Advice on Kindle vs Nook vs iPad

I am considering purchasing an e-reader. I am currently leaning toward the Kindle, but am also considering the Nook and the iPad. In addition to novels and casebooks, I’m also hoping to use the device to read law review articles and Federal Circuit patent decisions that are currently in PDF format.  Why?: I am looking for a lightweight dedicated reading device to help me avoid distractions and weight of my Thinkpad.  I am also enamored by the e-ink and have the idea that it would help reduce eye strain.  

Any advice before purchasing? Is 3G valuable? Is there an easy way to access the newest Federal Circuit patent decisions on the Kindle or Nook (or should Patently-O begin offering that service?)

54 thoughts on “Advice on Kindle vs Nook vs iPad

  1. 54

    I love my iPad for everything except reading books. For pure reading, especially when traveling or at my mom’s, the Kindle is the best device, period. Very little eye strain, the weight is minimal so it’s easy to carry or transport in my laptop bag.

  2. 53

    I’m looking for a small device on which I can type documents on a train. Any recommendations? Davy, what made it difficult to type on the iPad and what did you need to clean up in Word? Thank you.

  3. 52

    I’m looking for a small device on which I can type documents on a train. Any recommendations? Davy Crockett, what made it difficult to type on the iPad and what did you need to clean up in Word? Thank you.

  4. 51

    All this talk of readability in bright light…. boy, when can I join y’all’s law firms and companies? am I the only patent lawyer in the nation who does not do their client work “in bright light,” at Kanapali beach and other beaches?

    I’ve never read a patent in bright light! I thought client meetings and examiner interviews and litigation trials occurred indoors. I guess I need to join the digital generation and start bagging more rays while I bill my clients!

  5. 50

    I recommend the iPad! I use mine every day during my one hour commute on the train. I have the 3G version and it works great even on the train. I use it for reading pdfs and I use dropbox to carry files over from my computer, or I email the docs to myself and use iBooks to read them. I also use it to read at home…no need for extra lighting as others have said! The apps offered are great eg. Free MPEP app. I am so excited about my iPad that I just started a blog at where I will report on my trials and errors with the iPad and iPhone. Love your blog–keep up the good work!

  6. 49

    One thing which was not mention and that I see an advantage of iPad over Kindle/Nook – page flip speed – Kindle and Nook are good for leisure reading, but not for frantic search in the text. If you need in a hurry to find an exact reference somewhere in a 300 page pdf, Kindle/Nook will not help. I lended from a friend a Kindle for a few days (to see if it would fit me) and at the end I went for iPad.

  7. 48

    I have the original Nook and use it for reading fiction. For fun, I loaded two patent-related PDF items.

    The Nook can display PDFs, and the process for getting them on the Nook is easy. First, download the PDFs to your computer. Second, connect the Nook to the computer with its USB cable. Third, drag the PDFs from the computer to the Nook.

    One PDF I downloaded was Boston Scientific v. Johnson & Johnson Fed. Cir. case from < .”>/media/docs/2011/06/10-1230.pdf>. On the Nook, it was fine to read. The horizontal text reflowed to fit the width of the screen. Vertical pagination was set by the PDF, so depending upon the amount of text, I’d have to page down (on the Nook) to view all the page (of the PDF). It was OK to read the case this way.

    Another PDF I downloaded was Jason Rantanen’ article from < .”>>. This text did not reflow, and one line (from the PDF) became a line-and-a-half and blank space (on the Nook). It was annoying to read the article this way.

  8. 47

    I have a Kindle and really like it. Works great on the beach even in sunlight. Purchased the 3G version and get access to downloads virtually anywhere without monthly connection fees. Super light and easy to use.

    I never tried the Nook but good things about it as well.

    I think the ipad is a different animal. More of a laptop replacements vs ereader. Very powerful tablet, but heavier than Kindle and not great in sunlight.

  9. 46

    I have a Nook and like the monochrome screen for reduced eye strain. A color screen pushes white pixels at your eyes to provide contrast for black ink and can result in eyestrain. I have only used the Nook for indoor reading. See other posts as to whether monochrome or color is better for outdoor reading. 3G adds about $50 (I think, cost probably falling) to the product cost, but is useful for receiving content on the go. I suggest verifying that the unit you purchase can be rotated to lanscape view for small print such as articles and patent text.

  10. 45

    If you read primarily indoors I would go with the iPad. I have a Kindle and it is great but the interface is primitive (no touch screen, awkward/just plain bad table of contents listing for the device, no lighting so need adequate lighting when reading indoors. All this being said, I overall love my Kindle for the price and for reading in bright light outdoors. But if reading outdoors is the exception for you I recommend going with the iPad, or other tablet.

  11. 44

    Why not a Kindle and an iPad? I have both and find both useful. With the iPad Kindle app you can read a book that you’ve purchased from Amazon on the iPad, and it will sync to the last location where you read that book. I can read the same book on my Kindle, iPad, iPhone, and MacBook air. The Kindle is most comfortable for reading text, but the display of images or maps is poor. The iPad is useful for many things that the Kindle cannot do, so it is not redundant. You have to try too hard to get and switch between pdfs (e.g., FC opinions) on the Kindle–the iPad is much better suited for that. The Kindle is better for readying a book cover to cover before switching to another book. If you are going to routinely jump around between different pdfs, that will get very tedious with the Kindle UI.

  12. 42

    Hey Dennis,

    You should get an internet connection already and look it up yourself. I can’t believe how many people are willing to carry water for you. Shame on them and shame on you.

  13. 41

    For reading, Kindle is by far best owing to: 1) best contrast, esp. in bright light; 2) Battery life is “amazing”, you really can approach 1 month providing you watch network power use; 3) size works for easy carrying around; 4) price.

    The 3G does around the world- I’ve used it carpooling in Shanghai to scan the NY times and my gmail. However it has a slow and limited browser (at least currently)-

    Nook color is for hacking linux or cheaper tablet (read that ipad) device. Use your Android cell phone instead- smaller and lighter.

    Point being made by others is that pdf files don’t reflow- so their aspect ratio has to fit the screen one way or another (e.g. landscape, portrait window on the page). You can, as said, modify/convert a doc on a “real” computer so that it will fit well (change format, crop, re-pdf it, etc.), but that is time-consuming pain.

    To get a sense of what an ipad will do, compare with your notebook- for reading the ipad is a bit more portable and Apple IPS, comparable screen utility, general purpose, limited battery life, and relatively more expensive.

    The Kindle is nice on your eyes, a great e-reader with some bonus tweaks (the free 3G, etc.). It does not work acceptably as and does not pretend to be a computer (an Android cell phone does that better).

    Kindle is ok for reading one book at a time, provided it is formatted for that– very slow to switch books or search within a book- laptop is order of magnitude better for searching. Paper books are, as others have said, far superior for study. To start with, you can keep more than one open at a time and easily switch back and forth, have random access, margin notes, easy highlight, and dauntingly higher contrast reading.

    My quals-I’ve been reading and searching stuff using computers and displays or all sorts for decades, have and used the devices discussed, same for paper.

  14. 40

    A 2000+ page search report?? Good God, man. What art are you working with?

    Now that Therasense is out your blood pressure will go down and you can spend more time with the wife and kids.

  15. 39

    Kindle for reading, due to e-ink and ability to read in bright light. For travel, especially international, I find 3G essential. It is rarely easy to find free wifi for downloading.

    I subscribe to newspapers on the kindle, which arrive whereever I am in the world, for 4.99 a week you have unlimited intl downloading (free in the US, and automatically turned on elsewhere). A huge savings over searching and paying for a print newspaper in English.

    Also, extra bonus with intl kindle service – if like most of us, you have a email-enabled phone that does not function in Japan and Korea due to incompatibility with their networks, use the experimental services on the kindle to access a web browser and gmail,yahoo, etc. Not fast, but better than nothing! And free if you have paid the 4.99.

  16. 38

    The iPad 2 is 80 grams lighter (just under 3 ounces). About 14 quarters, give or take. Noticeable, but not that big a difference. I own both ipads, I actually prefer the ipad 1. I find the thin edge of the ipad 2 digs into my hand, whereas the ipad 1 has a flat edge that feels better.

    To each his own.

  17. 37

    I use a wifi-only iPad 2 with iAnnotate ($10, app store) and Dropbox (free) to read patents and decisions. iAnnotate makes it really easy to mark up and take notes on PDFs.

    I’m fairly distraction-prone, but have found that something about the iPad helps me stay focused. Maybe it’s that you have to exit the app and launch a new one to multitask. Whatever it is, reading on the iPad is about as immersive as reading a magazine and much less distracting than reading on a laptop or desktop.

  18. 36

    Definitely get an iPad and use the GoodReader app for PDF veiwing and mark up.

    iPad comes G3 and WiFi ready. The files can be downloaded by email, Dropbox, GoogleDocs or directly from the web. The text is fully resizeable. For example, when I’m reading patents, I usually veiw only a quater of the page at a time–It’s far easier than reading it on paper at the normal size. I hardly print anything now. Over the past month I reviewed 2000+ page search report and 3000+ pages of depositions on the iPad, all in PDF format.

  19. 35

    I didn’t wade through the other comments so my suggestion may already be

    I have a Kindle and I like it a lot. However, if price is no issue I would go with the
    iPad and download the kindle app. Barnes and Noble now also has a Nook app.
    With this combination, you get the best of all worlds. With the iPad you can also
    read your email and work on documents.

  20. 34

    For the future, to “convert” PatentlyO so that it’s formatted for various devices, check out a company called

  21. 32

    I have both the Kindle and the IPad. The Kindle is great for straight text reading but of you have a lot of visual content ( think patent figures) it falls down on the job. The other benefit of the iPad is the full web connectivity. If your reading a case and a surprise patent or the reference appears you cancer to it immediately. I find the note talking and export email feaTures of the iPad superior as well.

    Get 3G. WiFi can be annoying when you need something now and you have to troll around looking for a hotspot.

  22. 31

    I have the Kindle, which I really enjoy for ebooks, but for PDF files I find it to be a pain. Hard to search the text, to flip back and forth between pages, to highlight and make notes, etc. For reading of PDF, I would suggest IPad, though I don’t have one.

  23. 29

    “I have been reading some exciting patent cases in bed.

    Eyes open or closed…?

    Joking aside, you don’t get out much do you Francis…?

  24. 28

    I’m quirky and have a Kindle DX: I like the extra screen size (and pdf reading is abysmal on a regular sized kindle), but I got mine used and if I had to pay full price I’d probably splurge and get the ipad for the extra $150.

    Also keep this in mind: there’s a growing body of research showing online reading is a lesser quality than hardcopy. No research yet on whether ereaders closer to the online or the hardcopy, but to the extent there’s inter-reader variation, I’m guessing ipad closer to online.

  25. 27

    Davy Crockett. Go back to the mountains and wrestle a bear. Of course I already know how to turn down the brightness. Why don’t you take your beaver cap out of your mouth and google: ipad too bright. DUMAS.

  26. 26

    The Kindle is a better pure ereader and better in direct sunlight, but who reads cases in direct sunlight? When it comes to finding material to read, the Nook color does everything an iPad can do, other than 3G, for a lot less money. My kids each have one and they read books on them constantly, plus have handy web browsers. To me, the Nook color hits the sweet spot between full on tablet (although it does work on Android and have a lot of tablet functionality) and pure ereader. You really should check it out.

  27. 25

    I just purchased the newly released Nook, after loving my Kindle for a long time. Hands down, the new Nook is a better device than the current Kindle. Kindle needs to response NOW with an improved device.

  28. 24

    I’d love to view PDFs on my kindle, but the formatting is terrible. If you go the kindle route and offer a service that formats cases for proper display on a kindle, that would be a godsend.

  29. 22

    Color nook can be rooted and it become a sweet Android 2.2 tablet for a lot less than most tablets. If you’re a bit of a hacker and like to play around with your toys, Nook is the way to go.

  30. 21

    Re Prosan Cons: Reading at night is a pleasure. Just turn the brightness down.

    ReVJW: I just spent a week in Maui reading books on Kaanapali Beach on my iPad. It was perfectly bright. Commercials suggesting otherwise are baloney.

    I spend hours per week reading books on the iPad, and reading westlaw. The eyestrain issue has not affected me. If you don’t turn down the brightness at bedtime, though, I can see how you would be annoyed (the iPad could be improved with auto-dimming that is used on the MacBooks).

    In a pinch, you can type an SMJ on an iPad. I have done it, just to see if it was possible. It wasn’t easy at first, and required clean up in Word, but I thought toward the end that it could become natural.

    For reading books, the iPad search and annotation features are nice, superior to the Kindle that i have used.

    iPad apps also provide extremely convenient pdf and photo markups, drawing with your fingertips, etc., I have used in meetings like an ELMO. You can mark up a pdf of a patent or legal brief and e-mail it straight from the iPad. You can also take a picture on vacation, mark it up, and e-mail to friends. You can also sketch devices during inventor interviews and save them, using the “Whiteboard” app.

    You can use the Westlaw iPad app to do research, and cut and paste text into pages (though it is a bit clunky without multifinder: you have to double tap the home button to shift from the app to Pages and back). I have used this a lot, and works well after my kids pointed out the double tap trick.

    iPad has so many convenient apps that can’t be duplicated on Kindle. I spent quite some time at CES this year trying out all the e-readers and tablets. I thought the e-readers were nowhere near as useful as the tablets, and the non-iPad tablets were very well implemented.
    If you can point your finger at the iPad, you know all you need to know to get started.

  31. 20

    I also vote for the Kindle. I have had one for a few years and it works wonderfully with PDF documents. I am also a fan of the “buy once read everywhere” concept. Although I plan to be purchasing a tablet soon, I plan to keep my Kindle as my primary document and book reading device.

  32. 19

    The iPad 2 is a lot lighter, and that makes a big difference when you’re holding it like a book for a long time.

  33. 18

    Don’t forget. Kindle books can be read on the iPad using the Amazon Kindle software. But the Kindle hardware display is much different than the iPad, maybe better in some cases, maybe worse. Depends on how long your reading for. I think the iPad is good for short periods. The Kindle display is better for long periods. The old Kindle displays are kind of non-bright. Get the newer, bigger one.

  34. 17

    I find it very hard to study materials on the Kindle. It seems to be best for reading novels, not textbooks. The eBook publishers have a long way to go before eBooks are productive for students as reference texts. The formatting for contents, footnotes, indexes is largely useless. If you want to study something, hardcover texts are still the way to go. It’s simply faster.

    Don’t count on using the iPad at night in bed, unless you want to beam messages to outerspace. The thing is so unbelievably bright that your cones and rods won’t know what to do anymore. The brightness may not stop you from falling asleep, but you won’t sleep well because of the effect on melatonin levels. Plus, you shouldn’t have cellular radios around your head all the time anyway.

  35. 16

    I have a Kindle 1 which includes an SD slot for transferring data to and from the Kindle. Also, the Kindle TOS allows the sharing of books across up to 6 registered Kindles. Finally, there is a Kindle app for the iPad and for a PC so you can synch your books between devices.

  36. 15

    I’d argue that the Kindle and iPad serve different purposes as e-readers. The Kindle is great–indeed, perfect–for reading books and Kindle-specific content and the e-ink is great for reducing eye strain. On the other hand, the PDF format on the Kindle leaves a lot to be desired (even on the DX), and for reading PDFs, the iPad is just better.

    Of course if you’re trying to avoid distractions, the iPad is exactly the wrong device to have. 😉

  37. 14

    I use the Kindle and it easily accepts pdf files, and if they’re carefully cropped before loading, they’re easy to read. It also takes .mobi files which are plentiful. I have the 3G version, and use it when I’m not at home (the WiFi doesn’t work with corporate networks).

    Plus, one morning, one corner of the screen went black. I tried all the fixes they suggested, and called them. By the next morning, a new one was at my home, and I returned the old one in that packaging. All for free. Another time, I put my knee on it (I’m a klutz). Again, next morning there was a new one at my home and I returned the broken one. This time it was $85. But the customer service has been superb.

    I would suggest a program called Calibre to manage your library on your computer. It’s free and is cross platform and cross reader.

  38. 13

    Use both. Kindle fine for reading eBooks. iPad fine for reading eBooks, almost every other type of book imaginable, surf web to find case for reading/download, send/receive email, send photos to you internet mistresses like some elected officials are want to do, prepare memos, letter, spreadsheets, power point presentations, play movies on a plane while munching on your gourmet peanuts, bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, and a host of other useful activities that mimic in large measure what can be done on a laptop/desktop, etc., etc. etc. Is it the same as a laptop/desktop? Not really, but not that far off. 3G is nice is a hot spot not nearby, but it is limited in cell service provider and will likely eat up minutes much like a Hummer “sips” gas. Hence, I stayed with a 64GB iPad with just WiFi connectivity to the web. Great tool and highly recommended.

    Keep in mind that competitors are coming out of the closet in droves. Might want to take a look at some of them as well. I would, however, stay away from those associated with cell service carriers since their goal is to suck you into signing up with them on plans that are in large part not needed given the other data gathering capabilities of the iPad.

    Obviously a close call. Kindle a 5 and iPad a 10. Can’t rate competive products to the iPad because I have not used them, but useful to note that their screens tend to be smaller. Frankly, I prefer larger screens since web surfing is a breeze (you can actually read search results easily), etc., etc.

    I am very picky when it comes to electronic computing devices, and thus far I have found that the iPad does not disappoint.

    BTW, a new generation iPad has just been released, the iPad 2. I have an iPad 1, and quite frankly am hard pressed to find any differences other than the “mine is newer, hence cooler” factor.

  39. 12

    I read a lot of case law on my kindle. Much of it is PDF from westlaw etc. I don’t use the kindle’s own PDF support, but rather I get amazon to (freely) convert them and send them to my kindle over wifi. This seems to work fine. Mind you I’m English and don’t know if amazon would cope with the weird double column format lots of US case law seems to turn up in :-).

    So PDF support is something I rarely bother to try.

    The kindle is much much lighter than the ipad so ideal for reading in bed. I have been reading some exciting patent cases in bed. I doubt I’d do that with an ipad. Having said that the ipad is lighter than some of the doorstop practitioner guides we have over here, and I sometimes read them in bed too.

    It fits nicely into pockets etc. E-ink is great and so on. Customer service is also good (mine broke, replaced the following day by courier, old one collected the following day).

    The main thing is that you have to think of it as a paper replacement. It can’t do lots of things that an ipad etc can, but then neither can paper.

    Pretty cheap too. And, like an earlier person said, the 3G seems not to be a big deal.

  40. 11

    3G can pull books before getting on a plane.

    e-ink can be seen in the sun whereas the LCD iPad can’t.

    between nook and kindle, they both work. I’d go with the kindle though for battery life and readability under all conditions, not to mention the big, easy amazon library available.

    You’re looking for an appliance without distractions. Get an appliance instead of another toy/gadget.

  41. 10

    I have both an iPad and a Nook. I have used both for reading caselaw and here are some of my comments, I hope this helps you!

    The Nook is easy to sideload with .pdf’s and great for reading on the go (I LOVE reading on the eink screen) Side loading is extremely easy to do from what I have found. Although you do have to have a source for the .pdf versions via your computer. One big downside I found was that its not easy to make highlights/notes. The interface for doing so is clunky.

    The iPad is easier to find your .pdf’s on though. You just bookmark the webpages you get your cases from, use apps, etc. I’m loving the free app that Fastcase released too. The only problem with the iPad is that it has the same distractions (if not more!) than just using my laptop. Its also not the wonderful eink screen but it is powerful in other ways such as using drop box to access your .pdfs from any comuter or using an app to mark up .pdf’s with your highlights/notes.

  42. 9

    I have a Nook Color and a Kindle. If I had to pick one, it would be the Nook Color because of the better apps to download for the kids and because of the backlighting which allows me to read in bed without disturbing the husband. However, if I were single, I would pick the Kindle. It needs recharging much less frequently (every week or two with heavy usage as opposed to every day or two for the Nook). The Kindle is also much lighter and has a lower profile. I leave the Kindle in my purse for those occasions where I have a few unexpected minutes to read.

  43. 7

    Forgot to add most tablets including the ipad are too large and heavy to be convenient “books.” In addition to the lack of eInk which is great in all conditions except low light. Not to mention the distraction factor.

  44. 6


    The Sony Reader line has better PDF handling and many have touchscreens with a stylus for handwritten annotations. Not as good a deal as the Kindle or Nook at present but a favorite among academics for PDF handling. The biggest issue with PDFs is text reflow and font size. Some PDFs work better than others.

  45. 5

    I’d echo what Matt said regarding the Kindle and PDF support. My wife has a Kindle, and it works wonderfully for reading e-books. The e-ink is wonderful at reducing eye strain, and feels just like reading a book. It just doesn’t display PDFs very well, though.

    I have an iPad, and it has worked pretty well. I find it much easier to read on than a computer, albeit not as easy as a Kindle. The thing that really puts it over the top for me is an app called GoodReader. It displays PDFs fantastically, and allows for easy annotations as well – quite useful when reading law review articles for research, for example.

    The other advantage of an iPad when compared to a Kindle or Nook is the range of material available in the bookstores. Amazon, B&N, Borders, and Google all have apps for the iPad, so you have access to all of those stores. You would think there would be a lot of overlap, but I’ve frequently found books I need for class exist in only one of those stores.

    In short, if you’ll be reading a substantial number of PDFs, I’d highly recommend the iPad over a Kindle. For just novels, a Kindle would be perfect.

  46. 4

    I own both and can say it’s hard to pick one over the other. As far as eye strain goes, Kindle wins hands down and that’s my preferred device for straight forward reading.

    However, as far as versatility goes, the iPad is the clear leader. Reading pdf’d briefs, court decisions, patents, etc., are all much easier on the ipad. Plus, viewing powerpoint files, browsing the internet, keeping up with blogs, news, etc. I love the ability to annotate pdf’s as I’m reading them. Using dropbox and goodreader as my two main apps, I’m able to keep a central library of documents in the “cloud” and access it from any internet connected device at any time.

    As for 3G, I don’t think it’s that important. I find that with both of these devices, I use them primarily at home or in the office, where I have access to wifi. On the go, there’s almost always a wifi hotspot nearby. Tablets/ereaders aren’t really the type of device you pull out at a random street corner to consult, usually you’re somewhere where you can find wifi.

    As for obtaining the Fed Circuit decisions, they’re easily downloadable to the ipad straight from the CAFC website. I think you need to go through a pc to convert them into a format readable on the kindle (I could be wrong about this, but I don’t think the kindle supports pdf’s without first being converted).

    The kindle is cheap – $114 and probably cheaper by this Christmas. Personally, I think you should get them both.

  47. 3

    Go with the Kindle over the iPad, especially if you enjoy reading outdoors (hitting the beach this summer?).

  48. 2

    One more thing to add. The Kindle can be set up to automatically receive articles and web text snippets you gather via the wonderful and free Instapaper service. You can read more about that here: link to

    This is probably my favorite use for the Kindle. With Instapaper and (a curated collection of long-form magazine articles from around the web), you always have something interesting to read on your Kindle.

  49. 1

    I’d suggest the kindle. I used mine in law school to read cases and I found it much less tiresome than reading on the screen. The WIFI version comes with an e-mail address and you can send things in DOC or PDF format. I prefer to send cases in DOC directly from Lexis and Westlaw because they end up nicely formatted for the kindle.

    The Achilles heel of the small Kindle is PDF support. You can read them on the device, but PDFs have a fixed text layout. That means you’re stuck with whatever small text is used in the opinions.

    The Kindle DX screen is big enough to read PDFs a page at a time, but that’s almost as expensive as the far more versatile iPad.

    The Kindle also supports limited annotation features using its small physical keypad. It keeps all of these annotations in a text file stored on the device that you can access on your computer. I believe the various PDF viewing programs on the iPad offer more flexibility.

    I still think the Kindle is the best choice given these constraints, as its simplified, distraction-free environment and clear screen mean more to me than being able to e-mail, etc.

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