. I use Amazon because I can read my books on any platform. The only books I buy on the iBookstore are sheet music books (iBooks handles the images slightly better than the Kindle app), or books that are only available on iBooks. These books are usually Apple-related books.

I do still read comics (although not much due to the expense). I buy my comics from Comixology. I’m still not thrilled that Comixology removed in-app purchases, but I’ve adjusted to it.

I also still use my local library quite a bit. They are pretty good at getting new releases (they have the new Stephen King book, Revival) and as long as I don’t mind a wait list, I can usually find the book I want.

As for magazines, I either read those in Amazon, Zinio, or an iOS app. I’ve made a conscious decision to only buy magazines that have a decent shelf life, so I’ll usually buy a guitar magazine that has songs I want to learn or a decent set of lessons.

The apps

Since I use Amazon, to a certain degree I’m locked into that app. While there are ways around that problem that I won’t go into here (in this regard, Google is your friend), it’s easier to stay within Amazon’s little house. I’m a big fan of typography, and the iBooks app appeals to my sense of elegance. Within the Amazon app, I’m a big fan of collections. I’ll usually create a collection for different book series I’m reading. I also keep a collection named Reading List. This collection is books within my huge backlog that I’ve prioritized reading. Whenever I’m stumped on deciding the next book to read, I’ll go to that collection and choose something to read.

Occasionally I’ll pick up a DRM-free book from a different store. This may either be a free book on an author’s site or a special deal on the publisher’s site. In this case I may toss the book into iBooks, but more likely I will email it to my Kindle Personal Documents. I like Personal Documents because it stores all my books in the cloud. One of the big problems I have with iBooks is it doesn’t store side-loaded books in iCloud.

For magazines, as I said, I buy a lot of guitar-oriented magazines. For these, I actually prefer to use the magazine’s iOS app. This is because often the iOS version will have video lessons. Total Guitar and Guitar Techniques are two magazines that have either audio or music embedded inside the app. These apps are the one exception to my desire to avoid device lock-in because I’ve found the experience on these apps is far superior to a multiplatform solution like Zino.

About 90 percent of the time, I’m reading on my iPad 3. It’s still the best size for me; I’ve contemplated getting an iPad mini, but the lackluster new iPad mini upgrade combined with my iPhone 6 Plus have eliminated my desire to get one. I’ll read on my iPhone 6 Plus about six percent of the time. Usually, this is either when I’m waiting for a meeting to start or I’m squished into public transport. The last four percent is spent on my Kindle 4.

Why the Kindle still matters to me

I choose to read on my Kindle when I don’t need a multipurpose device. A good example is this coming Monday: I have to go perform my civic duty and sit for jury duty.

I called ahead and the courthouse allows potential jurors to bring any electronic device they desire, since we will be sitting around for hours. I’ll certainly pack my iPad and iPhone with me, but I expect I’ll do most of my reading on my Kindle. That’s because my Kindle will go almost a month on a charge. I don’t have to worry about the battery draining.

The Kindle is also imperative if I’m going to be reading anywhere near a bright light. When I go the beach in the summer I’ll toss it in my bag. It’s also cheap enough that if something happens to it, I’m not out a ton of money. I’d like to get a Kindle Voyage at some point for the back lit screen and better PPI. At that point, I’d expect to use the Kindle more when reading at night. I haven’t been a big fan of the clip on lights (mine is now attached to my music stand), so I’d appreciate having a back lit screen.

9 Responses to “Why my Kindle is still part of my mobile reading”

  1. I was interested to see if you thought there was a difference in reading quality. It appears not – except that your Kindle is better in the Sun. I know that I prefer my iPad reading inside (it has a bigger screen than my wife’s Kindle). I wonder though if the bright sunlight advantage varies depending upon which Kindle model is being used.

    The battery difference may be important for hikers. But as long as I can read on my iPad all day and charge it while I’m asleep, that is a non-issue for me. And I can. I suppose there are some applications that use up battery life faster, but we’re comparing reading and reading.

    And my iPad has a Nook reader too. Not that important to me, as I break the DRM after I purchase books, and can convert to the e-reader of my choice. I haven’t had luck breaking books purchased from Apple, so I stopped buying books from Apple. But having a choice of e-readers is good, as different e-readers have different advantages.

  2. knittingnotdrowning

    The Paperwhites are front lit, not back lit. There is a huge difference in terms of eye strain and how the lighting in the room does or doesn’t affect your reading enjoyment.

  3. Thad McIlroy

    The headline of the article is “Why my Kindle is still part of my mobile reading.” So I read it to find out why. I eventually learn that it’s useful for less than 10% of your reading.

    The primary use case is if you get called for jury duty, an infrequent occurrence (and you also cart along your iPhone and iPad, just in case). It’s handy also for those few days a year you lie on the beach and choose not to speak to your companions or to swim very much.

    Oh, and you’d like a backlit Kindle for Christmas.

    Did I get that right?

  4. Same here for me, Mark, for many of the same reasons. I read 2, sometimes 3, ebooks a week and generally by them all from Amazon for the universal support. My eyes prefer e-ink too and I upgraded from the Paperwhite to the Voyage for the higher DPI. I wasn’t disappointed in it but I tend to use the touchscreen over the touch buttons on the bezel.

  5. John Hutchinson

    Buying iBooks means less lock in because of their open ePub format which works on several devices currently and open to future support by anyone who wants to. Kindle uses the proprietary mobi format which Amazon owns.