Kindle vs. iPad — the eBook experience

I was an early Kindle customer — ordering one in August 2008 when I returned from Beijing as a form of gadget valium to sooth my soul after the enervation of the whole Olympic experience. I took to it instantly, a perfect customer candidate given my travel habits and obsession with lightening my backpack of multiple five pound hardcover best selling door stops.  I read a lot.  Like two to three books a week on average, and the Kindle was instant gratification. I’d think of a book, read a review, or get a recommendation from a friend and I could flip on the wireless Whispernet switch and I was loaded nearly instantly with new reading material for the long haul to Bangalore or the short trip between Boston and Raleigh.

All was well with the Kindle and me. The eInk screen was perfectly readable, the matte screen easy on the eyes with no back splatter reflection. The books were cheap. My beefs came down to terrible hardware design — the page forward and page back pages simply suck — especially for a left-handed person like myself; and the other main beef was the utter antisocial aspect of not being to share books with family or friends. That remains, to me, to be the biggest crime of a digital book. It can’t be pressed fervently into someone’s hands — you have to read this, trust me — and then there’s the whole bibliophile loss of not having a tangible object in one of my many groaning bookshelves.

In April I went for the iPad. I told myself not to do it. It was irresponsible to piss away $500 on a 16GB piece of glass and aluminum, but what the heck, I needed some more gadget valium and I had a professional interest in the device to boot — having come off of the Skylight Smartbook project at Lenovo and being obsessed with all things consumer/content-consumption oriented.

Three months later and I don’t use the Kindle very much any more. And here’s why.

  1. The iPad does more stuff than the Kindle and therefore has more utility
  2. Amazon wisely released an iPad app which is every bit as good if not better than the Kindle 1.0 software
  3. Even though the iPad is a self-regarding narcissist’s dream device — one could spend hours gazing on one’s own reflection — the lack of matte finish doesn’t annoy me
  4. The brilliance of the iPad is the same brilliance behind the original Mac. Where as Jobs first had the insight that people rather not type commands, but would prefer to point and click with a mouse; he scored again with the simple insight that a finger is better than a mouse. Besides, it is so much more physically intimate to idly read on the iPad and move a page back and forth with one’s fingers and not curse, curse, curse at the dumbness of the Kindle’s forward and back paddles.

I haven’t tried any other readers. iPad sort of takes the curiosity out of me.  But if I were Amazon I’d zero-price the things and give them away.

Skunk disappearance

This past weekend, while on Martha’s Vineyard, I caught a few strong whiffs of skunk on the road from Vineyard Haven to Chilmak. I had forgotten how strong a sentimental reaction that smell evokes in me and realized its been a few years since I’ve smelled skunk in Cotuit. Skunk, old garbage in the heat, and urine-like smell of privet hedges are the key smells of summer in Cotuit for me.

My theory is the coyotes have thinned down the skunk population to next to nothing; sparing me the annual washing-of-the-dogs-with-tomato-juice. Still, it was a surprise to smell the fulgent aroma on the Vineyard (where there may be no coyote population yet), and recall the story about how they were introduced by Craig Kingsbury (the person Steven Spielberg emulated with Quint in Jaws, and who’s head — Ben Gardner’s head — popped out of the sunken boat) out of spite against his neighbors.