Should You Buy a Kindle or Just Use the Free App?

Dann Albright 27-05-2016

It seems like just about everyone has an e-reader these days — and almost everyone who has one has a Kindle. But do you really need a Kindle when you can just use the Kindle app The Kindle App for Android and iPhone: As Good as a Real Kindle? You don't actually need a Kindle ereader to read ebooks. The Kindle app on your phone does the job. Here's how to use it. Read More on your smartphone or tablet?


Could you save yourself the $80-$290 (not a typo!) that it would cost you to buy a new e-reader by just using the app? Here are the advantages and disadvantages of both options to help you decide once and for all.

Buying a Kindle: Pros

There are a lot of reasons why buying a Kindle might appeal to you. The most obvious, of course, is that you can carry a nearly unlimited amount of books around in your pocket. All of the current Kindle models come with 4 GB of storage space, and with even large books often coming in under 1 MB of space (Moby Dick, one of the longest books I’ve ever read, is a scant 2.4 MB), that’s an absolutely huge number of books you can take with you.


And the Kindle is, in fact, very small. My own Kindle Voyage measures 6.4″ x 4.5″ x 0.3″, making it easy to literally stash it in my back pocket if I want to take it somewhere. And at 6.3 oz., I hardly even notice it in there. The new Kindle Oasis Meet the New Amazon Kindle, Control Your Android With Your Voice... [Tech News Digest] The next Amazon Kindle has leaked, control your Android without using your hands, share Dropbox files using Facebook Messenger, the Vista nightmare is ending soon, and Softcore Henry has a boring office job. Read More only weighs 4.6 oz. without the cover, which is astonishingly light when you hold it in your hand. The Kindle absolutely cannot be beat on form factor.

The fact that the Kindle isn’t backlit is another huge plus: looking at backlit screens, like your phone or your iPad, might make it harder to sleep at night What Is a Blue Light Filter and Which App Works Best? These blue light filter apps for Android will help you get a better night's sleep, even when using your device at night. Read More , and it’s harder on your eyes over long periods of time. The e-ink screen and built-in LEDs of the Kindle provide soft lighting that’s very easy on your eyes without making it hard to read at night. The Voyage and the Oasis even have adaptive light sensors to automatically adjust to your current lighting. And the e-ink is surprisingly clear What Is E-Ink? How It Works & Why Every Ebook Fan Needs It If you read ebooks and haven't switched to E-Ink yet, then you're seriously missing out. Here's everything you need to know about why E-Ink rocks for ebook lovers. Read More , especially on the higher-end models.



One of my personal favorite features of the Kindle Voyage and Oasis is the presence of page-turning buttons on the bezel of the reader. It sounds ridiculous, but if you read through 100 pages of a novel, your thumb will get tired moving from the side of the device to hit the touchscreen and turn the page. The base model Kindle and the Paperwhite are still touchscreen-only, but the other two models pack this fantastically nice feature.

Direct access to the Kindle store is also a great feature of owning a Kindle; you can open up the store from your device, browse books, and download them immediately. If you have a 3G-enabled Kindle, you can do this from anywhere you can get cell reception. This is great if you’re stuck at an airport or somewhere else where you might have to pay for Wi-Fi when you really want a new book.

Buying a Kindle: Cons

With all of those benefits, it’s going to be hard to find enough drawbacks to dissuade you from buying a Kindle, but there’s definitely one con that’s worth mentioning: price. Kindles aren’t cheap, especially if you want any extra features. The base model is $80, which seems pretty reasonable, but you can’t get 3G, there are no page-turn buttons or lights, and the screen resolution is just over half that of the other models.



The Paperwhite gets you LEDs and the option of 3G, but you’re looking at a jump up to at least $120 to get there. Stepping up to the Voyage, which provides more LEDs and an adaptive light sensor, page-turn buttons, and a smaller profile, gets into the, “Oof, that’s expensive” range at $200+. And the Oasis, the new flagship model, pushes the boundaries of reasonableness at $290 (you can see all of the features and differences in this great comparison of Kindles Which Kindle Device Should You Buy? A Comparison Guide There are four different Kindle e-readers available to buy for various kinds of users. But which Kindle device is right for you? Read More ).

Are all of those features worth the outlay of cash? That’s going to depend largely on your budget and how much time you spend reading. I spent over $200 on the Voyage when it came out, and it was worth every cent, largely because I do a lot of reading, and much of it is at night after my wife has already turned out the light and gone to sleep. The LEDs are mild enough to not wake her up.

Using the App: Pros

Even with all of the benefits of buying a Kindle, there are quite a few significant benefits to using the app instead. First of all, it’s totally free. Obviously you still have to pay for the books that you download (unless you’re taking advantage of the huge amount of free stuff you can get for your Kindle How to Find Free Unlimited Content for Your Kindle Looking for more things to read on your Kindle? Here are all the websites, tools, and tips to fill your e-reader with high-quality free content that will keep you reading for hours Read More ), but you don’t have to pay a thing for the app. If you have a Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, or Blackberry 10 device, you can download it.


And there’s definitely something to be said for getting the app on a device you already have. A Kindle is small and light, sure, but it’s still another device that you’ll have to store, charge, and carry with you if you want to take it anywhere. Using the app on a device that you’re probably already carrying with you anyway frees up a little storage space in your bag, which can be quite valuable (especially if you’re flying and have to pay by the ounce for your carry-on).


In addition to being available for pretty much any device out there, the interface for the Kindle app is really nice. Three different color schemes — day, night, and sepia — and easy brightness adjustment make it easy to get it dialed in no matter where you’re reading (unless you’re outside in bright sunlight; we’ll get to that in a moment). And while Kindle touchscreens are good, they’re not great: using the app on a tablet is going to provide you with crisper, faster interactions.

Because the app is in full color on other devices, you can highlight in multiple colors, which might not sound like a big deal, but if you’re using your Kindle for textbooks or any other book for school, you could put that to good use.


Using the App: Cons

You can probably already see where this section is going to go. The biggest drawback to using the app, of course, is the backlight on your device; it’s just not as nice as the e-ink and LED lighting that comes standard on the top-tier Kindles. You can definitely read in the dark, but even in night mode, it’s pretty harsh and will take a toll on your eyes Why Your Eyes Hurt Using a New iPhone, iPad Or iMac The Apple LED screen is a common source of complaint among consumers. Many new iPhone, iPad, and Mac users have reported that it causes eyestrain and general discomfort, yet if you look around on the... Read More . You’re probably already spending too many hours looking at a screen, and reading on one isn’t going to help. It’s also going to be extremely difficult to use in direct sunlight.


This is personal preference, but I find the lack of page-turn buttons on my iPad, where I most often use the Kindle app, to be a drawback. Moving my thumb half an inch and tapping or wiping to turn the page isn’t that big of a deal, but as I previously mentioned, 100 pages of it will show you just how nice those buttons are.

One of the more annoying drawbacks of the iOS Kindle app is that it doesn’t have access to the Kindle store, due to some restrictions put in place by Apple. The Android app does have access to the store, and presumably the Windows app does as well. However, because so many people like to read on their iPads, the lack of access on iOS can be a drawback. (A recent overhaul of Apple Books 10 Must-Know Apple Books Tips for Better Reading iOS 12 brings Apple Books, a revamped iBooks with great features. These Apple Books tips will improve your ebook experience. Read More might make it a lot more usable.)

And if the very small form factor of the Kindle is something you really want, the size of a tablet Which Tablet Size Should You Actually Get These Days? With so many tablet choices on the market, it can be hard to know which size is right for you. Our breakdown makes it easy to know the answer. Read More could be a drawback—though you can always use it on your phone, which makes it especially easy to travel with. Many people find that the size of their phone isn’t good for reading, though, so that could be another drawback.

Which Should You Choose?

As you can see, both the Kindle e-reader and the Kindle app have a lot of things going for them, but they both have a couple drawbacks as well (most notably, the Kindle’s price). And while anyone could be well-suited to either of them, there are a few things that might make you choose one over the other.

You’ll probably want a Kindle, for example, if you read a lot of books Want To Read More This Year? Here Are 10 Ways To Do It Spending more time reading isn't always easy. But think of the benefits -- escape and de-stress, learn new things, connect with people, think in new ways, and gain new insights. Read More . Exactly what qualifies as “a lot” is open to interpretation, but I’d say if you read an hour or more every day, you’ll really benefit from the e-ink screen. If you tend to read outside or in the dark on a regular basis, the screen will be a big benefit, too.


I find that I really appreciate my Kindle when I travel, as well — the ability to put it in my pocket and read when I’m on a shuttle bus or waiting at a hotel is really nice, and the reading experience is way better than it is on a phone. Buying a new book from anywhere is nice, too.

If you don’t read quite as much, or the back-light doesn’t bother you, the Kindle app is a great way to save money on a rather expensive gadget How to Be Frugal While Still Enjoying Tech & Gadgets Just because you're being frugal doesn't mean you can't enjoy tech! Here are some tips on how to not break the bank with tech purchases. Read More . Using it on your phone isn’t ideal, but it can certainly be done. A tablet, however, is going to provide a better experience, in terms of both visuals and tactile feedback.

Probably the best way to figure out if you should buy a Kindle is to try using the app first. Read a full book or two over the course of a couple of weeks to see how you like using the app on your phone or tablet, and if you think you’d prefer a Kindle, then you can decide which model is best for you. If you prefer the portability and having that extra money in your wallet or purse, stick with the app.

Do you use a Kindle e-reader or the Kindle app? Or do you use a different e-reader app Kindle vs. iBooks: Which Is The Best eReader For Your iPad or iPhone? Apple's iBooks and Amazon's Kindle are two of the best apps for reading a book and each has its own strengths and weaknesses – but which is right for your reading habits? Read More ? Or even something else? How did you decide which one to use? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

Related topics: Amazon, Amazon Kindle, Ebooks, eReader.

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  1. H.Z. Dehavilland
    June 30, 2020 at 2:12 am

    I knew virtually nothing about Kindle, e-book readers, and similar devices. At 85 and an avid reader, buying books has become increasingly more taxing on a limited budget. I began exploring using a reading device today and read a number of articles on the topic. This was the only one written in a manner I could fully understand. Applause to you for clarifying so well!

  2. vinoth kanna
    November 9, 2019 at 6:13 am

    Good article thanks for your time dann, it helped me a lot.

    • John
      June 28, 2020 at 7:38 pm

      No mention of Audio books why would I want to listen to a kindle on my headphones when I could use my phone (blue tooth) with charger left in say in bed???

  3. BlingBling
    November 29, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    thinking about getting the app to begin using Kindle, but 1 question...

    If I use the app across 2 devices (tablet & phone, Droid btw), can I pick up where I left off on either device?
    IOW: if I switch to my phone and log into the app, will it pick up where I stopped reading on the tablet?


    • Christy
      December 24, 2018 at 2:48 am

      Did you ever get an answer to this?

  4. Curiositykt
    May 28, 2016 at 1:27 am

    One thing that has made me use my kindle more than the app, the open dyslexic font makes reading with it so much faster. And for some reason the app doesn't work.

    • Dann Albright
      May 30, 2016 at 1:22 pm

      Ah, that's interesting. I didn't know that wasn't available in the app. I have to imagine that it's coming soon . . . I don't see why they wouldn't integrate that into everything.

  5. Ian Worthing
    May 27, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    Two big mistakes in this article. 1st, kindle voyage has an auto adjust light, the Kindle Oasis does not. 2nd, Kindle Oasis has page turn buttons on the bezel, Voyage has page press only which is a touch screen feature that is supposed to mimick page turn buttons. Not the same thing...

    • Dann Albright
      May 30, 2016 at 1:21 pm

      Thanks for pointing out that the Oasis doesn't have an auto-adjusting light. I misread the spec sheet and thought it had one. I find it kind of strange that it doesn't. Personally, I don't use the auto-adjust on my Voyage, but I can imagine that a lot of people find it really useful. As for the page press thing, I may have mischaracterized it a bit, but the fact that it's on the bezel is what I was trying to emphasize. Even though it's not a button with a click, the tactile feedback and the location make it, in my opinion, just as good as a button.

  6. m-p{3}
    May 27, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    I prefer the Kobo, it's less restrictive with the file formats (like epub) it can take without any conversions necessary. And I don't know if the Kindle has Pocket integration, but I use that all the time to read news articles (cached offline) while I'm in the bus.

    • Dann Albright
      May 30, 2016 at 1:20 pm

      Kindle doesn't have built-in Pocket integration, but you can make it work with IFTTT (//www.makeuseof.com/tag/use-ifttt-supercharge-kindle/). I've never actually used a Kobo; how is the reader itself? I mean, do you like how it's shaped and the page-turning and things like that?

      • m-p{3}
        May 30, 2016 at 4:00 pm

        I have the Kobo Glo HD and I think the size is just right, the touch screen gestures are easy to learn (ie: slide up & down on the left size to quickly change the backlight intensity, etc). It has 4GB of storage, but sadly SD card slot.

        There's also a community of tweakers online which try to unleash the potential of the reader like bring back some hidden games (solitaire, etc) within the firmware.

        • m-p{3}
          May 30, 2016 at 4:11 pm

          Oh and I forgot, you can also add more fonts to it if you don't like the default ones. You can simply create a "fonts" folder at the root of the storage and add the following variants of the same font to it: *-Regular.ttf, *-Italic.ttf, *-Bold.ttf, *-BoldItalic.ttf

          I added Roboto, Ubuntu, Overpass and some other fonts that I like better.

        • Dann Albright
          June 6, 2016 at 11:35 am

          It's definitely nice to have a community of people who are trying to improve the device—I know that you can root a Kindle and make a lot of tweaks that way, but I've never really looked into it. Maybe I should! Being able to add fonts would be really nice. I like the fonts that are on the Kindle right now, but it's always nice to have more options. Thanks for chiming in!

  7. cristian
    May 27, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    best app for reading on android is moon reader

    • Dann Albright
      May 30, 2016 at 1:18 pm

      Not being an Android user, I'm not familiar with it; what makes it better than other readers?