iPad vs. Kindle… wait, what?

I’ve got to say, a big part of me just doesn’t quite get the comparisons between the iPad and the Kindle.  No, I’m not an idiot.  Yes, I’m aware of the fact that both can function as eBooks.  No, I’m not shilling for Amazon.  I just… don’t get it.

The Kindle is a niche product.  It does one thing, and does it really well: it allows you to read books on a little, easily transportable device.  Let’s take a look at the Kindle and a few of its advantages.

– It’s simple
– Long battery life
– Always-on wireless connection (at no charge)
–  E-INK

Etc., etc., etc., but the e-ink is kind of the main selling point.  Anyone who has used a Kindle knows how much easier it is on the eyes than an LCD screen – not only can you read longer thanks to the battery (a week of read time between charges), but you can read longer without wanting to stab your eyeballs out with a ballpoint pen (e-pen?).

On the other hand, you’ve got the recently unveiled iPad.  This is a COMPLETELY different product.  Yes, it can function as an eBook, but essentially along the same lines a $200 netbook can.  Reading on an LCD screen is pretty much anathema to anyone who wants to read for long periods of time.  While I was admittedly extremely disappointed in the iPad’s unveiling ceremony (still love the image of the iPad Mini), I’ve softened my stance a little since then.  iPhone OS 4.0 could conceivably fix a lot of my complaints with it.

So, let’s take a similar look at the iPad and its advantages:

– Fantastic touch browsing experience
– Tons upon tons of apps, with more to come
– Long-ish battery life
– WiFi and 3G (with subscription)
– Capable of both work and play, to varying degrees

This, my friends, is not an eBook.  It can be used as one, but it’s certainly not ideal.  What it does appear to do is bundle a lot of entertainment into one device – games, social interactions, information, news, etc.  The color screen is nice, and as a co-worker of mine points out, the backlight allows you to read in the dark.  However, no e-ink means a (comparatively) lackluster eReading experience.

My point, I suppose, is that  this whole iPad vs. Kindle debate is fueled by hype more than reality.  Anything the iPad brings to the table to attack the Kindle could be accomplished by a cheap Dell Mini and Microsoft’s free Reader software.

So, while the media continues to froth over the GREAT AMAZON/APPLE WAR OF 2010, let’s try to cut through the hype and realize that these are two very different products, with very different purposes and demographics.