When it comes to reading Kindle ebooks, most people use Kindle apps for phones and tablets or a dedicated Kindle ereader.
Both options have some unique advantages over the other, but each has some disadvantages as well, depending on how you choose to read.
Here’s a list of the main advantages for Kindle ereaders over Kindle apps and vice versa.
Kindle eReader Advantages
E Ink Display – Kindle ereaders use a different type of screen technology than tablets and phones. E Ink screens are meant to look more like printed ink on paper, and they are known for being easier on your eyes, especially considering you can turn the screen lights completely off, and E Ink screens are easily readable in direct sunlight.
Battery Life – Kindle ereaders can go several weeks on a single charge because E Ink screens don’t use much power.
Lightweight – Kindles are very light for their size. They are much lighter than tablets and they’re even lighter than a lot of phones. For example, the current entry-level 6-inch Kindle only weighs 158 grams. The smaller iPhone 14 weighs 206 grams and the larger one weighs 240 grams.
Write on Screen – The Kindle Scribe is the one Kindle that lets you write on PDFs and add handwritten sticky notes to ebooks. This cannot be done using Kindle apps.
No Distractions – Kindles are good for reading ebooks and that’s about it (and you can listen to audiobooks too). There aren’t any distracting email alerts, push notifications, social media nonsense, etc. And the Kindle’s web browser is so crappy you’ll never want to use it.
More Fonts – One benefit with Kindle ereaders over Kindle apps is you can add custom fonts and you can control the boldness of the font, neither of which is an option with Kindle apps.
Kindle Apps Advantages
Color Screen – Obviously phones and tablets have color screens, unlike Kindles, and you can also use different colors for highlights and change the color of the screen background.
Faster – One disadvantage with E Ink screens is they are slower to refresh. Scrolling and doing things like browsing your library or the Kindle store is going to be faster on a tablet or phone using a Kindle app.
Multi Column/Scrolling – Kindle apps have the option to use two columns in landscape mode, and they also have a continuous scrolling mode if you’d rather scroll than turn pages.
Immersion Reading – With Kindle apps you can read along while the audiobook is playing; with Kindle ereaders you can’t do both at the same time.
Reading Insights – Kindle apps have a section that shows some reading stats and Kindle Challenges, neither of which are available on Kindle ereaders for some reason.
Word Runner – An alternate way to read that basically only shows one word at a time. This feature, called Word Runner, isn’t available on Kindle ereaders.
Sharper Screen Possible – Kindle ereaders top out at 300 ppi. Some phones have sharper screens than that, like the iPhone 14, which has 460 ppi.
Less Things to Carry – If you have a Kindle ereader that’s just one more thing to take with you. Most people already carry a phone everywhere so sometimes it’s just easier to read on it.
Kindle Apps are Free – Possibly the biggest advantage for Kindle apps is the simple fact they are free. You don’t have to buy a Kindle to read ebooks when you can just use a phone or tablet that you already own.
Jay Vansickle says
I originally thought this was going to be a comparison between kindle vs kind apps —- on Android eink devices.
Also, purchasing ebooks from Amazon is easier on the Kindle since you can purchase directly from the on-device bookstore. On the Kindle apps, you have to do it through a browser thanks to Google & Apple’s restrictions on in-app purchases.
Good point. As a workaround you can use Amazon’s Android app from their appstore to shop using the app, but Google will eventually update it to their version if you don’t turn off automatic updates.
On my Samsung device, I have been using the Galaxy Store Kindle app ever since they neutered the Google Play Store version. It allows me to make in-app purchases and regularly updates itself from the Galaxy Store with no shenanigans from The Play Store.
A couple of features you did not mention where kindles can do that the apps don’t is voiceview and vocabulary builder. What the apps can do that kindles can’t include reading Vela stories (which in my opinion is not very positive), and reading insights. If you manage to get an app that is from another source other than google or apple app store you have a much better shopping experience than on the kindle. And the app is supposed to allow you to see your notebooks from scribe, where the kindles does not. But so far I have not seen the notebook function on my android tablet, only on the Apple tablet. One last thing when you download the app, it gives you the ability to sendtokindle files from your phone or tablet.
Good point about seeing Notebooks in the app; that’s the only thing I use the Android app for. I was going to mention VoiceView, but iOS has a screen reader too that can read ebooks aloud, or at least it used to because I did a video about it once—I’m not sure about Android, though.
I tried the IOS and Android options and it changes how the interface works and found it even more frustrating than voiceview. I do like voiceview but do think the UI could use a bit more streamlining. But to address the quality of voiceview VS the IOS and Google, voiceview sounds a whole lot more realistic and is understandable. The other two TTS sound horrible in comparison.
I know one of the selling points of e-ink is that you can read outside in the sun, but I wonder how often people do that? I do almost all of my reading in bed, and some in other parts of the house, but the lighting is always pretty dim, so I need to use the light if I use e-ink. I like that the Kindle app (and even more so apps that are mostly for epub books) allow so many more options for fonts, foreground/background colors, layout, etc. I’ll admit that my tablets are heavier, but a case on a Kindle e- ink adds weight too. I typically use stands or other holders with my Kindle and my tablets so that I don’t need to hold them while reading.
For me, the main advantage of an e-ink reader is the battery life, and ease of starting & pausing reading. I don’t have to open and close an app, power the device up or down, etc. So I use each of my many devices in different locations/circumstances. Were I ever to read outside in the daytime, I’d use the e-ink Kindle, but I can’t imagine doing such a thing.
I use it often outdoors. When taking my cat out for a walk or when going out around town I have my trusty basic 10th gen with me. If my wife is shopping I read out side of the shop to wait for her. At an outdoor cafe. You just never know what lighting situation you will find yourself it.
As an after thought, if you look at teh kindles reddit site you will see frequently posted images of people reading their kindles outdoors.
I read outside pretty often. I think it’s a nice way to appreciate the weather, and the anti-glare screen does help when you’re not reading a paper book. Truthfully, Apple has made the iPhone pretty readable outside also, unless you’re in truly blinding, glaring conditions. But I just find it more pleasant to bring my e-ink device outside and not be sucked into notifications or checking other apps. I see people at the park with their Kindles in nice weather, and I think it’s pretty common.
I do a lot of outdoor reading on my E Ink tablet in the Kindle app.
Fergus Duniho says
Since I use the app on an e-ink device, some of what you were saying was not applicable. And, in this context, one of the things you said was wrong. On my Likebook Mars, the Kindle app is slower than a Kindle. Its page turns take longer and have a bit of an annoying animation. It also slows down when it has to compete for resources with other apps on the device.
Given the devices I have, one of the main advantages of the app is that the device it runs on is larger than my Paperwhite, making it more appropriate for books that benefit from the larger size, particularly manga or books on KU than I cannot sideload to my DX. Of course, like some of the other advantages and disadvantages you listed, this is actually an advantage between devices and not between the app and Kindles in general.
One advantage of the Paperwhite 5 over the Likebook Mars running the app is that the former has a crisper dark mode that doesn’t make some text invisible by doing the job incompletely. This is partly more about the device, though it’s also partly because the app hasn’t been designed for e-ink use.