Oct 13, 2010

Kindle vs iBooks: User Experience Comparison

I would have bet a three figure sum of money that I would not wind up being a fan of e-books. An avid reader with fairly quirky tastes, I really liked the feel of the pages, the sense of getting to the end of a book, etc.

Or so I thought.

I got my first e-book as a freebie - it was something I'd planned on buying anyway, so I figured nothing ventured, nothing lost.

I was hooked. The advantage of being able to read anytime, anyplace (I was using Kindle on my iPhone) trumped the small pages and lack of physical product. Plus the whole opening-the-book-up-to-where-you-left-off thing was a huge plus to an inveterate bookmark loser  like myself.

Having recently had the chance to experience Apple's iBook service (on both an iPad and iPhone) I'm finding myself partial to the Kindle, with one major reservation.

The Kindle does synching much, much better, especially between the iPhone and iPad. iBooks was always messing up or not synching at all, which is a huge hassle since you can't really thumb through an ebook. Not sure what "Whispersync" (Kindle's name for its service) is supposed to refer to -- is synching particularly noisy?-- but it works.

As does Kindle's tap'n'turn functionality. The iBook's page turn thing is visually great, but it's sort of a pain in the butt after a while - pages don't turn immediately on the iPhone and even on the iPad it's too easy to move ahead an extra page or two by accident.

Kindle recently introduced two column reading on the iPad, so when you have it sideways it looks like an open book (a feature iBooks already had) and that's a big plus - it's easier to prop the iPad case open on my lap sideways and it makes me feel like I'm making more progress;)

The one area where iBooks is way ahead though is the in-app screen dimming feature. When I read at night, I keep the lights off so as not to wake up my wife, but in order to do so, I keep the screen dimmed as far as it will go. (It also makes reading in the dark easier-- a bright screen is really bright in a dark room.)

iBooks have a button that lets you dim the screen right from the app and only for the app. With Kindle, I have to open up the iPad or iPhone Settings and manually adjust the brightness (and then re-adjust it in the AM) which is definitely a bother.

That said, Kindle's superior synching ability is putting it ahead for me right now. The interface may not be as cute as iBooks, with its page turns and bookshelf, but for now, I'll take being on the right page.

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