Random Thoughts: iPad for iBooks

By now everyone under the sun has dissected the iPad and its pros and cons. And everyone seems to have a differing opinion about what its best features are, what apps are a must, etc. But does Apple’s iPad stand up to a traditional book, or an ereader like Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes & Noble’s Nook with their eInk technology?

Tons of iBooks have been downloaded by the proprietary iBookstore that can only (for now) be accessed from the iPad. So, already, there are many users who have their opinions as to whether or not this is a worthy device. Well, here’s mine.

For someone who is an avid reader of books, is the iPad the best option? (And by avid reader, I specifically mean those who like to read at least two hours in one shot. And I’m also specifically thinking of those who read books, as opposed to readers who scan the web night after night, hour after hour, as an iPad screen is no different from the standard computer screen in regards to eye strain.)

I say it doesn’t hold up. After two nights of around three hour reads of CH’s Dead in the Family currently available on iPad as it’s not in Kindle format due to the Penguin/Amazon contract negotiations, I found myself semi-blinded, with a definite blurred tint to my vision that lasted several minutes after device shutdown. Even with their brightness adjustment – which I found simply made things darker and harder to read – staring at that screen over a fairly lengthy period of time, was unpleasant.

Additionally, the device is not light. It beats a traditional new release hardcover, but it is not nearly as light as the standard size Kindle. Sure, you don’t have to worry about actual page turns and having to prop it open like a book, but if you have one of the Apple covers, it does get in the way over the course of a read, unless you are seated in a chair.

You also have to engage the lock, as just slight movements will flip the book every which way. Even if you want to read the book in the two-page layout, one slight tap and it’s righted itself into portrait mode.

And, although the page-turn function is such a neat trick –  it is cool to be able to see the reverse printing on the backside of the page – those little finger touches, over the course of a long read, live smears and smudges all over the face of the device. (I can only imagine the smudges if you were  snacking while reading. I opted for a food-free environment so haven’t yet tested with eats.) And if your finger lingers too long on the page, the device wants to highlight, copy, cut, paste or zoom-in. So, although the touch feature is nice, it isn’t as nice an option as you might think, in the long-term. I really did think this would be a much better option than having to click buttons on the Kindle, but after my first read on iPad I realized that I don’t even notice the clicks anymore on Kindle, but am very aware of the page swipes. (Although, this too, over time, may be unnoticeable with my iPad.)

The layout of the page looks great, although Apple, like Amazon, still have a number of glitches in their ebook versions. I’m blaming lazy editors/publishers here. In DITF, for example, at various points, words were broken apart for no apparent reason. Another nice feature is the page numbers, versus Amazon’s location. At least you know exactly where you are in a book, as with a traditional book. And one added benefit is that it tells you the last page at every turn, i.e., 185 of 252. (Although for someone who wants to reach the end quickly, and who with a traditional print book never turned to the last page to find out just how many pages were left due to a fear of discovering the ending before its time, this sort of countdown of pages can be a stressor.)

And without clicking in the center of the page, you do get those little notices about just how many pages are left in the chapter, which can be a pro or a con, depending on your level of neuroses.

Although the battery life on the iPad is good, it’s not great. You can definitely make it through a book (depending on speed of reading) on one charge, but if you, like most of us, like to break up your reading, and use the device for web browsing, movie watching, etc., you will have to charge it up to make it through to the end. (With Kindle you can get through a few books before battery life ends, unless of course you leave it in sleep mode and forget to shut it down for the night, with wireless still active.)

Portability. The iPad may be less portable than the Kindle on a few fronts. If you are trying to head outside for a nice read in the sun, the Kindle screen has a lot less glare than the iPad. Although I’m sure that there will be some sort of clip on sun umbrella accessory forthcoming as summer approaches.

Also, if you are heading to the beach, technology is generally not salt and sand friendly, but with the Kindle, it seems a lot less precious. (And as it’s cheaper, a lot less worrysome.) This is one location where the traditional paperback or hardcover still reigns. If you lose your $7.99 paperback you probably won’t be crying for too long, but if someone walked off with your Kindle or iPad, or if sand or salt water got into the mechanism of your electronic book readers, it might just be a heart-stopper. Even poolside, I would be completely paranoid. And I doubt a hot bubble bath is great for a cuddle-up with your ebook reader. Snoozing in the tub with your iPad does not sound like a good idea.

So, at this point, for those who like to sit down with a good book, and read cover to cover in one, or just a few sittings, the iPad is a definite challenge. Perhaps some of the quirks will be resolved, but most of the problems with the iPad can’t be changed – the fact that it is an LCD, a touch device, a multi-function device with a shorter battery, and a costly electronic device that is not optimal anywhere dicey (water, sand, extreme heat). This doesn’t mean that it’s not great for short reads, if sitting at a bookstore, or commuting, but for book junkies, like myself, it ranks a B- for its readability.

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