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How the Kindle replaced my iPad...for book reading

Regardless of iBooks 2's multimedia upgrades, my taste in e-reading has turned back the clock to e-ink. Here's why.

Sarah Tew/CNET

There's a case to be made for convergence devices, and for merging every product down to just one. The iPad, in many ways, has been that device for me: I travel light, I read or watch movies or play games or surf the Web on it. It's a security blanket and a thin catchall.

Still...I bought a Kindle.

The $79, no-touch, ad-supported version caught my eye the moment it arrived at the CNET offices, actually. Light, compact, great battery life, and that screen. That e-ink screen, frankly, has fascinated me. I know so many people who fetishize e-ink, and others who simply pass it by for the glowing screens of their phones or iPads. I fell into the latter category. Yet, the more I read my digital books, the more I became aware of fatigue that began to worry me.

My eyesight's not great. In fact, it's horrible. I've never found a friend who has worse myopia (-9). I stare at screens all day long. Going home as I walk. In the subway. At home. I'm a screen addict. Part of my attraction to the Kindle was its no-refresh, natural feeling, and the lack of pixel blur on full-page text. Maybe the iPad 3's possibly increased screen resolution might make text crisper for e-books, but I'm often painfully aware of the slight fuzz when reading on my iPad 2 using most fonts, and the subtle tricks it plays on my focus.

Here's my second case (or justification) for buying a cheap Kindle: mental focus.

Sarah Tew/CNET

My all-in-one convergence iPad is a distraction machine. I'm a jittery mess. On a plane, I read a few pages, then play half a board game, then watch some of a TV show, then flip through an e-magazine, then read some more. Sure, that probably makes me borderline ADD. My lack of focus isn't the iPad's problem. However, I admire the single-use intent of a book. A Kindle comes closest to that goal. Web browsing and other tasks are annoying, especially with the entry-level Kindle. That's why I picked it: it's a book-only device.

I also like the one-handed reading and jacket-pocketable aspects. On a subway, that's a big help. The Kindle's also less likely to be stolen during a commute.

My good friend who lives close to me suggested another purpose: he just bought a Kindle and recommended that we engage in a seasonal Kindle Swap, where we borrow each other's device to read a book. I'm not sure how that will pan out, but I feel fine lending a $79 device to a friend. An iPad, less so.

I followed many of my fellow CNET editors who are proud Kindle owners and made the plunge. I haven't regretted the purchase.

While Apple's been focusing on merging media with books via iBooks 2 and the iPad, I'm starting to find myself moving in the opposite direction: basic text, no colors. I might read comics or flip through magazines on the iPad, but when I'm digging into a 1,000-page novel, I'd prefer a Kindle.

Do we carry too many gadgets? I probably do. It's already somewhat silly to own an iPad and an iPhone. To also have a Kindle? Some might say it's absurd. I will say that my reading speed has boosted since buying mine a few weeks ago. New-gadget first love? Maybe, but I have a feeling that my single-purpose Kindle will be a bedside standby for a long while. By only reading a book, I'm making a decision to not check email or browse the Web, if only for a little while. And I could do with more moments like those.

What does this mean? Well, I probably buy too many gadgets, at least. I still love my iPad 2, and I use it nearly every day. But I think there's a place for single-purpose devices, if those single purposes are ones we care enough about. Sooner or later, Kindle-type e-ink readers might approach the price of a standard hardcover--and then, we won't have to decide at all.