November 29, 2012

"Hot Gift Is a Tablet, but Which to Buy?"

David Pogue examines the options.

Seems like the Kindle Paperwhite is best for someone who mainly wants to read books.

For a color device to use for video entertainment, it gets more complicated. Nook, Fire, Nexus, Android... whatever. I'm firmly in the grip of Apple, so I just assume you want an iPad or an iPad Mini (or both). But Pogue's piece might help.

Please shop through my Amazon portal if you can. I've used Kindle devices and, though I'm an Apple person, I use the Kindle app on all my Apple devices and I always by my ebooks — and I have hundreds — in the Kindle format.

Here's some advice I don't see in Pogue's piece: if you're buying a device for someone else, find out where that person's brand loyalties lie. If they already have books in one format, will they be able to read them on another format? The giftgiver won't enjoy watching the recipient furiously Googling for an answer to that question on Christmas morning.

ADDED: Thanks to everyone who's been using the Althouse portal this month. I see the reports and really do feel encouraged by this gesture of appreciation from you. Even though it's perfectly easy to do and costs you nothing, it means a lot to me!


bandmeeting said...

No. The best for someone who just wants to read would be the new NOOK 7" HD.

Bob Ellison said...

I bought my last tablet a year ago. Now I've paid for, um, about fifteen of them. Kindles, Kindle Fires, an iPad, a Samsung Galaxy.

Clearly I'll want to upgrade soon from my Fire to a larger HD screen, partly because my eyes aren't so good. There don't seem to be any losers in the category, though. They're all really nice devices.

rhhardin said...

Computers get more and more useless with each advance.

Patrick said...

In the (very likely)event that I do not get a Kindle or some other e-reader for Christmas, I have determined that I will buy one. I just finished Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton. Because most of my reading (for pleasure, anyway) is at night, in bed, when I am tired, the large size of the book became intensely and distractingly annoying. Here I am trying to read, and I'm being forced to work out! Why not get a Kindle? They can be had for as little as $70.

Wait, does that sound really, really lazy?

Ann Althouse said...

"Because most of my reading (for pleasure, anyway) is at night, in bed, when I am tired, the large size of the book became intensely and distractingly annoying."

Plus with a book you have to keep the light on and properly angled, and the older you get the more light you need to read. With a lighted tablet, you can always see the print (and enlarge it as your eyes fail with age and sleepiness).

Also, with an iPad, if your eyes get too blurry to read, you can switch to an audiobook. I like to play a solitaire app to keep my mind from wandering while listening to an audiobook. Once I'm at that stage, sleep is only a few minutes away.

Patrick said...

Yeah, and during the middle of the night wake up thing you mention from time to time, the light really annoys my wife, who is a light sleeper, but does not wake up unless I decide to read.

So basically, she is the one most likely to get it for me, but alas, for other reasons she likely won't. That's alright, I'm more likely to get it through the Althouse portal.

Wince said...

bandmeeting said...
No. The best for someone who just wants to read would be the new NOOK 7" HD.

Why do you say a color HD is the "best" reader compared with the top of the line dedicated B&W devices?

This is the question I'm trying to answer: Is there an advantage (other than device size) to having a dedicate B&W reader?

Patrick said...

When the hell did I read 9 of ten free NYT articles? I don't recall a single one other than the Pogue one I just read.

Says a lot about the value of the NYT.

Bob Ellison said...

EDH, the B&W readers have really, really long battery lives. It's said that they only chew up battery to change display (e.g. to turn pages). Our B&W Kindles go for days on a single charge. That's a nice advantage. Also, they're very small and lightweight. And cheap.

Aridog said...

As some one who has gifted iPads to others, another thing to be aware of is what wireless wide area network (WWAN) the intended recipient uses...and whether they likely will use simple wireless features or might required WWAN capability.

With iPad you have a choice, built in, of either AT&T or Verizon, but not both...the tablet is dedicated to one or the other. This WWAN feature is an option that is beyond the simple "short range wireless" capability option. Any wireless feature in an iPad is a added cost option.

edutcher said...

But dead tree books can take a lot of abuse computers can't.

That said, in addition to rehabbing our old laptop, The Blonde is also looking at a tablet.

She thinks they're cool and she doesn't take that view of too much technology.

Peter said...

The Kindle readers do seem to provide the best reading experience for the buck.

BUT the fact that they're designed to prioritize selling content from Amazon before all else limits their usefulness and attractiveness.

Somehow, it seems that "Go to Amazon store!" is at the top of most menus. And (of course) they won't work with ePub or many other file formats.

Robert Cook said...

I have the iPad 3 (not 4) with Retina Display, and I think it's great. That said, after playing briefly with an iPad Mini recently, I will get one once they are upgraded to include Retina Display.

Aridog said...

Althouse said ...

Please shop through my Amazon portal if you can ...

Better said this time, with the highlighted part.

My problem with Amazon is that any search you do through them, with your portal or not, is limiting...sometimes by a lot of available items otherwise. My better half has Amazon-Foo, while I do not. None-the-less I run errands to the UPS store frequently due to her miscalculations on Amazon, or even worse, "Ideali" ...the mega crap-iz-us outfit.

My feeble efforts to use require that I first query specific items on Google or Bing, see what is out there, and only then revert to Amazon to see if it is available there, and if it is price competitive. All too often it isn't on Amazon or if it is, only as used or some random "open box" item at another reseller.

I just experienced this, using the AA portal, while looking for a new Sharp Carousel Microwave oven. They are only slightly less common than dirt. Nope...only thing available was one open box item from some other reseller or a half dozen used ones again from another reseller.

Amazon's "other resellers" ... usually add several days to shipment/delivery, not "free" as if from Amazon itself, and usually a retailer you have no information whether it's Stash, or Achmed, or Jose, reselling items, that he picked up on trash day, from his living room. Unless it is a nationally recognized outfit, you have no clue.

Last, but not least, Amazon makes shopping a veritable hoop jumping ordeal unless you want to use their Quick-check out" tab....which, from my experience, does not allow you to send gifts to 3rd parties. I related the Chinese fire drill I had to go through to buy a book for myself and another from a friend on another thread.

I am a KISS principle sort of guy. I have no patience for hoops. Fact is, I have no patience at all. I will try Amazon via the AA portal from time to time, when I've perhaps had a couple ounces of Cognac and in no hurry. Otherwise I 'll just contribute a bit more directly. KISS principle in action.

Ah, I gfeel better now that I've done my "Althouse-con" whining to make Shilloh happy. :-))

James said...

My home is multiple iPads but I recently scored both 7 and 10-inch Google Nexus tablets and I couldn't be happier with them.

I'm using the 7 inch tablet with an amazing piece of Android software called DSLR Controller to remotely operate my Canon cameras. This is a godsend for people like me who do a lot of macro photography and spend hours bending over.

The 10" tablet is newer and I haven't used it much other than to load on a Time Warner app so I could watch my favorite cricket team play. The 10 inch tablet has much better resolution than the latest iPads.

Steven said...

Pogue is an Apple partisan, and nowhere is that more apparent than in, oddly, his Nook HD endorsement.

If the target is an Amazon Prime subscriber, the Kindle Fire HD delivers more value because it can play their Prime videos. If they're not locked into any bookstore's subscription video stream, the Nexus 7 actually has a larger variety of content, because of all the free apps (like the Kindle, Kobo, and Nook apps) it can run without any hurdle-jumping.

bandmeeting said...


First, let me say that everyone is going to have their own story but this is how I see it.

I've used the NOOK Simple Touch quite a lot and I am a fan of the E-Ink because of the eye strain problem. What I don't like about it is:

A. The size and shape. I dislike this to the point of thinking, "What is wrong with you people. How did you decide that this is the shape of a book?". I suppose that it actually is about the shape of a mass market paperback but I don't like those either.

B. If you are reading a book that has photos, think biography or say a book on WWII that has photos, they have handled this with a depth of aplomb that resembles self sabotage. You will at best be able to sort of see the photo, at worst it will look like a Rorschach.

It is for these 2 reasons that I will not buy a Simple Touch.

As for the new 7# HD, I was talking to a kid who builds computers and he was acting as if he was personally offended that people will be marching off to purchase the mini iPad rather than the NOOK. He was extolling the superior definition and I later read a WSJ review that fully backed him up on that. I've fiddled around with one to feel as if I will almost be able to use the settings to almost overcome the eye strain issue.

I'll add something that bothers me with this change to e-books (even though I'm fully on board with them).

When they first came out B & N were talking about all that romanticized nonsense about how reading takes you places......all about how virtuous and uplifting reading is and NOW YOU CAN TAKE ALL THOSE WONDERFUL BOOKS WITH YOU--WHY, IT'S A PORTABLE LIBRARY!!!


James said...

Pogue is an Apple partisan, and nowhere is that more apparent than in, oddly, his Nook HD endorsement.

That's the conclusion I came to after reading the article. He erroneously claims that there's no dedicated section of the Google Play marketplace for Android tablet applications. Yet if if actually go to the site there's a clearly labelled section for tablets:

It will be interesting to see if Android tablets outsell Ipads in the same manner that smart phones using the Android OS are outselling iPhones.

Robert Cook said...

The 10 inch (Nexus) tablet has much better resolution than the latest iPads."

Can you actually see the difference?

gadfly said...

Perhaps Aridog can tell us what "Amazon-Foo" is about.

mark said...

@Ann "If they already have books in one format, will they be able to read them on another format?"

And that is the digital mess of closed formats and DRM. It is a huge problem that is strangling the future of innovation and education.

James said...

Can you actually see the difference?

Not so much in casual everyday use but when reviewing or culling high resolution photos the difference is evident.

Balfegor said...

Re: formats --

I think one reason for the success of Amazon's book DRM is that it's actually quite relaxed. I have three devices I can read the same book on (phone, tablet, and computer). This is different from, e.g. the Apple DRM where -- at least back in those dark days where I actually used an Apple product -- it is practically impossible to transfer files between different devices, other than the one computer that's synced to your iPod. And of course, you couldn't transfer to other non-Apple MP3 players.

There's much less incentive to piracy if the DRM is unobtrusive and doesn't prevent people from doing the kinds of things they would normally want to do. Like transfer files between devices.

Aridog said...

gadfly said...

Perhaps Aridog can tell us what "Amazon-Foo" is about.

It is like *Amazon-fu* which defines a degree of skill, similar to defined Kung-Fu skills, except it doesn't require skill, but luck, thus Foo not Fu. Simple. :-)

I am an occasional/frequent idiot shopping the time I bought two iPads directly from Apple...instead of from a trusted retailer like B&H Photo Video, I got very nice repetitive tracking reports as they wound their slow way from some remote slave camp in China to my only three weeks. Now folks, I occasionally shop in Bangkok, Thailand and my orders are never more than three days in arriving, start to finish.

So I have sucky Apple-Foo, too, not Apple-Fu, where everything is sweetness and light....and not on a tramp steamer from Lo Buc Electronics' factory in some Hunan province.

I have problems when on-line retailers make their ordering sites more complex than the catacombs. I have NO patience.

By the way, I got that Sharp Carousel Microwave ordered on-line in about 5 minutes total, for in-store pick up at a local Best-Buy, which took less than 5 minutes in store...on freaking Black Friday no less.

Sundry shopping gods do not like me I fear...who else has their microwave catch fire internally (not inside the cook area) and smoke out the kitchen on Black Friday morning?

It marks the first time I have ever bought anything on Black Friday. Malls and days like BF are less inviting to me than multiple root canals, if ya' know what I mean.

Unknown said...


The advantages of a dedicated e-ink (therefore black and white) device are:
- better battery life
- less eyestrain
- easier to immerse in the book than with a multipurpose device
- some books are designed for the b&w display (when I read on my Kindle Fire instead of my Kindle basic, I like to use white text on a black display, but some books are designed for black on white - images or even text are set to black)
- supposedly lit screens shortly before bed make it difficult to fall asleep

The advantages of a tablet (which are all color) are:
- you can read in the dark
- multipurpose device
- displays pretty color pages and images

The new generation of ereaders with bottom-lit screens have all the advantages of normal ereaders (even, according to what I've read, being able to fall asleep after reading) plus the ability to read in the dark.

Hoping for a Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas.

Unknown said...

There's a wonderful program called Calibre which helps manage ebook downloads to your computer and will let you convert from one format to another, as long as the ebook doesn't have digital rights management encryption preventing this.

With some illegal plug-ins (most or all available from a guy called Apprentice Alf) you can break DRM, too.

Deb said...

I bought a Kindle Fire HD before my trip to Israel a few weeks ago and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is great for reading in bed - lightweight, you don't need a light, no hand cramps trying to keep the book open, on and on. Also, I can browse the Internet, watch movies, play games. It really does what I need it to do.

Aridog said...


Just to be nosy...what Wireless Wide Area Network device, for Internet and email or web-mail connection, did you utilize in Israel?

Does Kindle Fire have a WWAN option built in to it (like iPad 2 and higher) or do you need an ISP hot spot for ordinary wireless routing?

Thanks in advance.

JAL said...

I ordered one of those odd brands recently for the son-in-law.

I spent hours reading reviews everywhere I could find them.

May be a shot in the dark / a pig in a poke or whatever -- but didn't have the $$ for the big name brands -- and it is going to be used in circumstances and situations which might endanger it ;-)

So. I found one with the latest Android software, Skype, wifi, fast processor, and other little goodies etc. with good reviews.

Not an iPad by a long shot ... but competition has produced some good (and awful, apparently -- and naturally) clones.

(It's the buying directly from China that blew my mind. Which I did *not* do.)

Will post when it gets here and we play with it. Life is full of little choices.