In April, when the iPad came out, I offered to conduct an experiment forBen Stevens’ The Mac Lawyer blog. The plan: read a traditional book, a second on a Kindle, and a third on an iPad, then write about it. Over the past year I’d been used to reading primarily on my Kindle and the occasional tree-based book, and was interested in figuring out the new publishing terrain once and for all.
Part 3: The iPad Book: The Given Day, by Dennis Lehane
A big thanks is in order to Dennis Lehane, who wrote one of the best and most compelling novels I’ve read in years, if not ever. The Given Day is a book so gripping and phenomenal, I was able to read it on an iPad without succumbing to sweet Internet temptations lurking just beyond the home button on the gorgeous device.
Pros: While the iPad does not leverage E-ink, a tough blow in my opinion as far as e-readers are concerned, it does have a high-resolution backlit screen which enables you to read it in dark places (i.e. while someone is asleep next to you) without a Snuggie® booklight or similar device. I combatted LCD screen eye strain by dimming its brightness and changing the font to a muted sepia-tone color, which Apple does a great job of facilitating.
The iPad reference tools are terrific: tapping a word looks it up in the dictionary, a huge improvement over the Kindle’s medieval cursor device. If Apple supported multiple language dictionaries (only Japanese and English are currently available), it would be a great teaching aid for foreign language study. Flipping through pages is elegant and quick. Much appreciated Apple-style flourishes like 3D page turning is a significant improvement over Next and Previous buttons on a Kindle.
Cons: Forget about reading on your iPad outside unless you carry a tent with you everywhere you go. The glare from the sun and reflective objects makes reading on an iPad an uncomfortable endeavor in bright light. The LCD screen does not feel like a book at all, unlike E-ink. The iPad is also much heavier than the Kindle 2, making it a challenge to read in bed. As you adjust your reading position, the screen rotates around like a whirling dervish, making reading on your side rather tricky. This flipping back and forth is eliminated by a tiny screen lock button, which took me a month to figure out.
If, like me, you struggle to focus on a single task and do not have an incredible book to read like The Given Day, good luck trying to read it on an iPad. You’ll instead find yourself enjoying any one of the amazing capabilities the device offers.
Finally, In Order of Preference
The clear take-home message to me from this overly-prolonged experiment in 21st century reading is that different book technologies serve very different purposes. All things being equal, my top choice is a paper book in my hands as long as the font is a comfortable size (anyone who’s picked up a copy of Atlas Shrugged recently understands my pain). The ability to leaf through pages, scribble in margins with an actual pencil, and dog-ear pages still trounce their simulated equivalents in e-readers.
After a book, I’d choose the Kindle. It’s lightweight, works in any lighting condition, and doesn’t have all the distractions the Internet brings to the table. It’s a dedicated reading device, and though it’s a little clumsy in places, it does its job exceedingly well.
Then there’s the iPad. It was a worthy contestent in a noble contest, and I wouldn’t live without mine. However, when it comes to evaluating the product strictly for reading, I don’t see myself reading another book on the iPad. You can’t take it outside, it’s heavier than the other reading technologies (though perhaps lighter than the hardcover edition of Atlas Shrugged), and uses an LCD screen instead of E-ink. Moreover, everything that makes the iPad an phenomenal media and Internet consumption device work against it when you require the deep concentration necessary for books.
But that’s just my take. We’re lucky to live in a world with such options, with three remarkable technologies.
About the Author
Larry Port is the Founding Partner of Rocket Matter, the leading web-based legal practice management product. A speaker and award-winning writer at the crossroads of the legal profession and cutting edge technology, Larry writes extensively for legal publications including Law Technology News, Law Practice Today, ILTA’s Peer to Peer, FindLaw, Chicago Lawyer, and others.