The OF Blog: Thoughts on e-book reading on the iPad 2 after two weeks

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Thoughts on e-book reading on the iPad 2 after two weeks

I am one of those people who is neither a technophile nor technophobe.  I will usually purchase something in its second or third generation or even later (iPad 2, iPhone 4) because I would rather wait and see how emerging markets such as tablets or e-book readers work out their initial kinks than to be the first person on the block with the shiny new thing.  When Amazon came out with its Kindle back in 2007, I was in no rush to get it, thinking the cost was too high and the benefits too scarce for me to justify spending over $300 for an e-book reader.  But now that I'm traveling a bit more with my current teaching/test administration job, I have found it handy to have something on hand for those 15-60 minutes of waiting here and there.

At first, I was using my iPhone 4 for testing out e-books and it was surprisingly good for its tiny size (considering how fast I read, I was constantly tapping on it to move to the next page), but I desired something larger that I could use to read (and to play games, listen to music, watch videos, and use as an instructional tool).  So I used a combination of birthday money and my meager savings to buy a 32 GB iPad 2 two weeks ago.  I have found that I use it quite a bit, both at home and at work and it has been worth the extra cost.

Leaving aside the extra features that made the iPad 2 more appealing to me than any dedicated e-book reader, here are some of the things that I've noticed about the iPad 2's e-book capabilities:

  • Apple's iBooks is my favorite e-book reader.  Unlike the Kindle for iPad app, iBooks replicates the look of actual pages, it has actual pagination rather than the annoying percentage figure, and it is much easier to bookmark and highlight passages.
  • Despite this, most of my purchases have been through Amazon's Kindle Store because it has a greater selection of books.  I did enjoy not having to pay state sales tax (something Apple does collect), but I have noticed over the past couple of weeks that Amazon has collected sales tax on some of the e-books that I've purchased.  Considering the pricing between the two is virtually the same, this might be enough to push me to buy more books from iBooks if the total cost will be the same for the books available on both.
  • Kobo and Nook suck in comparison to iBooks and Kindle.  The buying of e-books through B&N's site is more time-consuming and it often takes several minutes for e-books to arrive.  Do not like the appearance of the books on the Kobo app.
  • There is no glare problems for me while reading indoors.  Although it is more difficult to read while outside, I'm more inclined to have a printed book in those situations due to tactile preferences.  But when the lights are dimmed (such as when I'm showing an educational video to my students every few afternoons), it is nice to have the iPad 2 on a stand and to just tap away.
  • I use Classicly and Stanza for reading most Project Gutenberg books, with a few others downloaded through iBooks.  Although the first two are not as attractive as iBooks, it is even quicker to find public domain books that I want to read/re-read.  Stanza in particular is very easy to use and seems more intuitive than Classicly.
  • Over half of the e-books I've read in recent weeks have been public domain works.  Been reading a lot of 19th and early 20th century weird fiction in particular, as well as memorable works such as the 18th century edition of Letters of Abelard and Heloise or Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Woman.  Having central repositories of free e-book editions of these classics has led me to read dozens of works so far that I likely would not have read if I had to pay $5-15 for print editions.
  • Choice is nice.  One of the benefits of reading e-books on the iPad 2 is that I am not locked into a particular e-book app.  As I've stated above, some of the e-book reader apps have features that appeal to me more than others.  Having more color than just black/white for illustrations is a plus.  Also, getting 10+ hours of battery life for continuous use (or several days going by with a drop from 100% to only 70% using it 1-2 hours a day) is very nice.  Plus, there's hardly any flickering as the pages "turn," as the dual-core A5 processor is very powerful for this purpose.
  • I have been reading more since I purchased my iPad 2 on July 15.  Thirty-four books have been downloaded/read since then (July list to be posted sometime in early August).  This might be the best advantage of them all.

Any other iPad 2/other tablet readers out there?  What are your thoughts on reading on a tablet?

Oh, one final thing:  Here are three books waiting to be read (two purchased through an Amazon gift card):

Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad

Dana Spiotta, Stone Arabia

Glen Duncan, The Last Werewolf

Those are all Kindle on iPad purchases.  For iBooks, I'll be reading these public domain works shortly:

Algernon Blackwood, The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories

F. Anstey, The Brass Bottle

St. Thomas More, Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation

Yes, I like to read more esoteric material on occasion...


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Yes! I own both versions of the iPad and now read books almost exclusively on the iPad. As you stated, all formats are available, and I've uploaded many pdf files to my library to read. I have no problem with the backlit screen, either. Sure you can't read it in direct sunlight, but you should've be baking your Kindle in the hot sun, either. But in the evening when I'm tired, it's nice I can bump up the font size for my tired eyes and read in bed.
And considering everything else the iPad does, why would anyone own an eReader only device?

Super Happy Jen said...

Have you read any library books on your iPad?

Larry said...

I love being able to tilt the device to move it to two-column aspect if I'm in the mood for reading that way as opposed to the single-page vertical format I usually use.

As for e-library books, haven't tried it, but I suspect my local library will not offer that, since I live 30 minutes outside Nashville with a very small local library that doesn't have an online presence at all. In addition, most of the books I want to read I like to own.

Stephen Theaker said...

I use the iPad a lot for proofreading and reading comics, but for reading novels and short stories I prefer the Kindle.

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