As I’ve written in the past, I’ve had an iPad for a couple years now. I use it quite a bit, though my usage is starting to wane. I finally got a new laptop as I alluded to in the aforementioned post. The screen on my phone is also large enough now that I don’t mind using it for more things. These things mean less iPad usage.
One area in which the iPad is infinitely superior to these other devices is reading. It’s a fantastic device for reading PDFs, particularly scientific articles and scans of technical books.1 I’ve read a few books from the Kindle store on it as well. It works. However, for ‘long form’ reading like that, the iPad gets heavy and a bit of a pain to hold. Wah wah, I know.
Another issue with it is the glossy backlit screen. There is some truth to those Kindle commercials. It’s hard to read in sunny environments, and after spending all of my adult life staring at backlit screens of varying quality, I’ve noticed that bright white screens with the back light screaming on high fatigues me after a few hours.2 Another disadvantage of the big backlit screen is battery life. While from an objective point of view, that something as small and powerful as the iPad has a ~10 hour battery life is frankly amazing, from our spoiled 2015 perspective, it’s a bit short. One good plane trip with some time at the airport can really run your battery down.
I think you see where this is going.3 Over July 4th, I played around with Krissy’s Kindle, and talked to both her and Buff about them. I was intrigued. When I got back, Amazon just happened to release a new Kindle Paperwhite. So I pulled the trigger.
My initial reservations were about the slightly off-white background color and the smallish screen. I can say having read several thousand pages on it, the size is fine (for me) and the color is very reminiscent of the paper stock used in paperbacks. I think I’ve settled on the 2nd smallest font size, which is still legible but puts a healthy amount of text on the screen.
I really like this thing. It’s small, has great battery life, and the display is really great. Even though it does have a top light for reading in the dark, the display really is easy on the eyes; easier than a back light in many situations.
Since it’s often easier to complain about things then praise them, I’ll relate the negatives now:
- The lighting is slightly inconsistent at the bottom of the screen. There’s a small area in the center that is slightly darker than the rest of the screen. Considering that the device is somehow piping light from the top surface of the screen, it’s amazingly uniform.
- The light is a bit cold for me. It’s a shame it isn’t a tad warmer.
- The typography is a little whack sometimes. It’s not always pretty either. However this is apparently something Amazon is working on finally and will update soon.
- Equations suck. Or, the display of equations. Any technical book is still better on the iPad.4 I partially contribute this suckiness to the visible compression in the equation images and the low resolution of them. Until not too long ago, Kindles were 167 or 150 PPI. The earlier Paperwhites were 212 PPI. So I suspect that many of the images for equations are optimized for lower resolution displays than the Paperwhite 3 and Voyage, both of which have 300 PPI screens.
- But seriously, what kind of weirdo reads books with equations for pleasure?
- I wish I could put my own photo on the sleep screen.
These are all really minor negatives. The 300 PPI E Ink screen looks great. And it’s good to be reading more again. Highly recommended.
- When used in conjunction with Dropbox, it’s a great little reading system. I use Documents for iOS and have a folder in my Dropbox directory that is linked up to Documents. Throw a file in said directory, and it’s on my iPad (and iPhone) for the next time I want to read it. ↩
- For this reason, I have most of my text editors, email programs, reading programs, etc., set for white text on a dark background. It was a pleasant surprise to find that OS X 10.10 had an option for dark menu bars. ↩
- Unless you are blind, you should have seen where this was going from the title. ↩
- I have one exception to the technical book thing. One of the books I have used the most over the years is the NRL Plasma Formulary. I’ve used that thing several times a week since 2000. It’s a little pocket-sized book with all the equations and info a plasma physicist might need, along with a great section on units and dimensions. Anyway, it also comes as a PDF with nicely typeset equations—not images of equations. It looks great on the Kindle because of the typesetting, and the fact that the pages in the booklet are roughly the same size as the Kindle screen. So you don’t need to pan around to see anything on the page. It’s a perfect fit. ↩