Q: Should I buy an iPad 2, a Kindle or a Nook Color for taking on vacation this year?
A: As an owner of an iPad since they were first released, I’ve always looked at e-readers like the Kindle or Nook as too simple and underwhelming as a tech gadget, but that changed recently.
My in-laws, who are voracious readers, were instantly hooked when they got a chance to use a Kindle, which got me to reassess the whole category.
While there is no question that the iPad (1 or 2) has infinitely more functionality, not everyone needs all the extra bells and whistles.
In my father-in-law’s case, he only cares about reading books and his carpel tunnel issues are a non-issue when he reads from his Kindle (with a case designed to have it stand up). Holding and turning pages on traditional paperbacks were a constant problem for him because of his wrist pain and the weight of an iPad would make it too much for him as well.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so I’ll highlight my pros and cons for these three devices.
iPad 2 pros: Most robust platform for apps, music, movies, books, magazines, games, web surfing, email, social media, calendars or just about anything you would want to do on vacation. It also has the ability to access books from Apple’s iBook store, Amazon’s Kindle library and Barnes & Noble’s Nook library, which gives it the largest collection of available books. It can serve as a digital camera storage device on vacation (with an optional camera kit) so you don’t have to worry about running out of space on your camera’s storage card.
iPad 2 cons: Most expensive solution ($499 to $699), most fragile design, too heavy to hold for long periods of reading, lowest battery life and is virtually useless in direct sunlight.
Kindle pros: Relatively inexpensive ($114 to $189) small and light, the best for viewing in direct sunlight (like by the swimming pool or at the beach), basic web surfing and nearly a month of battery life. Unlike with touch-screen devices, you can hold and turn the page with one hand on a Kindle because the buttons are on each side.
Kindle cons: It’s essentially a one-trick pony, even though it can browse the web. No email client or video, just reading and basic surfing that requires you to navigate purely by keystokes. It’s also limited to what Amazon will allow you to read on it. A small issue for some: no page numbers (it tells you where you are in the book by percentage).
Note: B&N just announced a new low-priced ($139) Touch Reader Nook that is designed to compete with the Kindle. It’s also an e-ink display (monochrome), slightly smaller and boasts a two-month battery life and starts shipping on June 10.
Nook Color pros: Inexpensive touch-screen color device that can read children’s stories out loud. Less restrictive than the Kindle so you can borrow books from public libraries as well as buy them from the B&N store. Readable in direct sunlight (although not as clearly as the Kindle), it provides a more acceptable web surfing experience and has 140-plus apps that can be added. It can play audio files and even has a Pandora app for streaming music and has email app options. Consider it the poor-man’s iPad.
Nook Color cons: Significantly heavier than the Kindle, short battery life (about 8 hours) because of the color touch screen and no 3G option for accessing content or the web when there is no Wi-Fi available. Not a one-handed reader because of the weight and the need to touch the screen to turn the page.
As you can see, how and where you plan to use the device will have the biggest impact on which one might be the best choice. If you want it all, get an iPad 2, if you plan to read more than play and surf, the Nook Color may be the best fit. If you just want to read, the Kindle or the new Nook Touch Reader should do just fine.
• Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the “Computer Corner” radio show, noon Saturdays on KTAR 92.3 FM or at www.datadoctors.com/radio. Readers may send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.