Why I Don’t Read Books on My iPad

I’ve been a Kindle user for a few years now. I love it, mostly because it’s great at one thing and one thing only: immersing yourself in reading. Everything from the screen, to the store, to the battery and the size, provides a perfect experience for reading books.

When I got my iPad, I didn’t know what would happen. Would I end up selling my Kindle and replacing it with my iPad, or would I end up using both. I think you can guess for yourself what happened. Here’s why…

Reason #1: It’s Distracting

App Store

Everything, indeed.

The iPad has so much potential, there are so many things to do with it, so many cool apps to try out. Holding my iPad always seems so hectic because I never have any idea what I’m going to do with it first. While I’m using it, I’m always thinking stuff like “maybe I should be catching up with my Reeder, since I’ll never get that done while on the computer.” That’s the main reason I don’t feel comfortable reading books in my iPad. It just doesn’t quite feel right.

Also to blame are the notifications that interrupt me every once in a while during my reading. I know I should turn off the notifications on my iPad and leave them for my iPod/iPhone, but I actually like receiving notifications on my iPad (while I’m not reading books).

Reason #2: Color & Backlight


But what about the backlight?

I spend enough time on the computer every day to strain my eyes. I’ve never really tried to read on the iPad for more than half an hour, but I’m guessing it’s not as nice on the eyes as people say it is. Even if that’s true, I still get headaches when I spend too much time in front of a screen, regardless of what kind of screen it is.

My Kindle, on the other hand, has no color and no backlight. It actually looks the same (if not better) than paper.

Reading magazines is different because you actually need to see color, and it doesn’t require as much attention as reading a book does. In this regard, reading a magazine is more similar to reading articles on a website, which is something that the iPad works great for!

Reason #3: Simplicity

Kindle 3

Kindle 3

As primitive as my Kindle looks when compared to the iPad, I still think it’s a great device, even up there with the iPad in terms of genius-factor. The iPad is great at many things, and maybe that’s part of my problem with it. It tries to do a little bit of everything.

The Kindle doesn’t. It does one thing, and it does it great. It has some other features like web browsing, but they aren’t very convenient to use, and so I don’t use them unless it’s extremely necessary. Therefore, I’m forced to use it for what it was meant: reading books. I don’t even have to worry about anything with it, not even the battery (it lasts forever).


I know many people that use their iPads to read, and love it. I wonder if it’s because they’ve never tried a Kindle, or because they use their iPads differently than I do.

I consider myself a high-end, and proactive, iPad user. I am always buying the latest apps, up on all the freshest news and I use most of the apps that I have, a lot. So, I never really run out of things to do with it. Whether it’s beating the next level of the game I’m currently obsessed with, or viewing what’s new on my Flipboard; I always have something to do. Maybe those people don’t. Maybe they only use their iPad to read books, and so they don’t feel so restless when they are on their device.

This is not a “this is better than this” kind of article. The Kindle and the iPad are very different devices. I love my iPad (I wouldn’t be writing for this website if I didn’t), but as an avid reader, I have to admit that reading books is one area where it doesn’t make me happy.

Simply put, my iPad just doesn’t feel like a device that I would use to read. I use it to catch up on my RSS, to play games and browse the internet; but as far as reading books goes, I’d rather keep my old Kindle.

What about you? Do you read books on your iPad? Do you own, or have you ever owned, a Kindle, Nook, or similar device? Or do you still buy physical books? Discuss!

  • Daniel Wentsch

    I can sign each of your points. I really can’t read on my iPad, it’s too distracting and it feels really bad for the eyes.
    Since my Kindle broke very early I’m back on paper for now, still thinking about getting a new kindle from time to time (the one without a keyboard).

  • http://Collectiveshot.com Eric

    Waouh! I could have write this article. I have the same workflow with my ipad and kindle. Can’t read on the ipad when you have a kindle! No way.

  • http://www.kieru.com Rob

    I work on a computer for 8 hours a day and regularly suffer from computer-related eye-strain. I was terrified over whether the iPad would cause me issues with reading for long periods, but I decided to buy an iPad anyway.

    I have NO issues with glare. NO issues with eye strain. At all. I’m sure I would if I used the full brightness of the iPad (but I never use the full brightness) or if I didn’t take advantage of the Sepia or NIght themes… but those are all available for that reason.

    I understand the want for a single-purpose device… the allure… but you’re buying an iPad for the exact opposite of single-purpose, why would you deny yourself books on a device that handles them so very well.

  • Matt

    Your ADD is not a fault of the iPad.

    As for the screen, I’m in the camp of not enjoying reading on a computer, and having an old Sony e-Reader, I did enjoy electronic paper. However, what I was initially blaming on screen and backlight technology turned out to be more a matter of comfort. I can lay down on the couch or the bed or whatever position I’m most comfortable in, prop my iPad up and read for hours. The screen doesn’t bother me like many, myself included initially feared. Just not sitting in a computer chair makes all the difference.

    Your reasons 1 and 3 are essentially the same thing. Outside of the technical differences, there’s nothing the Kindle does that the iPad Kindle app doesn’t also do. They both boil down to displaying text on a screen. Again this boils down to your own ADD being the problem, not the device itself.

    Battery shmattery… How long are you staying awake and using your device that ten hours isn’t enough? Just plug it in before you go to bed next to your phone and you won’t have to worry about it the rest of the next day.

    Since owning my iPad, I’ve read significantly more books then I did in the previous several years when I was still reading on paper. Its comfortable, convenient, and I can have basically almost any book I want in less than a minute. And in my opinion, the other functions of the iPad are a bonus, not a boon. If I want to take a break, I can just switch apps. I don’t have to switch devices. I can do a myriad of other things without having to leave my all important comfort zone.

  • Franko

    i read everything on my ipad. i’m currently on book four of the Game of Thrones series, for example. i love reading on my ipad. i never get eye strain or worry about glare (like Rob, above, i don’t use full brightness, either). i can’t imagine switching to a Kindle, to be honest. it would be like going from a color TV to a black and white one.

  • @z0mKi

    The Kindle is a great reading device however I actually enjoy reading on my iPad. After a few weeks of adopting the iPad I gave my Kindle away to a friend. As Matt stated above, the iPads other functions are a bonus. Who wants to carry another device that needs to be recharged?

  • Youngbin Lee

    I also own iPad and Kindle4. And I read books on both devices. I agree that Kindle provides more comfortable experience, especially to my eyes. Also it’s much lighter, so I can easily hold the device while I am standing in the subway or bus.

    However, iPad also can provide great experience. I read on my iPad with very minimum lighting and sepia setting, and I hardly notice any discomfort when I casually read. (No more than 2 hours, but I rarely read more than that.) When I sit under the dim or no light, iPad is only option. I don’t want to spend 50$ on the case with the light. Kindle itself costs only 79$!!

  • http://techietalkz.com Taylor Ling

    Yes, iPad is a great device for reading, so yeah, I read books on my iPad 1.

    Adjust the brightness that suits your reading environment if you doesn’t find it comfortable to stare at. For me, it’s not an issue.

    Distracting? Turn on AirPlane Mode and you can easily concentrate on your book.

  • http://cameraguyzack.blogspot.com Zack Jones

    I have the original iPad and a Kindle Fire. I bought the Kindle for my wife because she’s an avid reader, has amazon Prime account, and can check out books from the library on it. Guess who uses the iPad and who uses the Kindle — she uses the iPad and I use the Kindle. I would actually prefer to read on the iPad because it has the larger screen but I have to admit the Kindle is a great device for reading. Like others that have commented I’m a computer geek and stare at a computer screen 10+ hours per day but I’ve had zero problems reading on either device. I doubt that it really makes much difference but I do wear reading glasses when I read on either device. It’s so nice to be able have multiple books at your fingertips instead of having to lug around an actual paper book. My only complaint about the Kindle Fire is the battery seems to die very quickly. Perhaps there’s some options I should turn off such as wifi which isn’t available at work and that may be draining the battery constantly looking for wifi signal. Who knows. We are slowly but surely converting our paper books to eBooks. For future book purposes I will only buy a paper book if an eBook (in any format) isn’t available. I really think the days of the brick and morter book stores are numbered. They won’t go away completely but I think they will seriously shrink in size over time.

  • Jeff

    I helped a friend get all teched out for a 3 trip to China. We were going over the charges that she’d need to take. In the mix, she had her Kindle charger, and was planning on taking it, and her iPad with her. I promptly loaded the Kindle app, and showed her that she was double packing. The Kindle device stayed at home, needless to say. She didn’t have a single issue reading from the iPad.

  • Mihla

    I love reading books on my iPad, but have one objection — I can’t read in the bathtub, which is my way of relaxing before bedtime. If Apple would make a waterproof version, I’d never buy a paper book again.

    • Chris

      ZipLock Bag perhaps?

  • Miles

    I agree that a kindle, for me atleast, provides a better reading experience. Its definitely easiere on my eyes than looking at a pixel screen for long periods of time, and it does a great job replicating the look of a book page. The size and weight are also a huge plus, I don’t know how I’d like laying down holding an iPad over my head for an extended period of time, there have been times where I’ve read 2/3 of a book in a day because it was hard to put down.

    One thing I really like about having a separate device for reading is that I can simply turn on my kindle and it will be ready to go, at the page I left off on.

  • beau

    am i the only one who doesn’t see the value in mimicking ink on paper?

    never seems like there is enough contrast for my eyes and then there is the need for a good lamp, etc.

    just my 2 cents…

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  • RalphMalph

    Why has no one mentioned reading at the beach or reading at the pool? During the summer, I spend hours per week at the pool while my kids are doing swim team practice. In bright sun, the e-paper wins hands down.

    (Now I get that a lot of tech geeks aren’t in the sun much :)

  • Nishant

    Couldn’t agree more. Kindle wins hands down on one single factor- it is non distractive.
    I personally feel, reading is an experience best enjoyed without distractions. When you are using an omnipotent & multi-purpose device like an iPad or any other tablet for that matter, you are facing a problem of plenty. Plenty of choices many a times lead to an indecisive mind. In fact, this is a problem with smart phones too. Too many apps zap away your time and attention and most of the time you are struggling to choosing between the apps. And after you choose, you still have to live with the feeling of being left out by not choosing so many other brilliant apps.
    But to each his own..ipad and kindle both are brilliant devices.Its a problem of abundance of choice and not the gadget itself.

  • http://www.planetnaveen.com Naveen Kulkarni

    Great article,
    I have both kindle and ipad.
    I feel kindle is easy on eyes and distraction free. However, I think installing a Kindle app on ipad is not a bad idea either :-)

  • folkartfan1

    Great article and helpful for me since i soon will be making my first ipad purchase. This is something I have wondered if my nook, which i love, will be sitting in the corner collecting dust! Now at least I know its just a preference that depends on how you use the ipad and what makes you comfortable. Knowing how i use my iphone, and laptop, I am pretty sure my main reading will be on the nook.