Apr 4 2010
I’m using the bluetooth keyboard to type this review out. I like the iPad a lot. I can foresee using this device everyday but it’s not the greatest ebook reader. I’m not certain if my frustration stems mostly from the software (the reading applications) or the hardware. I don’t think the iPad is a Kindle killer (or dedicated eink device) because I think the primary purpose of the iPad is not long form narrative reading.
Is multitasking a big thing?
Yes, and no. The iPad is fast. It’s so fast that you don’t always notice that it can’t run more than one program at a time. However, because of the bigger screen size, you wish you could have your email open on side and your browser open on the other. Or maybe you would like a tv app open at the same time you are typing out your emails. Multitasking is missing and it is noticeable.
What about PDFs?
You have to either purchase a third party app to view PDFs or you have to convert your PDF to epub to get a PDF onto the iPad. I have looked at different paid PDF applications but I have not come to a decision on any of them. Right now, it doesn’t look as if there is reflow PDF viewer or one that allows for annotations.
What about books with color photos?
This is one area in which the iPad really shines. I bought Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin in ebook format. The epub version has gorgeous full color illustrations and it looks just as beautiful on the iPad as it looked in paper.
Is it going to kill the Kindle?
No. I have three reasons why:
Hardware: The iPad is fairly heavy. It weighs 1.5 pounds versus the Kindle’s 10.2 oz. Plus, it is unuseable in bright sunlight. You really, really need to have some shade to be able to see much of anything. You can see the comparison between the two. The indoor picture is the exact same screen, finger prints and all.
Shopping experience: While the iBooks app (available for the iPad only) looks nice, it isn’t useable. The shopping space is geared toward readers of the most popular hardcover fiction and non fiction books. The romance section is browsable only by contemporary and historical books. (click on pics for larger image)
On the up side, you can easily download and read a sample. On every page and at the end of the sample, there is a buy button:
The iBooks app store is heavily geared toward hardcover readers. As stated above, the are only two subcategories that you can browse. There is no paranormal section. Further, when you search for “paranormal romance”, nothing comes up. You have to search “fantasy romance” or “ghost romance”. And even then, you get only a few results.
When I searched “fantasy romance”, I pulled up 42 results. The content is sparse and there is no easy way to browse. Even the categories that they do have – contemporary and historical – is barely populated. This screenshot is of the entire contemporary shelf.
Further, the prices are distressingly high. Hachette, HarperCollins, St. Martin’s Press, and Simon & Schuster have priced all the digital equivalents of the mass market at the same price as the print- $7.99. Penguin has priced the digital mass markets at $6.99, $1 less than the print versions. There is nothing from Random House, Harlequin, Dorchester or Kensington.
The Software: The bookshelf is kind of hideous but its functional and you don’t have to stare at the faux wood shelves if you don’t want to. iBooks allows for a list like option:
You can sort by Date Added, Author, Title and Category. But the categories are dependent on the publishers’ metadata which is pretty awful. Take, for example, Soulless by Gail Carriger. The “category” is FIC027030.
You can change the metadata using the “Get Info” menu option via iTunes:
Inside the App, however, the design is lovely, particularly reading in the landscape mode. The visual image mimics a two page book and I like that a lot more than I thought I would. Apple put some effort in the details. At the edges of the book, it appears as if there is a dust jacket covering a hardboard binding.
You can change the font size and are allowed five choices of font style. The brightness can be changed from within the app itself (this is a departure from the iPhone). In the bottom right hand corner, it tells you how many pages you have left in the chapter as well as telling you at the center bottom what page you are in the book.
You can highlight, use a dictionary, and copy if the publisher allows this but you cannot add notes. This is a big frustration for me. You are able to add your own, unencrypted epubs but no other format.
In summary, the iBooks Store is sparsely populated and unbrowsable unless you only want to read and buy contemporary and historicals that Apple or the publisher have determined should meet your gaze. Organization is hampered by the publishers failure to provide good metadata resulting in odd names, missing covers, and inaccurate tagging information. The App itself is crippled by the lack of annotations. Thus, the iBooks Store and App won’t kill off the Kindle, nook, Kobobooks. There is a place for them, but I think the right price is $150 or under. The real drawback for eink readers is a) the time it takes for the pages to turn and b) lack of an integrated light.
If it isn’t a great ebook reader, why do you like it?
Because it does other things so well. As an internet browsing and email machine, it’s far superior than the netbook. As a video viewer, its more comfortable than my netbook or my iMac. The on screen keyboard in landscape mode allowed me to tap out an entire review as I waited in line today at various locations running errands. The battery life is hella good. I had the iPad running from 10:00 am to 7:30 pm before I hit a 20% battery warning.
I love the Epicurious App and think that the iPad will make a great kitchen device. I even took it with me when I went to clean the bathrooms and watched/listened to Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution on the ABC App.
I think that there will be more Apps that will utilize the fast processor and it will totally replace or be a first computer for some people. My mother in law, who has never wanted a computer, believes that she would like one because of all the different things it can do for her. But for just ebook reading? I’m not convinced that it’s the right device for those who JUST want to read ebooks.
Conclusions: If you buy a dedicated ebook reader, I think it is more important than ever to get one that is cross platform compatible. Right now that means nook, Kindle, and the forthcoming Kobo Books reader. At $149, I can see the Kobo being a huge winner. The problem with the Kobo books reader app is you cannot add content yourself. This is a misstep that I hope Kobo corrects.
If you want to buy the iPad solely as an ebook reader, I would advise against it. It is heavy. You can’t read outside and will cause more eyestrain than an ink device. The iBooks store has meager romance offerings at high prices.
If you are looking for a true multi function device that allows you to cruise the web, send emails, watch videos, do any number of things via the third party apps, and read, then iPad is a good value. If your primary thought is to get this to read digital books, I would tell you this. I plan to get a dedicated ebook reader, either a Kindle or the Kobobooks within the next couple of months, even though I am thoroughly enjoying the iPad.
(more on the individual iPad reading apps later).