Amazon’s Kindle Thrives on Simplicity

Posted on September 20, 2010 by


I finally broke down and bought a Kindle.  After all, when you read as much as an English teacher—and I do—it had to pay off sooner or later.

Until the Apple iPad finally reached the light of day last spring, Amazon seemed to have the market cornered on e-readers.  Having spent a few weeks with my Kindle, I think the Internet giant can continue to breathe easily.

It isn’t that the Kindle is superior to the iPad.  In fact, the Kindle is quite obviously the David to Apple’s Goliath.  With its myriad apps, dynamic touch screen, and as-yet-untapped versatility, the iPad is in a league all of its own.  It is, in essence, an extraordinary—albeit reductionist—version of a laptop.

The Kindle sports none of the iPad’s bells and whistles.  The screen is not a touch screen, nor does it feature color or even a rapid refresh rate.  Other than putting the right words on the screen at the right time, the Kindle’s most impressive embellishments are its ability to manipulate the size of the font and the presence of a text-to-speech feature (which is significantly more human than my TomTom but eerie in the way that Hal 9000 is during a repeat viewing of 2001).

Yet this is the Kindle’s strength.  It is an e-reader, plain and simple.  The iPad might be able to do my taxes for me, but at four times the cost of a Kindle, that’s the least it should do! Apple has created a machine for computer nerds who like to read; Amazon is more interested in the bibliophiles with a taste for technology.   The Kindle’s interface is simple, straightforward, and uncluttered.  Downloading new books is more convenient than I can afford.  And I have already justified the expense of my e-reader with all of the free classics I have downloaded.

But the iPad isn’t Kindle’s only competition.  A host of flashier, more colorful e-readers from third-party manufacturers have sprung up, all of which feature an assortment of apps not available on the barebones Kindle.  But the Kindle has two advantages.  First, Amazon is still the world’s largest bookstore with a selection of e-books to match.  Second, Kindle’s more ambitious competitors merely replicate the screen of your cell phone, which means that they lack the e-ink that simulates the appearance of real paper on the Kindle’s screen.  It is e-ink that saves your eyes from the stress that comes by staring at a computer monitor for long periods of time.

Would I like my Kindle to have the simple, cell-phone features of a calculator or a clock or an MP3 player?  Certainly.  But David made do with only a pebble.

Posted in: Zachary Houp