Kindle Fire or iPod Touch?
December 6, 2011 10:12 AM   Subscribe

Kindle Fire or iPod Touch for my disabled dad?

My father has ALS (Lou Gherig's disease) and has basically no motor skills. But he loves reading books and magazines.

I don't know much about the Kindle Fire, but I am considering it because he has previously used a Kindle and is familiar with the product. Considerations:

1) Audible books. The best way for him to access books is through Audible. How do these products stack up in terms of ease of use?

2) General ease of use. The people operating these will be my Mom and my dad's nurses, none of whom are particularly technologically knowledgeable. I'm confident in the ease of use of the iPod, but how is the Fire?

The products are both at the same price point. What do you think?
posted by jabberjaw to Technology (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I vote iPod or iPad. Here is some good notes on the downsides of Fire.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:19 AM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've got both.

I've never tried audible with the ipod touch but it works fine on the kindle fire.

As for ease of use.. the ipod does music better, mostly because it's smaller. but reading the web or books or other items is pretty simple on the fire.

Both have the same sort of touch screen learning curve. (pinch, zoom, fat fingers, etc)

The kindles of old is nothing like the Kindle Fire. Think of the fire like a big smartphone without the calling and camera functions.
posted by royalsong at 10:27 AM on December 6, 2011

I would say the Fire is easier to use as it is more focused on the activies you are looking for. Reading/Magazines/Video/Music are always on the home screen at the top. Going back to your content is much easier as it creates links back to the most recently viewed.

Form factor, I would say 7" is much better than 3.5", plus the Fire has a better quality screen (IPS)
posted by wongcorgi at 10:32 AM on December 6, 2011

iPod or Pad. If he's up for it take him (or your Mom) into a B&N store to try out the Nook colour, if he likes that he should like the fire or into Best Buy as they have a range of different models and brands of these things for them to try.

Best Buy(or similar store) might let you buy and return if he can't come into the store so he can try it out and see what works best for him and your Mom. In situations like this it's hard to know what one person will find easier another will find annoying, especially with the problems he has it might be best to let him try and decide himself.
posted by wwax at 10:37 AM on December 6, 2011

iPad probably trumps all for this circumstance, but in the iPod/Kindle debate I would absolutely go with the Kindle. It is way bigger and thus easier to handle and interact with. I would find reading from an iPod for long periods of time to be really annoying. I love my Kindle, although it is not a Kindle Fire, and found it pretty darn easy to pick up and start using. Also it is way more focused on the things you want it to do.
posted by hepta at 10:39 AM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Another vote, (sorry) for iPad. I helped a woman with severe CP download books to her IPad and she could fly around that thing as well as anyone. It has the merits of size, ease of use, etc.
posted by mearls at 10:53 AM on December 6, 2011

An iPad has a bigger screen than a Fire, but the real problem is the Fire's touchscreen is just not very accurate, in my experience. It can take me a couple taps to get the finicky Fire to do what I want it to.

This may be a more serious issue for someone with motor skill issues, so my advice is the iPad, with the bigger screen and better touch accuracy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:05 AM on December 6, 2011

You aren't asking about the iPad so I'm not going to consider that.

For the size factor, I'd go with the Kindle. It's not a perfect device, but it's decent at what it does. Audible comes preinstalled on the Fire.

Also of note - One of the problems of digital devices at the bedside is having them cleaned and disinfected. You'll need to be wiping that thing down on a routine basis. If you get a cover consider if it's fully cleanable or a trap for germs.
posted by 26.2 at 11:32 AM on December 6, 2011

My father also had ALS, and he had a Kindle. I recommend an iPad - it will be easier to use in terms of motor skills, and it also wants to correct for user error. The Kindle is great as an e-reader but not for this purpose. Also, if at some point he is unable to make it do something, it will be very easy for his aides/nurses/family to help with. If something goes wrong, it will be easy to troubleshoot in person or take directly to an Apple store (rather than Amazon phone support and shipping). iTunes is very easy for audiobooks. I haven't used audible on it but I suspect it is also easy. The iPhone has an app called Newstand pre-installed that is a very intuitive way to access magazines.

Also, the iPad is multi-functional - I bet your father could play games on it even without motor skills.

At one point, my father was using a popsicle-stick contraption to work a keyboard - I bet that could be adapted to an iPad using the touchscreen gloves I've seen.

Here's a thread on an ALS forum about the iPad, and another on holders and apps. Not sure where you're at with AAC but I have some links on that re: iPads too.
posted by quadrilaterals at 11:33 AM on December 6, 2011

Oh, I'm sorry, you said iPod Touch - didn't realize until preview. I would definitely not recommend an iPod Touch. They are very small. It would most likely not allow your father to use it at all; he would rely on those around him. If only between an iPod and Kindle, definitely Kindle.
posted by quadrilaterals at 11:35 AM on December 6, 2011

The other thing is you probably want to stay at a price point where the device is replaceable.

Patients and caregivers are hard on equipment. Consumer grade equipment gets devoured in a care environment. If your father spends any time in a care facility, consider that the device will have a relatively short lifespan.

That would be another point for the Kindle for me. They'll be available used and inexpensively within a few months.
posted by 26.2 at 11:42 AM on December 6, 2011

i am not quite sure how the question has morphed into iPad vs kindle fire. assuming the OP is interested in the comparison of the iPod touch vs the kindle fire my vote is for the kindle. my reasoning being.

1 - it has much larger screen.
2 - amazon has an amazing return policy. try out the kindle and see if you like it and return it if you do not.
posted by phil at 11:56 AM on December 6, 2011

In order:

1. iPad: bigger, best experience, easiest to use, great disabled access.
2. Kindle Fire: cheaper, not as user friendly esp for disabilities, but decent.
3. iPod: tiny screen is cruel to inflict on father. Otherwise will work fine.

Phil, I think the assembled community here added iPad to the list because it's so clearly the best choice, rather than the next-best choices in the original question. The original iPad is often $359 on Apple's refurb page.
posted by rokusan at 12:02 PM on December 6, 2011

Yeah, but even refurbed it's $150 bucks more. Both the Touch and Kindle are at a lower price point.

As the OP specifically didn't include the iPad, I'm thinking it's not in the consideration set.
posted by 26.2 at 12:06 PM on December 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

The Kindle Fire screen may be larger, but it has some SERIOUS problems with targeting user input.

That you are even considering the iPod Touch suggests that you don't think the small size is necessarily a problem, to which I will add that I am still surprised at how well my iPhone targets user input, and that Apple has generally gotten high marks for their accessibility technology on iOS.

I join the others who are suggesting you consider the iPad though. It's bigger than the Kindle Fire, on top of iOSs usability and accesibility advantages.
posted by Good Brain at 12:19 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I ignored the iPod because its screen is too small for this application. If the choice is iPod or Fire, and nothing else, then at least a Fire has a slightly bigger screen. That's about the only thing in its favor, though. As a device, it is a beta product with a lot of rough edges centered around poorly thought-out design choices. If an iPad is out of the question, I'd suggest waiting for the second rev of the Fireā€”it is just not a good experience at this time.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:33 PM on December 6, 2011

Response by poster: My dad has zero ability to actually operate any of the options here, so that's not a consideration as much as having my mom/caretaker operate it for its limited purpose as an Audible/audiobook player. (He is cared for at home by my mom and two alternating in-home nurses; he is also on a respirator, which is very noisy.)

We tried using other mp3 players for audiobooks, but the user interface on those is crappy compared to touchscreen options. Having dedicated apps is important.

A bigger screen might be nice for things like reading magazines, but he'll need someone to turn the page for him.

I am more interested in the Fire vs. the Touch. The iPad might be the best option, but it's pricy for its limited purpose, and there is actually no Audible app for the iPad (you have to use the zoomed iPhone version).

Thanks for the responses so far, they are truly very helpful!
posted by jabberjaw at 1:13 PM on December 6, 2011

Hi! Your friendly neighborhood ventilator-dependent quadriplegic here. What you need is an iPad with a BookShare account and the Read2Go app. (Besides a metric ton of ebooks, they also offer some periodicals.) Read2Go can read to him in a somewhat mechanical voice, or if he hates that he can turn it off and it will still do the scrolling automatically, eliminating the need for a caregiver to come over and turn the page several hundred times a day.

Sadly, though the iPad is a great boon to most people with disabilities, it is still not accessible to the severely physically disabled via single switches (dammit, Apple! Why must you toy with my emotions?!), so there's currently no way that I know of that he could select and activate the app or ebook himself. But if he's capable of operating a single switch, you might look into acquiring an AirTurn pedal for turning sheet music on the iPad. I've heard tell that you can wire it to the switch of your choice, and have it issue a Page Up or Page Down command, which would be sufficient for turning pages at his own rate.
posted by Soliloquy at 1:38 PM on December 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Regarding the Kindle fire touchscreen issues, the latest updates have seemed to resolve any issues that people have had.
posted by wongcorgi at 2:23 PM on December 6, 2011

Between Ipod Touch and Kindle Fire, I'd definitely go Kindle Fire. But I'd suggest you look at an Ipad2 if that makes economic sense. There is some pretty cool accessibility software in the Settings section aimed at helping users with various disabilities. And the value of the large beautiful screen for someone who is very disabled is hard to overstate, assuming there is a place to stand the Ipad2 where he can readily see it. It is definitely much easier to see books and magazines on the Ipad2 screen than the Kindle Fire screen, and there are a lot of nice reading and magazine apps, including a fine Kindle app. I am sorry to say that Audible still doesn't have a full sized app for Ipad2, but I will be surprised if it doesn't arrive soon.
posted by bearwife at 3:34 PM on December 6, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the feedback everybody, it was definitely helpful. We ended up getting him the Kindle Fire, and he's very happy with it. The user interface is better than I expected (although not as intuitive as an iPod Touch in my opinion), and Audible is particularly good on it. The speakers on it actually sound somewhat better than on the iPod (or the iPad) as well.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:04 AM on January 6, 2012

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