iBooks vs. Kindle – Which is better for a theological library?

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I have been considering investing in digital books instead of physical books as I continue to build a library of books for ministry. The question that I have for you is: Apple’s iBooks or Amazon.com’s Kindle. Here is what I have so far:

Kindle – Pro

Kindle – Con

  • Black and White books
  • A Kindle has a single use.

iBooks – Pro

  • Color books
  • An iPad has multiple uses
  • Reader is available only limited devices
  • Integrated into a device that I already own (iPhone)
  • I am generally a fan of Apple

iBooks – Con

  • Smaller selection of books
  • Books seem to be outside of Apple’s core product strategy
What other pros and cons have I missed? Have you used these platforms? Which do you recommend?
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14 thoughts on “iBooks vs. Kindle – Which is better for a theological library?

  1. Availability. I haven’t looked at iBooks selection, but I know a majority of texts for Asbury Seminary classes are available on Kindle including many commentaries by Ben Witherington III and texts by Asbury Seminary professors including Ken Collins.

  2. Some other things you may wish to consider:

    Battery life: This may not be an issue if you are regularly in the habit of charging your device anyway. I typically have to charge my Kindle about once every 4-6 weeks, which works for me since my “book” is not something I normally think about charging. If my “book” was also my “phone” it would probably be a non-issue, since that is something I charge daily anyway.

    Eye-strain: I find the black-and-white e-ink to be much less stressful on my eyes when they get tired than a back-lit LCD.

    Organization: I don’t know how Apple’s applications for book reading allow you to organize books, but I find the Kindle’s organizational system to be inadequate for what I would like. I can make categories of books, which is nice, but sometimes I would like to make sub-categories as well. This may just be something I have not learned how to do yet … but if you like to keep your stuff organized, it is worthy of consideration. I don’t mean to poo-poo the Kindle too much on this point… it works “good enough” for me in this regard, but it doesn’t make me go “wow” … and I think it will become a little more challenging as my e-library grows.

    Look at Calibre: Calibre is a free application that can convert between different book formats. This may liberate your Apple to a certain extent, allowing you to download from non-compatible formats and convert them to a file you can load onto your iPad and read later. I’ve only used it for converting ePUB files (not supported on Kindle) to MOBI (compatible) and find it to work very well.

    Library: Kindle is not compatible with e-book libraries. This was a big let-down for me. Most e-book libraries require your reader to accept ePUB files with digital rights management so that books can expire on the due-date. Amazon has not announced any plans to support this (probably because it would put a dent in Amazon e-book sales). Document conversion tools like Calibre do not fill in this gap for the Kindle.

    Note-taking: I find the ability to take notes in my e-book to be very important. I like to highlight and scribble in e-books just as much as paper books. I suspect most all platforms will allow you to do this — but make sure to look for it if it is important to you in your “paper” library. The Kindle captures notes and highlights into a text file for exporting to your computer — I’ve found that very handy for texts I read as part of a class.

    Let us all know what you end up deciding!

  3. Andrew, I have both and wouldn’t think of getting rid of my kindle. I love it. It’s a totally different reading experience versus the iPad. Feels like a real book and the ability to sync notes and highlights to my kindle on my Mac is pretty huge for me. I use it a ton in sermon prep and research. I think the most important thing you listed was that books are outside of apples core product strategy. Apple does great with music because of their passion. No passion for books.

  4. I’ve been using Kindle books for some of my seminary classes this semester. I have my own list of pros/cons for this. I don’t have an actual kindle, but I do use the kindle app on my phone and on my computer. I’ve also used Google Books for one of my textbooks, and I wouldn’t recommend it for anything other than casual reading. Not having iBooks, I can’t weigh in on that regard. I will say, I do like using the kindle books, and love that I don’t have to have an actual kindle to make it work. I also love the highlighting and note taking features. Also, having a larger selection is important to me.

  5. I would echo most of John’s comments. With the Wi-Fi turned off, the Kindle’s battery can last a really long time. (case in point: I got the Kindle right before Christmas, and have only charged it one or two times since then.) 3G is absolutely unnecessary, IMO.

    Calibre is a MUST for using the Kindle. It greatly extends the scope of material you can read on the Kindle. I’ve converted from epub to mobi with no difficulties, which is nice because Google Books has a wide selection of out-of-print and public domain texts that are just waiting to be read. For a theological library, as many of the books are going to fall into these categories, Calibre will really be useful.

    The Kindle also seems to handle PDF’s more easily than iBooks, at least from my experience. (There is a vast array of current (and not so current) theological and philosophical literature in PDF form.)

    I agree with John that the organizational aspects of the Kindle are poor. I would actually say ‘dreadful.’ Simply making categories of types of literature and then placing books into those categories can be frustrating, tedious and time-consuming. I am hoping that the next iteration of the Kindle (or at least of the software) could allow one to more easily organize the selections on the Kindle. Ideally, I’d love to be able to organize the books in some kind of software package on a computer and then sync the changes to the device, as the refresh rate of the Kindle is not ideal for those types of changes during use. (Perhaps this functionality already exists and I am unaware of it.)

    I think another ‘Pro’ of the Kindle is the price. $140 vs. $500 is significant, especially if you are looking for a reading device. Right now, the iPad2 doesn’t do anything (at least that I am aware of) your present iPhone doesn’t do, and $500 seems a steep price for a bigger (and lower resolution) screen. And since the Kindle app for the iPhone can sync with the physical Kindle, it doesn’t have to necessarily be an ‘either/or’ kind of thing. Given the vast array of theological literature that can be had for free from the public domain (the complete works of the church fathers, which I paid $500 dollars for in college, comes to mind…) alone would pay for the Kindle in short order.

    If you want to borrow mine and give it a test run, let me know. 🙂

    Also, Amazon may be releasing something similar to the Nook tablet soon, so that might play into your decision: http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/news/2011/05/amazon-may-enter-tablet-fray-in-second-half-of-2011.ars

    Good luck!

  6. Wondering if those of you who use manuscripts for preaching have used either your kindle (through PDF) or Ipad instead of hard copy?

  7. I use Kindle on my iPad because of the selection. I use iBooks or Goodreader for preaching and an NRSV Bible app for preaching as well.

  8. I also wouldn’t limit yourself to two options. Yes, the Kindle eInk screen is great for reading on. Yes, there are thousands of apps for the iPad (including a Kindle app).

    But, the Samsung Galaxy Tab can do many of the same things as the iPad, but is less expensive.

    The Barnes & Noble Nook Color can access the B&N library, can handle ePub, and can be rooted into a full Android tablet, so it can run the Kindle app. You can even put the rootkit on a microSD card and essentially dual-boot the Nook between the B&N software and a regular Android installation. Plus, it is priced between the much more limited Kindle and the much more versatile iPad.

    Or, if reading is your primary objective, pick up a cheap Android tablet on Amazon, and come in less expensive than any of the other options. Of course, there may be limitations to this solution, such as reduced battery life or screen quality, so you have to be very selective.

    Good luck making a decision. I know that I haven’t been able to make up my mind yet, although I also am not quite ready to commit the cash to any of the solutions, either.

  9. Though iBooks is slicker, I am leaning towards Kindle for my own use. I have a Kindle, I have a Kindle app on my phone, one on my computers, and one on my iPad.

    Also, I can only read that glaring screen so long….

  10. If you had to pick apple or Kindle, go Kindle cause the books are readable on multiple devices…but for a theological library, go Logos if it’s available. Biblical references and references to other theological books are hyperlinked and hoverable. You can also read your books on iOS devices. The powerful search and library management tools in Logos blow anything else out there out of the water.

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