Book Purchasing and Consuming Choices

It looks like Amazon will be allowing you to put EPUB books onto your Kindle devices. Historically, only MOBI formatted books were allowed on the Kindle, so this is an excellent (if not overdue) update. This change, as noted by 9to5 Mac, will still not allow you to put EPUBs purchased on the Apple Books Store on your Kindle, since the Kindle only supports non-DRM EPUBS.

I’ve not written about this, but years ago, I made a few decisions:

1. I Prefer Digital Books to Paper Ones

I know all my cool friends dig their paper books, and I’ll grant you a full bookshelf makes a great backdrop, but I no longer buy paper books. I remember the days of carrying 50 pounds of books around and still not having the one that I needed. I don’t feel nostalgia for using paper books. I feel dread.

Digital books are better in the ways that matter to me. I can search them. I can combine them with other services. I can copy and paste right out of them. Most importantly, I can carry my entire library in one pocket.

2. I Am Buying Books from Amazon, Not Apple

Having spent some time as an Apple Books author (and using iBooks Author), I was initially sold on the platform. However, over the years, it seemed more and more like the Apple Book Store was more a hobby than a passion for Apple. Moreover, I got a Kindle for my bedside table (and travel), and I like the E Ink pixels before bed more than an LCD.

For additional convenience, I often buy audible books, and Amazon makes pretty good offers to add the Kindle book at the same time. Also, services like Readwise usually get around to Apple Books, but they always cover Kindle Books. I’m not a particular fan of Amazon, but I find the convenience of Kindle e-Books hard to beat.

Retaining Knowledge with

I read a lot in areas ranging from the finer points of cooking gumbo to recent developments in California trade secret law. For a long time now, I’ve done this reading digitally. I read long-form articles in Instapaper and books in the Kindle app on my iPad or directly on a Kindle device.

I have friends who lament about reading books digitally. They tell me about the experience of reading paper books and feeling the weight of it in your hand. I remember when paper books were the only option, and I remember their weight alright. I remember how heavy my bag was with three or four books in it back in the day. I also remember how frustrating it was when I carried all of those books only to find I left the book I needed at home. So I am fully invested in the idea of digital books. I don’t need the feel of them, I just need them to be with me.

The convenience of digital books took on a new level for me recently with my subscription to Readwise is an online service that can sync with your Amazon Kindle account. Readwise can then look at your Kindle books and collect all of your highlights from a book. You can then export your highlights as a Markdown file to add to your research notes on the book (or use any other way that makes sense to collect highlights).

My workflow is:

  1. Read the book, making digital highlights.

  2. Collect and export the highlights from to my notes app.

  3. Read the highlights and make a second set of highlights of the highlights.

  4. Summarize critical points in my own words.

In addition to automatically collecting highlights from my Kindle account, it does the same thing with everything I’ve highlighted in the Instapaper app. There are several more connected services, including Pocket, Medium, Hypothesis, Goodreads, Airr, Feedly, Apple Books, and Twitter. They even have a way to save to Readwise with an extension on iOS. If you’ve read other books without digitally highlighting them, Readwise can share a list of their most common highlights from that book as well.

Another cool Readwise feature is the option to send you a daily email with a collection of highlights from all of your resources. Every morning, I spend a few minutes looking through this list at ideas I thought were important enough to highlight. It’s one more way Readwise helps you retain what you’ve learned.

The system is all digital, all searchable, and always with me. I’ve done variations of this since I was in college in the ’80s. This is, by far, the best implementation.

iPad vs. Kindle

I used a Kindle for two years. As of today, I’ve been using my iPad for two weeks. I thought I’d share some initial thoughts and impressions between the two units.

User Interface

The iPad interface is intuitive and gorgeous. The Kindle interface can’t compete. While Amazon has made strides, its lack of user interface experience combined with the lack of touchscreen prevent it from matching the iPad. Once you get in the process of actual reading on the Kindle, the interface is fine. Click a button, turn the page. It is everything else that feels like pulling teeth compared to the iPad

About the Screens

There is a lot talk about how much better the Kindle is in direct sunlight. All of it is true. The idea that everyone is bringing their electronic devices to the beech sort of baffles me. I can’t imagine bringing my iPad or Kindle to a place where sand always gets in everything. Reading on a park bench or in the backyard however is a different story. Outside on a sunny day is right in E-Ink’s wheelhouse.

The Kindle simply doesn’t work in the dark. iPad, however, is very low light friendly. The built in brightness slider in iBooks was a stroke of genius. For daily use, both devices look great, but different. The full color screen of the iPad trumps the text clarity of the Kindle in my opinion but to each his own.

The Weight

The iPad a significantly heavier than the Kindle. This could be an issue for some people. If you are used to reading for long stretches holding your book (or Kindle) in front of you, this will be difficult with an iPad. Having used the iPad for several weeks, the weight has not been an problem for me although I have found myself reading it on my side in bed, as opposed to holding it up in the air while laying on my back. I generally read books laying on a table so your mileage may vary on this point. Since my transitions is from a generation 1 Kindle (which had a sharp corner in the lower left side that always dug into my palm), the easier form factor trumps the weight.

The Battery Life

The Kindle runs for days. Because the battery lasts so long, I often forget to charge it and am shocked when I find my Kindle battery is drained. If you are going somewhere without power for several days, the Kindle can keep you occupied. The backlit iPad will not compete with the Kindle battery. However, it certainly holds its own often lasting more than 10 hours in a day. Because I use the iPad as a picture frame at the office (when not working on it) my charge rarely gets below 70%

Unitasker vs. Multitasker

At the end of the day, a comparison between the Kindle and the iPad is not fair. They are entirely different devices. The Kindle is an outstanding book reader. It doesn’t work so well with periodicals (navigation is a pain), and is not much good for anything else, if you like to read books cover to cover, you’ll be happy with the Kindle.

While the iPad is a very capable book reader, it is much more. We are only a few weeks into the iPad and there are already amazing productivity, news, and gaming apps that could never exist on the Kindle. As an example, I use the Instapaper service, a lot. While there are solutions to get your Instapaper documents on a Kindle, they aren’t pretty and they don’t sync. Instapaper on the iPad is, for lack of a better word, luxurious.

Take Away

I’m giving my Kindle to my daughter. Unless you only want to read books in the sun, save an extra month or two and get the whole enchilada.