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Industry Insight

Survey Says E-Book Readers Prefer the iPad, But is it Fair?

A recent survey,

By Howie Fenton
Published: December 9, 2010

A recent survey, conducted by market research company ChangeWave, resulted in the conclusion that consumers are choosing Apple's iPad as their preferred e-book reader over the Amazon Kindle. ChangeWave released the results of a survey last Tuesday which tries to identify consumer trends in the e-reader business. According to author Paul Carton (ChangeWave’s Vice President of Research), Amazon's Kindle holds a "rapidly diminishing lead" over the Apple iPad in the e-reader market; iPad's overall presence in the space has doubled since August; and, the iPad "will be the biggest beneficiary of the expanding e-Reader market this holiday season, followed by the Amazon Kindle.”

According to eWeek, ChangeWave's survey proves that the iPad has been beating the Kindle and that there is every indication that its success will continue until the iPad overtakes the Kindle's market lead. But many are saying that the comparison is unfair because it compares the iPad (tablet) with the (e-readers) Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook and Sony Reader. Tablets are much more expensive and are designed to let users interact with features and functionality such as web browsing, video chat, e-mail, watching movies and looking at photos.

According to PC World:

“Comparing a Kindle and an iPad is like comparing a spoon to a Swiss Army knife. Yes, both enable someone to eat a bowl of soup, but the spoon is more or less limited to that role, while the Swiss Army knife might also include a corkscrew, can opener, wire strippers, scissors, tweezers, magnifying glass, and screwdriver.”

And I’m not sure that in the survey they are asking the right question. If people (myself included) were asked a general question about whether they would prefer to use a Kindle or iPad I would say an iPad because of all the cool features. But if asked which device I prefer to use to read books, newspapers or magazines I would say the Kindle.  When I am reading I don’t want to be bombarded with "You've got mail," "IMs", Twitter feeds or Facebook invitations. Maybe that means I am just an “old guy” but all I want is to read in peace. Tablet devices like the iPad or Samsung's new Galaxy tablet allow and even encourage users to use e-mail, Web browsing and Farmville, and many readers find the temptation of the media matrix too difficult to resist.

More importantly this is most likely the tip of the iceberg for these types of surveys. I suspect that there will be many more that will result in similar findings. What do you think?

Howard Fenton is a Senior Consultant at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers, in-plants, and manufacturers on workflow management, operations, digital services, and customer research.

Howie Fenton is InfoTrends' Associate Director of Operational Consulting. For over 25 years, he has focused on benchmarking operational and financial performance in in-plants and commercial printers. He can be reached via e-mail at Howie.Fenton@infotrends.com.



By Chuck Gehman on Dec 09, 2010

Nice to see some data support what everyone except Kindle owners experiencing "buyer's remorse" already know: There is really no comparison between iPad and Kindle. iPad is a better device and a better value, despite costing more.

The Swiss Army Knife analogy is flawed. Yes, it is true that Kindle is single purpose and iPad is multi-purpose. The Swiss Army Knife's spoon is not as good for eating soup as a "traditional" single-purpose spoon. In contrast, the iPad is just as good, if not better, for reading than the Kindle. And this will be even more true as ebooks are targeted for the platform, they will become a richer experience that won't be possible on the primitive Kindle hardware.

The diminishing lead Kindle may have is going to diminish dramatically more with the holiday season upon us. Expect Apple to report unbelievable high iPad sales numbers post-holiday 2010. And even without the holiday, everywhere you go someone is now "giving away an iPad", whether it is for charity, or for at business mixers, or for sales incentives and much more. It's hot, and Kindle is lack luster. And it's achieving traction in business applications, too.

Furthermore, now Kindle will be under heavy pressure from the new Google bookstore, which will impact Amazon far more than it will Apple. The good news is, the Kindle software will still have great traction, and can be used on the iPad, even after the device itself becomes hopelessly irrelevant, which I predict will happen before the end of 2011.


By Jim Olsen on Dec 09, 2010

The only places I read a "book" is on an airplane or in bed. On the airplane, the iPad as an eReader is just fine. In bed, it is not. It's heavy and "clunky".

They are two completely different devices, and people are choosing the iPad for its functionality not because it is a better eReader.

I've used a Kindle and I have an iPad. Believe me, as an eReader, the Kindle is much easier to use. It's like comparing a soft cover book to a hard cover book.


By Matthew on Dec 09, 2010


While the Swiss Army Knife is "flawed" as an analogy, the entire point of an analogy is to relate something that is different, yet understood by the reader, to something else. The author's point of view was that the traditional comparison of Kindle vs iPad is incorrect, but should be more like spoon vs. SAK. It's not perfect, that's understood.

And I wouldn't necessarily say that the iPad's just as good or better of an eReader. I think most would actually fight that point and would secede the fact that the iPad's value comes from it's utility. It is a very good ereader, but it's size and screen technology do not make it absolutely ideal.

The iPad is a very valuable device, you are correct, but it's only valuable if the consumer purchasing it has uses for those other utilities. It's battery life, and the tiring effect LCD has on the eyes after hours of reading don't make it an ideal standalone e-reader. Granma would rather have a Nook or Kindle, not an iPad (cost not even an option here).

The fact is that the market that Kindle is going after is completely different than the market the iPad is going after, so those comparisons between them are really pointless. Ever read a Honda Civic vs Ferarri comparison? Absolutely not, because it's absurd. Who will benefit from that comparison?


By Michael Jahn on Dec 09, 2010

I am with Chuck Gehman - you need at least two swiss army knives to cut and eat anyway, better to use a Spork.

I think most will recall the horrible typesetting we had with our early versions of Ventura Publisher, Ready Set Go! and Pagemaker - today, designers are horrified to see we are back to primitive type with ePub files and such, and no one likes "pictures of a page" versions - and we will not see improvements without an OS that is designed to manage this elegantly - and I think the past speaks for itself, Apple understands what we need for a good user experience.


By Noel Ward on Dec 09, 2010

The way the question is posed is like asking which do you like better: a basic cellphone or a smartphone?

Depends on what you want to do.

The Kindle/Nook and iPad don't compete in any real way. Even the price points aren't remotely similar.

And BTW, real Swiss Army Knives don't have spoons. But some have a USB drive.


By Howie Fenton on Dec 09, 2010

I am wondering if (like Jim Olsen) you need to own both to really understand the difference. Since I am a Kindle fan, I may have to go out and buy myself a holiday iPad present. My question is this: Can you do better then the $41 Apple sale on Black Friday? I declined to take advantage of this offer because the lines in the NYC glass cube store were long. Rumor has it you sign up for a credit card at some of the retailers you can save 5% on whatever you purchase. Is that going to be the best iPad deal this season?


By Neal Carson on Dec 10, 2010

Just speaking from my own experience as an iPad user, when I am reading a book (usually in the Kindle app since Amazon has a much better selection than iBooks), I never feel "bombarded" by e-mail or other apps. Feels like I'm reading in peace - and when I want to do an endless variety of other tasks, I can. That said, I've used a Kindle and it's definitely easier to handle for pure book reading. Howie, treat yourself to a holiday iPad!


By Chuck Gehman on Dec 10, 2010

Noel, your analogy is excellent: the smartphone versus the plain old cell phone. The plain old cell phone is free now, you may still pay for the smartphone but there are many that are "next to free", and basic ones can be had for free with certain carriers and plans.

But you are wrong when you say that iPad and Kindle don't compete-- of course they do! Just as the plain old cell phone very much lost the handset competition to the smartphone and is now only for the very poor, Grandma whose eyesite isn't very good, and maybe your 8 year old kid until she sees all her friends using Facetime and playing Angry Birds on their iPhones.

It's not about price, it's about value. Tablet computers are "crossing the chasm" right now, it's happening incredibly quickly right in front of our eyes, and as we hit the other side, the mainstream market is not going to want to spend $139 bucks to "be allowed" to buy a book! At the moment, Amazon is getting away with it, but it clearly doesn't make sense.

Amazon must play the razors and blades game-- you give away the razor to sell the blades, that's exactly what the cell carriers do, too. So unless Amazon can actually give the device away, the device is done. Maybe it will be buy 5 books, get the reader, but the reader itself has no value.

Apple, on the other hand, has the coolest razor in the universe, and is able to command a premium for it, AND make money selling blades. The iPad is a device that has infinite value, as every day entrepreneurs and developers build new apps.


By Tom Ashley on Dec 10, 2010

I am surprised that no one even mentions the two features of most e-readers that have driven the development of paper-like displays over the past ten years.

They are battery life (vastly superior for most e-readers) and display quality. Studies have shown that backlighting and relatively low resolution are big disadvantages for LCD displays, resulting in reduced comprehension and rapid eye-tiring in comparison to, for example, E-Ink.

Do these simply matter a lot less than color? If so, a lot of investment has been wasted!


By Heath on Dec 10, 2010


I suggest a refurbished (ie returned within a few weeks) iPad for $50 savings. Same warranty and you wouldn't know it was pre-bought if you weren't told.

I own an iPad and I read books and magazines constantly on it. Here are some reasons why it is better for consuming the same content the Kindle excels at:

- Beautiful, full color - for magazine and/or books with color content it is a unmatched.

- Books from many "Stores" - I recently went to purchase a Kindle book, which is my favorite source, and found that the same book was 25% cheaper through the Nook store. The reading experience is similar and I saved money because I could choose. In addition, there are often books that are available in one store that isn't in others.

Here is where the iPad isn't better:

- Outside, at the beach/pool or wherever reading. I've seen people at the pool with an iPad so I'm not going to say that it isn't possible, but it definitely feels wrong. The iPad wasn't made to be viewed in sunlight and it can overheat in some cases if you do. I wouldn't flinch at taking a Kindle to the pool or beach. It feel durable and made for it.

- iPad is heavier. It is basically a glass plate, wrapped in metal with huge batteries inside. I don't have a problem with it since it basically weighs what a hardcover book would anyway. People complain about it though (see above).

- Backlit screen is harder on the eyes for many. Everyone's eyes are different, but the Kindle screen looks like paper.

These comparisons are as old as the iPad, but even as pure readers they are just different and the cost difference can be overcome by choice of book store on the iPad if you are an avid reader.

We will all win as long as people buy what works for them and it fuels the ecosystem.


By Kevin M on Dec 10, 2010

I own an iPad and a Nook, as a pure eReading device the Nook is far easier on the eyes as the glare gets to me from the iPad if I am reading longer content.

Comparing the two devices is indeed like comparing a standard mobile phone to a smart phone. For making calls your standard mobile phone is perfect and the battery will last a lot longer than the battery on a smart phone will, but a smart phone like an iPad will do a lot more,

One offering completely missing from this discussion is the Android devices which can run apps like an iPad, but also run Flash for a truly rich content experience. Nook/Kindle/Sony/Kobo and other dedicated eReader devices simply don't have the horsepower to run Flash, and Apple devices wont run Flash for religious reasons. In many ways the Android tablets and handsets give a user the best of both worlds.


By Michael on Dec 16, 2010

I love the e-reading experience of my iPad. I can read in bed with just a dim light beside me and not disturb my wife. Best, I can read in restaurants when I dine alone even when seated in a dark corner. Page background whiteness is adjustable in case the brightest white is too much for one's eyes. I prop the iPad up in its case and read as comfortably as can be -- the well-lighted larger type size (by choice) perfect for my 65 year old eyes.


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