Before the iPad hit the shops a number of commentators, myself included, doubted the capabilities of the device’s backlit screen to rival the clarity and comfort of a dedicated eBook reader’s e-ink screen.
Having had a few days to actually use an iPad I’m feeling a need to qualify that criticism – the iPad screen is actually quite a comfortable reading experience though after a couple of hoursI i find myself wanting to put it down and give my eyes a rest – something I don’t experience with my Sony after comparable periods. Of course, a couple of hours is a fairly lengthy reading period which modern life doesn’t always easily accommodate so this may not be an issue for you.
There are some areas where the iPad wins over dedicated readers – The native iBooks app feels more like a book than your average e-ink reader could honestly claim and the ability to display colours and images within the books is turn a lot of heads. Plus the ability to buy a book on impulse and have it arrive on your reader without syncing is something most readers currently on sale in the UK lack.
But whatever the technical good news and pluses, there remains the issue of Adobe DRM protected books – i.e. those already on your Sony or COOL-ER reader – being incompatible with your iPad. Actually that’s the wrong way round – iPad is incompatible with them.
It works the other way round of course, if you buy books from Apple you risk making a purchase you can’t use with any other company’s hardware should your iPad have a tragic accident and you find yourself unable to afford the £430 minimum replacement cost.
There’s talk of existing retailers such as Waterstones releasing apps which will allow you to read any books you’ve bought from them on the iPad as well as your computer and dedicated reader but at present there’s simply no legal way to finish your current book on your iPad without paying out yet again.
Browsing the books in the iBookstore is as awkward and complicated as just about all other eBook outlets with pages of titles to scroll through unless you already know the name of the book you want. As i say, this is an issue with all online eBook retailers but on the iPad I was expecting just a little bit more of that iTunes magic.
Though this is a hugely unscientific couple of examples and may not always be the case but a couple of books did stand out as offering better value from Apple’s store than elsewhere. The Bourne Objective will set you back £11.99 for the iPad, the same discounted price as the hardback edition from both Amazon and Waterstones.com – however Waterstones are charging almost £14 for the eBook edition.
IF Apple can offer lower costs on most big titles the way is open for them to rapidly win significant market.
Where the iPad really does come into it’s own is as a magazine reader and for that we (and Apple) have to thank digital magazine veterans Zinio.
A minimalistic yet sleek app places the Zinio catalogue just a ‘buy now’ from your iPad – no more walks to the shops or waits for the postman not to lose your subscription copy, your favourite magazine can be downloaded from e comfort of your sofa. Or even the discomfort of your train.
As with their desktop computer service, magazines for the iPad appear just as they would in print format but with the potential to include multimedia contents such as sound and movies.
I can recall the early dahs of digital magazines when titles would give away introductory editions on cover mounted CDs. Back then I recall wondering why any one want to trade in the portability of a paper magazine for the bulk of a desktop or laptop. The concept and technology have come a long way but it’s the iPad – and eventual rivals – which will finally make sense of the concept of digital magazines.