Yeah, right now you are probably thinking: “WTF?” It’s certainly not fair to compare a single-function, ebook dedicated device like the Kindle with the Pandora. You may obviously, objectively say that the Kindle is the better device for that purpose. But then again, why not do a fair comparison? I have read whole books on both of these devices, and I certainly have something to say about it.
I’d start by saying that I carry both the Pandora (Rebirth) and my kindle (PaperWhite model) almost everyday with me. It is fairly obvious that the Kindle is an excellent device for reading ebooks. It’s made for that. The selling point is the e-ink screen, which is very easy on the eyes. In the Paperwhite version, the screen is always backlighted, which makes it possible to read at night as well. It’s light, thin and weighs less than the Pandora. The battery life is fantastic (because e-ink screens only use power when they need to be refreshed, otherwise their consumption is zero).
Wow, so in one paragraph it looks like I just made the Pandora KO. There’s not much the Pandora can put forward there. The screen is decent but a little bit small, and since it’s LCD based it’s not as as comfortable as e-ink. But it has color and is backlighted as well. One good thing is that the Pandora screen is not too glossy so unless you directly point a light at it, you should not be annoyed by having too many reflections. But reading under the sun is almost Mission Impossible.
The Pandora’s battery life is very good too, but there’s no way it can compare to the Kindle’s several weeks of autonomy. It’s more portable than the Kindle, however. It fits in a pocket easily. I mean, a relatively wide pocket. Not your shirt’s. The Kindle is a little too large and needs an actual bag.
But the Pandora has a killer feature that the Kindle does not.
The Kindle is a proprietary device made (and locked down) by Amazon. While the included firmware works ok, if you don’t like something you are out of luck. You cannot change it much. You cannot tweak it. Your options are… limited.
The Pandora has several applications to read ebooks, and it screams customization in all areas. Don’t like the font? Change it. Want more space between the lines? No problem. Want more margin? Done. Want a colored background? Easy. Need to open a non-mobi file? Of course, why not? Want to download public domain ebooks? Easy! Use MGutenberg from the repo.
The Kindle certainly is not a very flexible device. You only get a couple of settings to adjust, a couple of fonts, and that’s it. Anything in between, well forget it. And when it comes to reading ebooks, it does not even support the popular epub format and wants you to buy only mobi-locked crap. Thanks to the power of free software tools like Calibre there are ways to go around its limitations but this is really convoluted and annoying.
Then comes PDF support. The Kindle is supposed to give you support there, and to be honest it does a decent job as long as you have black and white documents. If colors are essential, then you are out of luck, again. If your PDF is not made for small screens, and the text is unreadable in full page mode, then you are likely to pull your hairs out. Zooming into PDFs is slow. It’s annoying. It’s just not worth it anymore when you start using it that way.
One more important thing. Hardware controls. The Kindle paperwhite loses all buttons (except the power one) and now you have to tap on the screen to trigger specific actions. It’s not always very practical. Going back one page does not always work well unless you are in the exact right position. Selecting text is horrible. I mean it, horrible, it’s a damn mess. I had to try several times and it’s a device that makes you feel like you’re a stupid monkey who doesn’t get it right. FAIL is the word that comes to mind. And typing notes… meh, you can guess how much pain it is. It’s just like your smartphone, except sometimes worse.
On the Pandora you have many choices. You can choose to scroll down with the D-pad (my preference). You can move from one page to another with other user-assigned buttons. You do not have to put your dirty, greasy fingers on the screen to do that, and that is a GOOD thing. I like to keep my eyes around the same position on the screen, while the Kindle forces me to read an ebook like an old-fashioned paper book, which I find quite retarded. Give me choice damnit!
The only time when the Kindle touch interface works relatively well is when you have to select a single word to look for a definition in the dictionary. This is a pretty cool feature which is missing from the current ebook readers available on the Pandora. Of course you can have an offline dictionary application running in parallel on Pandora but the Kindle makes it very convenient. And the dictionary included is of very high quality.
So… The Kindle is a fine piece of hardware (the e-ink screen, long battery life), bundled with so-so-cool functions (a touch screen far from ideal, no hardware buttons) and crippled by low-grade software (not many formats supported, crappy PDF support). The Pandora has a decent screen but it cannot compare well to the e-ink screen of the Kindle. However, software-wise, the choice is rich and almost everything is possible to read ebooks. Add to that the hardware controls for comfortable reading. The only functions missing are built-in dictionaries and note-taking. Should the applications get these functions, the Pandora would be on-par in terms of “study friendly” functionalities.
By the way, I just discovered recently that you can uncripple your Kindle Paperwhite a little by installing CoolReader for it after jailbreaking it. More on github regarding that.
As you know, the Pandora is a jack-of-all-trades device. Can you read ebooks on it well? Certainly. Not as good as on your Kindle, but it can replace it if you need to. And it can evolve and be improved upon. The Kindle will likely stay as immobile as your oven or washing machine.
My final answer? It depends. I read on both. When i’m in read-only mode for a longer time, I would prefer the Kindle. If I have to read, write, check PDF files and do other stuff, then I’m likely to prefer the Pandora. Especially if I am on the move.