Home » Tablets/Ereaders » How Lifehacker’s Kindle hit piece misses the point

How Lifehacker’s Kindle hit piece misses the point

24 October 2017

From Chris Meadows via TeleRead:

Can’t book-lovers all just get along?

You would think that ten years after the advent of the Kindle, we would have reached a sort of detente by now—and yet I still run across anti-ebook articles every time I turn around. The latest culprit is Lifehacker’s Patrick Lucas Austin, with a post warning readers that before they drop their hard-earned $249 on the new Kindle Oasis, they might want to consider that “Study after study show that reading on screens is, for various reasons, inferior to reading on paper.”

It’s odd to see such a luddite turn from Lifehacker, which is usually devoted to showing how various new bits of technology can make people’s lives easier. This piece rehashes several of the old “smell of books” arguments: that paper books are more memorable, that taking notes on paper works better than making digital notes, and that glowy screens keep you up at night.

Even if I assume these points are accurate (the retention argument actually isn’t as clear as Austin suggests), it’s hard to see what they have to do with the way most people use their Kindles. Austin seems to assume that the only people who are going to drop $249 on an e-reader are college students who think it will help them study, whereas I suspect that far more Kindle purchasers are interested in reading for enjoyment. And to those people, such anti-Kindle arguments simply don’t apply.

I’m not all that concerned about retention of a fiction book I’m reading for fun. Indeed, I’ll probably enjoy it more on a reread if I did retain less and can encounter all the good parts fresh all over again. And I’m not generally one for taking notes on my Kindle, either.

. . . .

And when it comes to the point about “light-emitting ereaders” keeping people awake at night, the article really is all wet. The anti-night-reading pieces Austin links talk about tablets, which use backlit LCD screens. However, the Kindle Oasis and other Kindle e-readers use front-lighting, which reflects light off the e-ink screen—just as you would do if you used a reading lamp on a paper book. So, this is a great argument against reading from a tablet or smartphone at night, but actually one that favors reading from an e-ink Kindle.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

PG agrees with Chris that a great many reviews of Kindle ereaders depict them as defeatured tablets instead of single-purpose devices optimized for that single purpose.

In PG’s typically timid opinion, e-ink screens are vastly superior to other electronic options for reading long-form text. PG has had a tablet and a Kindle of one sort or another for a long time. When he’s not sitting at his computer, he uses the tablet for bouncing around online and his Kindle for going deep into either fiction or nonfiction ebooks.

PG understands the tech aesthetic of having a single device that can do anything and is also light and small enough to take everywhere.

However, many people who are serious about their pursuits, professionally or otherwise, use specialized devices.

Professional graphic designers, artists and serious photographers tend to do their most intense work with large-screen, high-resolution computer monitors capable of being precisely color-adjusted and digital graphic drawing tablets instead of the iPads which all of them own.

Serious gamers, professional and amateur, use very specialized and expensive hardware in their pursuits. See, for example, the most radical gaming laptop ever which even comes with its own rolling hard travel case. No iPad is even in the same universe.

Fortunately, for serious readers, an e-ink Kindle is far less expensive.


15 Comments to “How Lifehacker’s Kindle hit piece misses the point”

  1. Dexter von Dexterdorf

    Serious gamers don’t use laptops. We cart around our tower rigs and monitors to our friends’ houses.

  2. Ah, the smell of my old CD music collection. Mostly mildew from being crated up in the loft, I think.

  3. See, for example, the most radical gaming laptop ever which even comes with its own rolling hard travel case.

    Laptop is a misnomer here; you ain’t gonna put that on your lap 😀

    I would game from my laptop, but it was an any-port-in-the-storm situation (I was between desktops at the time). To the actual point, I do build my own desktops precisely so I can pick parts suitable for gaming and productivity. I’d love to get a 4k monitor, but I’m not an early adopter on these matters.

    I never see articles scolding people for choosing specialty keyboards — ergonomic keyboard or gaming? Cherry keys or chiclet? I’m puzzled by the point of downplaying the Kindle, let alone misinforming people about how it works. Dude should come out of his cave.

  4. “single-purpose devices optimized for that single purpose”

    Na, no one would waste money on something that only did one thing – no matter how well.

    Wait – you mean like one of those things they call a ‘book’?

    And you can’t even reload those, read what’s on them and toss them.

    No, wait, books aren’t ‘single purpose’, why I can use a few pages to help start a fire (of course then you miss some of the words that made up the story …)

    Or I can prop up the leg on that un-level table (and it’s a better use than reading for some books I’ve run across.)

  5. I have to admit, for non-fiction that I expect to use extensively when writing my own books, I still buy hard copy. I find it much easier to find the spots I’m looking for with the bookmarks and turned down pages and the notes I have scrawled in the margins.

    But for fiction, my Kindle is taking over more and more from the unread books still lining my shelves.

    • Agreed – for highlighting and reference, a physical book is superior.

      For almost all other reading purposes, it’s Kindle, by a mile.

      I also like the ability to adjust the size of the font. When reading late at night, I can set my glasses aside, and read comfortably on-screen.

      For me, the Kindle is a BOOK, although one that magically morphs into a new book when I finish the last one.

  6. A friend of mine has a German car. When he bought it some years ago, the service manual was only available on disc. But hey, what was a $300 CD compared to the price of a new car?

    The disc is encrypted, and only accessible through its proprietary viewer program, which runs on an operating system Microsoft no longer supports. Neither does the publisher; the viewer program won’t run on later operating systems, and it wouldn’t do him any good if it did, as he’s already used up all of his installs over the years as he’s upgraded computers.

    He only got three installs on his license, and even if he could buy more, the publisher’s license server is 404 and the software won’t run on his new computer anyway.

    Meanwhile, my oldest service manual is just over a hundred years old. I can pull it down from the shelf and read it just as easily as its original purchaser back in 1915.

    “You remember telling me how great the idea of an online service manual was when you bought that?”

    “Shut up!”

  7. I read on my Kindle Fire and my iPhone. Love them both. Both have adjustments like blue shade for night time reading. They have for about a year now. It’s not even an issue.

  8. In concept, I like a specialized eReader. I’ve had a Kindle since 2008 and read ebooks on a Palm before that. eInk is easier on the eyes and is the only satisfactory solution to reading in outdoors in the sunshine.

    However, I now have my Surface tablet, keyboard, and stylus with me continuously. It’s completely replaced the Windows laptop I’ve lugged around since the 80s. The Surface is not quite as good for reading as Kindle, but it good enough to edge out carrying a second device. Therefore, except for reading in full sun, the Surface has replaced the Kindle for me.

    iPads, Fire, and other non-Windows tablets don’t have enough functionality to justify using at all. I’ve threatened to go back to a simple cellphone when my current Android dies. If only Msft would save their phone business by adding a cell phone functionality to a Surface, I would have a complete Alan Kay Dynabook…

  9. This guy has a point. I will now get rid of my screwdrivers and just let chisels do double duty.

  10. Count me as one that will deal with whatever the consequences are of reading on my LCD, 1080p phone with a pixel density of 225 for the simple reason that I do NOT want to carry around another device. Its too convenient to have it all in one location. I used to find it difficult, and read on my Kindle. Then, once I switched to reading white text on black screen with it dimmed some, I just adjusted to it.

    • This is the plus side of carrying a roomy shoulder bag. I can carry my iPhone AND my Kindle. 😀

      • A perk of being a lady. I do have a backpack with me most of the time, with my laptop in it, but I still don’t use my Kindle. I rarely even use my tablet now that my phone is 5.5 inches.

        • I use my phone as often as my Kindle because I rarely take the Kindle with me and I always have my phone (with a 5.7 inch screen).

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.