iPad Review: Using the iPad as an eBook Reader

Let me be upfront right, er, up front: I love my Kindle (s). But I was intrigued by the iPad because it was so damned new and sexy and multifuction and did I mention new and sexy?

I had used my iPhone’s Kindle app as a portable ebook reader, for those times when I didn’t feel like lugging my Kindle along with me, and it was more than fine.So I was worried.

I was worried that the iPad was going to be really great and pretty and that my Kindle(s 1) were going to end up sitting on shelves looking like really expensive white bookends.

The iPad IS Really Sexy

There is no denying this. When you turn on the iPad and that gorgeous display lights up and things start whooshing, and the colours are crisp and the text looks good, it is hard to imagine how the Kindle stands a chance against it. I wasn’t sure I even wanted it to.

When I opened up the iBooks app and saw the truly gorgeous (colour) rendition of AA Milne’s The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh I was torn between admiration and regret. How could my beloved eInk compete? So does it?

Using the same rating system I used in my review of the Kindle 2, here are my thoughts on using the iPad (version 1) as an ebook reader:

THE REVIEW

KEY

:(  A Bad Thing

:|  No strong feeling either way

:)  A Good Thing

:D  A Very Good Thing

:( The Weight and Feel

From an eBook reader’s perspective: it’s quite heavy and hard to hold in one hand. There is no way to really hold it centered in one hand and not obscure some of the text. (Kindle 1 had a similar problem in that it was tough to hold it in one hand and not accidentally press the ‘next page’ button). And that rounded back has to go, but that’s a complaint for a different article.

After having used this for a week or so, I’m finding it increasingly hard to hold for long periods. If you are a voracious reader, like me, the last thing you want is something that makes you want to put the book down (it’s why I don’t like hardbacks, to0)

:| The Size

I am undecided on this one. On the one hand, you can see bigger and better books on the iPad, and you can turn it to the landscape view really easily2. But it’s big. It’s not as portable as either the Kindle or the iPhone, and it doesn’t sit easily in one hand.

:( Backlighting

I read computer screens all the time and I wasn’t sure I really bought the whole “backlighting strains your eyes” thing until I had my Kindle. It doesn’t really register as eyestrain, but after a (long)  while staring at a computer screen, iPhone screen or iPad screen I start feeling headachy and sick.

I simply find that I cannot read for as long on a backlit screen as I can with paper or my Kindle. I start wanting to put the book down. And that makes me sad.

:( Readability In Daylight

Aargh. One of the things that really wowed me about Kindle was that when you walk into a patch of sunlight, the text on the screen become EASIER to read. This had never happened on my phones or on my camera LCD screens, so I just wasn’t expecting it. But it is gorgeous in the daylight. Not so the iPad. It is a nice, bright screen in indirect light, but, like any other backlit screen it makes me squinty-eyed and frustrated in daylight. And the fingerprints? Oh, the fingerprints.

:( Touchscreen

Don’t get me wrong, for other applications, the touchscreen is a miracle of technology, a joy, an absolute delight and it warms the cockles of my little geeky heart.

But on an eBook reader?

No. Just no.

While turning pages feels a lot more natural when you can swipe them the way you might with a magazine page, the accumulation of fingerprints on the shiny screen drives me to distraction. I’ve bought a bunch of microfibre cloths and I’m working with my therapist 3 and maybe it’s just me, but I have to say:

A touchscreen on an eBook reader is not the go-to technology.

Unless you’re talking about…

:D Interactive Books

This is where the iPad is going to kick ass, change the world and spawn a new age of creativity and progress.

I know, I sound like an Apple fanboy, which I’m really not.  But the interactive books are new and intuitive and delightful. (And expensive, but you know what? A lot of work goes into them. And a lot of licensing fees!)

The free  Toy Story interactive book is gorgeous, and contains both audio and video clips from the movie, as well as video games (GAMES! In a Book! Heavens!). You can read it yourself or have it read to you. You can read it in your kid’s bedroom at night with no other lighting (This is where my objection to backlighting on an eReader falters. I love this. I’m always battling my urge to keep the lights low at bedtime, with my urge to be able to see what the hell I’m reading). You can give it to your kids who can’t even read yet and they can play, read, learn words. And OK, these interactive books have existed for a while, but usually tied to the computer. Interacting with them on the iPad is just about perfect.

This is, I think, where the real sea-change will happen. This is where the iPad will sing and book publishing will change. Books in the future will have all the interactivity, and none of the clunkiness of websites 4 It’s entirely possible that words-on-the-page only books will eventually go the way of silent films (still loved by a few devotees but regarded with tolerant bemusement by most).

:| The Various eReader Apps for iPad

You should go here to read actual reviews of the various iPad book apps, but always bear in mind that new apps will come and more books will be available and any opinions I voice here will be outdated by the time I push “publish”. I’ve only used the Kindle app and the iBooks built-in one.

:| Availability of Titles

For now, there isn’t a vast availability of titles outside the mainstream bestsellers list. Finding kids’ books and older books is almost impossible, but this will change. For now, the Kindle has, of course, a much better selection, but even that isn’t perfect. But if you’ve ever had anything to do with the publishing industry you’ll know that they’re still living in mourning for the Roarin’ 20s and it’s only in the past couple of years that some younger publishers and agents have started using that new-fangled thing they call email. The pressing need to capturing their backlists and convert them to readable, manipulable data files was met by the publishing industry ten years ago with the kind of uncomprehending indifference shown by the people of Pompeii as their friendly neighbourhood volcano began to seethe and rumble. Even now, I suspect it’s only because Google said, “to hell with you then, we’ll do it”, that the publishers have pulled out any stops at all. And when Amazon launched the Kindle, then B&N (who they all hate and fear) launched the Nook and Steve Jobs started sniffing around, things started to look serious.

The Bottom Line

For an avid reader 5, the Kindle is hands down the best device for now 6.

It is light, it is portable, it is easy on the eyes and the hands, you can annotate books AND share everything across various platforms. It is an absolute pleasure to read for hours and hours, in daylight or indoors. It emulates the traditional reading experience and improves upon it (inbuilt dictionaries, annotation, bookmarking and highlighting without destroying the book, hands-free page turning 7, on-the-fly indexing, searching and on and on). There are lots of titles available.

For whizz-bang and a taste of the future, get your paws on an iPad and have a look.

FURTHER READING

Debbie at Inkygirl.com has collected a bunch of iPad/vs eReaders reviews in this article.

I purposely did not read these reviews (apart from the apps one) until after I’d written mine. I’m off to see who agrees with me…

  1. Yes, I got versions 1 and 2! OK? But I don’t do manicures and expensive hair treatments or shop for clothes much, so gimme a break
  2. But not too easily. It has a hardware button on the side that you can flip if you don’t want the screen to rotate every time you shift in your chair. Nice feature!
  3. Not really
  4. Oh for a time-machine to go back and tell 1996-me that I would one day find hyperlinks on a super-fast fibre-optic connection ‘clunky’!
  5. who lives in the North America or Europe and doesn’t mind if the illustrations aren’t in colour
  6. This doesn’t mean it won’t go the way of Betamax and who-even-remembers-the-name-of-the-competitor-to-BluRay, of course. Sob!
  7. As long as the luddite publishers haven’t turned off the Text-To-Speech function in that title

3 thoughts on “iPad Review: Using the iPad as an eBook Reader

  1. Jane

    I never really appreciated the featherweight of the Kindle until I bought the iPad. It’s funny that you should say that it compares to a hardcover because I saw some people make that same comparison arguing that weight shouldn’t be a deterrent but like you, I like to read with one hand and don’t like hardcovers for that reason.

    It’s a great kitchen cookbook device. Have you tried the epicurious app?

  2. Pingback: Kindle FAQ for Readers — Word Wonders

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