Q: Should I buy a Kindle or an iPad?

A: I was asked many variations of this question as we neared the holiday season. Basically, most people want to know if they should buy a dedicated eReader (such as a Kindle, Nook, or Kobo) or a multi-purpose device. The answer to this question depends on a few factors, which can be difficult to answer if you are purchasing the device as a gift. However, I’ll do my best to help you out below.

The first thing to be clear is that there are several eReaders on the market now. The Kindle is the most commonly known name and it purchases books from Amazon. The Nook is the eReader from Barnes & Noble and the Kobo is Borders’ device. There are also some eReaders from Sony, called simply, “Reader”. There are also a scattering of lesser-known eReaders. And of course, the iPad is an eReader as well.

What most people first notice is that many eReaders are now less than $200, while the iPad starts at $499 (although many eReaders were more than $200 at the time the iPad was launched). Certainly, if budget does not allow the purchase of an iPad, then another eReader must suffice. But if an iPad is within your budget, then the question is whether or not the extra cost of the iPad will provide added utility. If, in fact, all you (or your gift recipient) will do is read books, then the iPad is probably not the choice for you. The exception would be if the screen on the iPad is better for your eyes. But if you would make use of the other features of the iPad, then the money you would spend on another eReader would be best put towards an iPad.

A similar question I’ve received is if books purchased on the Kindle can be read on the iPad. The answer is yes, as Amazon makes a Kindle app for the iPad (as well as iPhone and iPod Touch). So if you know someone that has an older Kindle and they now want an iPad, they will be able to re-download all their purchased Kindle books for free on their iPad. All the other eReaders also have apps for the iPad and they all use the same ePub format that the iPad uses natively.

Some people have noted that the Kindle is easier to read in bright sunlight. This is true. The iPad’s screen is more reflective and can be hard to see in bright sunlight. However, unless you plan to do a lot of reading in bright sunlight, this shouldn’t be such a big deal. Also, anti-glare films can be purchased for the iPad to help minimize this problem.

The bottom line is that the iPad is more than an eReader. If you will use the iPad for more than just reading, then it is likely a good value, even if it is more expensive than the other eReaders.

Don’t be afraid to contact me if you have further questions on this or any other technology question. It is better to ask a question before spending money on a tech gift!