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Why I bought a Kindle instead of an iPad on Prime Day

I’m an avid reader who’s been firmly entrenched in the Apple ecosystem for over a decade. I’ve been buying e-books on Apple Books since it was called “iBooks” and happily reading them on the various iPhone and iPad models I’ve owned over the years. Despite this, my big Prime Day purchase this year was an Amazon Kindle.

With its “embrace and extend” philosophy, Apple has been branching out into new areas for years, and it’s been quite successful at producing many new and innovative solutions that improve the status quo. Unfortunately, e-book reading isn’t one of those.

Why I don’t like reading on my iPhone or iPad

Someone reading an e-book on an iPhone.
Jenny Smith / Unsplash

I embraced e-book reading nearly 20 years ago on Palm devices. Since I was traveling a great deal for business in those days, the best e-book reader was one that I always had with me. So, when I switched to the iPhone in 2007, I wanted to use that as my primary e-book reader. And that’s exactly what I did for many years.

However, a funny thing has happened over the past few years. First, iPhone screen sizes increased, and Apple left a four-year gap between iPad Mini product releases. Hence, my aging iPad Mini 4 fell into disuse, and I eventually gave it away to a family member who needed it more than I did.

I’ve opted for Apple’s largest iPhone models since the iPhone 6 Plus arrived in 2014, so with the larger screen, the iPhone became my only device for reading, despite also owning an iPad Pro. I’ve rarely used my recent iPads as true tablets; most of the time, they’ve remained docked in keyboard cases for writing on the go.

Recently, though, it occurred to me that I’ve been reading much less than I used to. It wasn’t a conscious decision; while I still open Apple Books every morning for short passages from daily reading books, I rarely dove into long-form reading the way I once did.

Maybe my eyes are just getting tired as I age, but when I thought about it, I realized that I had a resistance to doing that kind of reading on my iPhone. Even though my iPhone was always close at hand, opening Apple Books and diving into a great novel wasn’t as exciting and frictionless as it had once been.

2013 Kindle Paperwhite 3G on bookshelf.
Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

At first, I thought maybe the problem was simply the smaller screen and figured I’d look for some good Prime Day iPad deals on an iPad Mini 6, but in the process of waiting, I decided to pull my original 2013 Kindle Paperwhite out of mothballs and give it another go.

It only took me a couple of days to discover that the best way to enjoy reading e-books again was to go back to the world of the Kindle. After all, if a 2013 Kindle can be such a pleasure to use, imagine how much better a modern Kindle Paperwhite could be. So, I changed direction and ended up going with this year’s Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition.

Why Kindle beats the iPad for e-books

Many folks report that the Kindle e-ink displays are easier on the eyes, and that’s even more true for me. As a writer, I stare at a backlit MacBook Pro screen and external monitor all day, so the Kindle’s unassuming display is a calming breath of fresh air by comparison.

A person sits while reading on an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite.

Even my old non-backlit Kindle 4 is more relaxing to use — under the right lighting conditions, of course. While both the Kindle 4 and first-generation Kindle Paperwhite are slower, they’re still surprisingly functional e-book readers for devices nearly a decade old, and the 3G service on the Kindle Paperwhite actually still works (although probably not for much longer).

Getting down to serious reading requires a specific frame of mind, and I’ve always found it challenging to maintain that focus when using an iPhone or iPad.

It isn’t just dealing with a barrage of notifications — that’s easy to solve with the new Focus Modes in iOS 15, and “Reading” was one of the first ones I set up last year, blocking out everything except emergency calls and messages. The problem is that it’s also too easy to get sidetracked into doing other things.

A personal reads on a Kindle Paperwhite while relaxing at campsite.

Maybe it’s just me, as I sometimes have the attention span of Dory from Finding Nemo. Still, when I’m already using a device with all of my messaging, productivity, and social media apps, it’s just too easy to jump out of the book I’m reading and do something else whenever a random thought enters my head.

It also doesn’t help that I already use an iPhone and iPad for these other things, which means there’s less of a cognitive disconnect between being in “reading mode” and “work mode” that can’t be overcome just by setting a Focus Mode. While I could easily configure an iPad Mini to be used exclusively as an e-book reader, that’s like buying an Instant Pot solely to make hard-boiled eggs.

Prime Day is the perfect time to buy

This brings me to the next point: If I’m looking for a dedicated e-book reader, I should just buy a dedicated e-book reader. Even Amazon’s top-of-the-line Kindle Oasis is half the price of the entry-level iPad Mini 6.

I considered the Kindle Oasis, but opted for the Paperwhite Signature Edition as it offers most of the same features in a more compact package. One of the advantages of a Kindle for me is its portability; it’s smaller and lighter than an iPad Mini to the point of almost being pocketable.

The Kindle Paperwhite lies on a table.

More importantly, a Kindle isn’t nearly as fragile. I wouldn’t dream of taking an iPad Mini to the beach even if it had a water resistance rating (which it doesn’t). On the other hand, the Kindle Paperwhite not only feels like it can withstand more abuse but it’s also IPX8 rated. That means it can handle taking a dunk in 6 feet of water for up to 60 minutes.

The Kindle Paperwhite would have been a great purchase during any time of year, but Prime Day was the nudge I needed to finally make the jump. The baseline model is available for just $95, and stepping up to the fancier Signature Edition will only set you back $135. The Kindle Paperwhite easily stands out as one of the best Prime Day Kindle deals this year, and if you’re like me, it may just be a better buy than an iPad.

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