Choosing a suitable device for reading articles, docs, and ebooks

Photo by @nicolehoneywill / Unsplash.com

I love gadgets, and I love reading, too. It’s a nice combination, as there’s always a new shiny gadget that one just has to buy – for reading, of course.

I currently own an Amazon Kindle Oasis (2018) device, a rather old iPad (that the kids are using for YouTube), and a Surface Go. I do have a few work laptops, and a beefy workstation that I do most of my work on.

This got me thinking – how should I read, and how to make reading as low friction as possible for myself?

My favorite device is the Kindle Oasis, as it’s always ready to be used. I haven’t had a chance to read anything in about two weeks, as I was struggling to get things sorted out – and yet the battery on the Kindle was at respectable 75%! It’s almost too easy to purchase ebooks from the Amazon Kindle store, so I’m considerate what I eventually buy. The latest purchase was Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, and I’ve already read two pages.

The Kindle device is not super useful for large PDFs, even though it works. While building out a small automation solution (see here) to transfer content to my Kindle, I also see that many times the Kindle display is simply too awful. It’s fabulous for text, especially neatly formatted text. It’s horrible for tables, quite awful for charts and simply frustrating for technical docs – such as those I generate through Microsoft Docs.

The Surface Go, on the other hand, is more suited for these needs. But it has other issues – battery goes to zero if I don’t use the device for some time; it’s very slow and laggy at times; battery lasts a meager 3-4 hours; Windows 10 is not great for tablets – and it feels heavy and clumsy. The good thing is that it charges through USB-C, but not very well unless you can push some serious Amps to it.

We’ve had this friendly, but at the same time rather real, thread with a few friends whether we should all purchase an iPad Pro. For some, it’s for working, for me it would be mostly for reading and casually browsing stuff.

Samsung recently released their premium tablet called the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6. It ticks all the boxes – great display, good battery life, charges with USB-C and ‘just works.’ But Android tablets are not fantastic for apps. So I’ve been on the fence on getting one, even though they are relatively cheap compared to iPads. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 is about 800 €, while a comparable iPad Pro is about 1250 €. That’s a price difference of about 56 %, or 450 €. Admittedly the iPad Pro has 256 GB of base storage, while the Samsung device has 128 GB (but supports SD cards for added storage).

I then had a look at the iPad Pro. The latest and greatest model was released in October 2018. Thus hardware is roughly 12 to 18 months old by now – and the iPad Pro is still commanding a premium price.

With these thoughts in the back of my head, I conducted a short poll on Twitter. What’s great about these polls is that they are free, only allow a limited number of answer options, and they are anonymous. My question was:

What do you prefer when reading PDFs and longer docs/articles?

And the answer options were:

So, a bit of explanation is justified here. The first option – iPad – of course means a tablet device, and usually it’s an iPad or something similar.

32 %, or about third of people who cast their vote, prefer an iPad. No surprise here.

Almost a third, or 31 %, prefer to read from a laptop screen. It’s a surprise, but then again it isn’t as this is what I do often as well.

One fifth, or 20 %, print on paper. I’ve given up on this approach as I hate the sound of printers, and I feel it’s not environmentally a sustainable solution to print something that gets read only once.

Only 16 % use a separate ebook reading device, such as a Kindle or something similar.

Granted that doing a quantitative analysis would require more votes (n = 99 for me), but it’s enough bring a bit more light to my dilemma.

In conclusion

I haven’t purchased any devices yet. I’m anticipating Apple to release some sort of refresh for their iPad Pro line. In the meantime I’ll visit a few stores to try out the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 – it might be just what I need (and want).

For now, I’ll continue reading articles and docs on my laptop screen. It’s far from optimal. For books, I’m continuing to use my Kindle.