Update (10:00pm PT): Just hours before the Apple iPad is set to go on sale, Amazon has made the iPad-optimized version of its Kindle app available. Like the iPhone version, it's free, and can access any Kindle books purchased through your Amazon account. We have not had a chance to load the new iPad version of the Kindle reader on an iPad yet, but screenshots indicate it had a similar bookshelf feature and page-turning animations. This is a surprising development, as Amazon had previously claimed they would not have the app available on April 3. Original post continues below.
At first glance, the new Apple iPad includes most of the features we've been complaining are missing from the current generation of specialized e-book readers, namely the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook.
If one were to build from scratch a device for reading books and periodicals onscreen, there's a good chance it would include a touch screen for navigating and flipping pages; a color display for illustrations, photos, and book covers; and--infrequently mentioned but still important--the ability to download and read e-books from several different sources.
The current Kindle DX has a display size similar to the iPad's, at 9.7-inches. But from a features standpoint, the iPad blows away the Kindle. In addition to its color screen, it's got a laundry list of functions above and beyond its e-book reader capabilities: a robust (albeit Flash-less) Web browser; built-in iTunes audio and video playback; photo viewing; and access to the entire library of tens of thousands of iPhone apps (let alone new, iPad-optimized ones that are just coming online).
Some first impressions when comparing the reading experience on both devices:
The screen: The Kindle's e-paper display has plenty of fans, with many agreeing with Amazon's sales pitch that the flat matte screen is easier on the eyes than backlit displays. It also makes the device readable in brightly lit environments, including direct sunlight. By contrast, the bright, colorful display on the iPad really pops at first glance. And it's backlit, so you can read in complete darkness. The question is: will that remain comfortable over long periods? During our short time with the device, we found the iPad's highly reflective glass screen to be problematic--we were always shifting angles to avoid seeing the reflection of overhead lights. (The iPhone may have the same issue, but it seems less problematic on its smaller screen.) Like many things, this is going to be a personal preference--but we'd give the Kindle (and other E-ink readers) the nod for brightly lit environments, while the iPad wins for darker ones. Meanwhile, if color is a necessity, the iPad wins hands-down.
Software--iBooks versus Kindle Reader: We were able to load up the Apple iBook reader on our iPad and we were impressed with many of the iBook features, including its browsable collection of book covers, the ability to see two pages at once in landscape mode, and the easy-to-use timeline at the bottom, which shows you the page count as you fast-forward through the book.
There's a cool page-turning animation as well, but that may get old rather quickly. Still, it beats the full-screen page flash that happens when you turn a page on a Kindle. … Read more