Yes yes, it’s time for my obligatory iPad review! Sure, you’ve read a million of them ever since the wireless-only iPads came along last month as I waited for the 3G version, but you haven’t read a review WHERE THE IPAD IS HELD FOR RANSOM BY DERANGED MUTANTS.
Actually that didn’t happen. This really is just another review.
First of all, the all-important question: is this a game-changer for the world of books???
Yes. Kind of. I think so. I don’t know.
In my opinion the iPad is a pretty radically awesome e-reader and I love reading on it almost but not quite as much as life itself. It is awesome to read on. During the day. At night. On the couch. On the bus. I zoomed through Fellowship of the Ring like I was being chased by ringwraiths, downloaded The Two Towers faster than you can say “mellon,” and yes, I started acting like Gollum when my wife wanted her turn with it. PRECIOUSSSSSSSSSS.
However, the iPad is also a pretty radically expensive e-reader and holy cow is it kind of distracting to be able to access so many shiny things with a few clicks while you’re reading. (It is the best interface for reading e-mail ever).
Let’s break this down with e-book reading in mind:
OVERALL PROS AND CONS
Pros: The screen is incredibly crisp and clear, and no matter which e-reading app you’re using the page turns are smooth. Even better, you can adjust the brightness of the screen in all the apps, and some reading apps have a night function where the background is black and the text is white so it’s much easier on the eyes to read in the dark.
Cons: It’s not the really-looks-like-paper e-ink you find with the Sony Reader, Kindle, and Nook, which I realize bothers some people, so you should decide which type of screen you like. I personally vastly prefer the iPad/iPhone screens because there’s no flicker when you turn pages, there’s color, and I like not having to worry about a nightlight. But the iPad isn’t as good as e-ink in the sun, and it’s also heavier than the Kindle, so it’s tricky to read with one hand (which is a consideration for bus/subway riders).
THE BOOK APPS
Meanwhile, as has been well-documented on this blog, there is also a book app war afoot on the iPad – publishers have moved over to an agency model for selling e-books, in part, in order to open up the marketplace to other e-book vendors.
But wouldn’t you know: in my opinion Amazon has a substantial early lead in the iPad book App wars, even if iBooks and Kobo also have nice apps and they all will likely improve greatly in the coming months/years.
The best thing about Apple’s iBooks is that it has the most beautiful display – WINNIE THE POOH comes free, and the colors of the illustrations pop. Apple has knocked the page-turning animation out of the park, and the pages curl beautifully when you turn the pages. You can also choose between several different attractive fonts, if that’s your thing. And for all those people frustrated that Kindle doesn’t have page numbers: iBooks does.
However, iBooks lacks some key options that are really important to the e-book reading experience. There’s no night reading option (though you can dim the brightness), there’s no note-taking ability, and while I gather this functionality is coming, ironically enough, you can’t yet download iBooks onto your iPhone. So if, like me, you like to read on your phone in a pinch and have your books sync automatically when you pick up the iPad later, the Kindle and Kobo apps are so far better than iBooks.
I also wasn’t a fan of the iBooks formatting. When you turn the iPad sideways it automatically transitions to a two-page layout that looks like a real book, but while it looks good I just don’t find it as easy to read as a full page in landscape mode, my preferred reading method.
Meanwhile, the Kindle app has nearly everything I want out of an e-reader. While you can’t customize fonts and unfortunately some images (like Tolkien’s maps) aren’t very high resolution, the display is very functional and crisp. You can take notes and highlight, change into night mode when you’re reading in the dark, and best of all, you can sync between your devices.
I downloaded all the books I had previously bought for my Kindle and iPhone straight to my iPad, and now I have quite the attractive library of books with color covers, something I always missed with the Kindle.
BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
So. Will people flock to the iPad in large numbers for e-book reading?
I honestly don’t know.
For me the iPad is what I have been waiting for as an e-reader. I love that I can read and edit anywhere, I can access both books and manuscripts instantaneously, and it’s the hyper-portable and multi-functional device I’ve been waiting for. I don’t think I’ll be able to live without it.
But if I didn’t have the job I have and if reading/editing weren’t such a central part of my life I would see the iPad more along the lines of a luxury. And as a writing device it has a long ways to go. It can’t beat a laptop for ease of use if you’re going to type something longer than a quick e-mail.
Basically: it’s nice to have if you can spare the dough, but something short of a necessity.
At least until the App for killing deranged mutants is released.