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For E-Readers, Size Matters

By Chris Hill – Updated Apr 6, 2017 at 11:27AM

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Len Edgerly weighs in on the e-reader wars.

I recently interviewed Len Edgerly, a former business journalist and executive in the energy industry who is now the host of some of the most widely followed podcasts in the e-reading industry, including The Kindle Chronicles. We discussed how the Kindle matches up with Apple's(Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad, as well as other players in the e-reading space. What follows is an edited transcript of the interview.

Chris Hill: I am the opposite of an early adopter when it comes to technology. So it seems to me like Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) is really hammering home this consumer message of "you can read the Kindle on the beach, you can read it in bright sunlight," that sort of thing. Is that really an important message to stress to people?

Len Edgerly: Well, I think it is pretty important. I happen to have spent a lot of time on the beach this summer, and it is a delightful experience. I just have a cloth bag I take to the beach with my swimming goggles and then I throw a Kindle in. I think part of it is the screen makes it pleasurable to read in direct sunlight, just like the ads show, but you also have the feeling that you are not taking a computer to the beach. I would never take the iPad in a similar situation because of the sand and all this, but now especially at these prices, $139 for the Wi-Fi, to throw this thing in a bag and go to the beach seems perfectly appropriate and it turns out to be a great experience.

So I think the beach is sort of a nice visual, but there is a larger advantage that Amazon is designing for, which is this thing is almost a throw-away. It is a very slight piece of gadgetry that you can take 3,500 books and your New Yorker subscription and all the other stuff that you love to read. The more you get used to it, the more you just couldn't think of living without it.

Hill: You mentioned the iPad. In terms of the iPad versus Kindle competition, what has surprised you the most?

Edgerly: I think the thing that surprised me the most was how heavy the iPad was, because I thought that it was going to be much more comparable to sit in my favorite leather chair with a Kindle, at that time the Kindle 2, or the iPad, but after about a half an hour of reading a book, the iPad just seemed to get heavier and heavier and less and less pleasing to hold.

The screen glare I thought was going to be a bigger issue than it turns out, and they were smart to give you the ability to adjust the brightness without having to go back to the preferences on the iPad. It is pleasant enough to read on the iPad, but the weight of it I think is the big thing. I had quite a period of reading books on the iPad just because I really wanted to give it a good try and in the past month or two, I just haven't read anything on the iPad.

Hill: Really?

Edgerly: Yeah, I read the Financial Times. I switched my Financial Times subscription from the Kindle to the iPad, probably because the iPad has the nice apricot color from the paper. I have kept my New Yorker subscription on the Kindle because for me, The New Yorker is all about text and words, but everything else, books, it is all back to the Kindle.

Hill: Now there have been some reports that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is teaming up with Verizon (NYSE: VZ) to launch a tablet computer sometime later this year, perhaps in November. What do you think gets people to buy a Google tablet rather than an iPad or a Kindle?

Edgerly: The size really strikes me as a crucial dimension, so if it is ...

Hill: Size matters?

Edgerly: Yeah, size matters. Only it's reverse size matters -- the smaller the better. (laughs) I think the main thing with the Google connection is going to be if they do it in conjunction with Google Editions, the new e-book store that they are supposed to open up. So this is going to be a huge, new initiative, a whole new eBooks store that Google is going to be putting out there. If that is, I can't believe they will have better prices than Amazon because I think they won't be pushing back against the publishers as Amazon has been, but you never know. If they come out with a new eBooks store which everybody goes crazy over because of the selection and the ease of buying or whatever, and there is kind of a neat, new smaller tablet, that could be pretty compelling.

True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community.

Chris owns shares of Amazon. Google is a recommendation of both Motley Fool Inside Value and Motley Fool Rule Breakers. Apple and Amazon are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy also has a crush on the "It's a Kindle" woman in the Amazon commercial.

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