Bye-Bye eReader. My iPad Wins!

It’s no secret that I’ve had a Sony eReader.  Well, that’s not quite true, because I have two Sony eReaders – a first generation and a second generation.  It has been my trusty companion on all my trips in the past two and half years and I’ve read probably well over a hundred full-length novels on it.  I dare say that it might go into the junk electronics drawer now that my iPad arrived Saturday.

The free iBooks application from Apple is pretty minimal, but what it does do it does right.  Instead of the one font that comes on my Sony eReader I have five and instead of three font sizes I get up to nine.

If you rotate the iPad so that it’s in landscape mode, iBooks creates two pages instead of one and formats the text rather nicely.  The eReader requires going into the Settings menu and changing the orientation and even then it doesn’t do much reformatting.  The iBooks format looks very much like a real book.

The Sony eReader has physical buttons to turn the page.  Granted, it has two different sets to turn pages, but it in no way compares to the iPads touchscreen where all you have to do is tap anywhere on the right side of the page to turn the page.  Alternatively, you can swipe your finger across the page to accomplish the same thing.  Of course the iPad renders the page turn in drippingly gorgeous detail.

Perhaps in one of the few spots where I’ll give the Sony eReader the nod is that it has a specific button to bookmark a page.  In iBooks you have to touch a word and hold it for a while (like you’re trying to copy text) and the popup menu has bookmark as an option.  But, since the bookmark is tied to the word, reformatting the font or font size won’t change the bookmark.

The contrast of the text (black on white) on the iPad is, in my opinion, better than the black on gray of the Sony eReader.  After reading for several hours I did not have any eye strain.  In fact, I felt as if I could have continued to read for a lot longer.  After several hours on the Sony I sometimes feel like I’m straining a bit.  You can control the brightness level directly from within iBooks which is nice since you don’t have to quit the application and open the Settings application.

I haven’t tried reading at night yet, but I expect it to be a better experience than the Sony eReader.  For my Sony I have an LED light attachment that is okay, at best, because using it cuts down the contrast ratio thus causing more eye strain.  I suspect that the iPad’s active screen will do better though I did see over the weekend that some users have found an issue with the automatic brightness control.  In my brief test I can confirm that my iPad does not appear to adjust the brightness going from bright light to a darkened room.  Hopefully this is a software issue and not a hardware issue and can be corrected soon.

If you like to read in the sunlight you might be disappointed in the iPad.  The glossy screen of the iPad shows a lot of reflections and in my brief hour on the deck this weekend using it was painful.  The Sony eReader wins hands down in this respect.  I’m hoping that someone will sell a film attachment that will cut down on the glare but not affect its touchscreen capabilities.

The weight of the iPad is definitely heavier than the Sony.  It is also slipperier.  Since I did not buy a cover with the iPad the slippery metal requires you to grip a little harder and it bites into your fingers and hand a bit more.  While it was a little heavier, I didn’t find it to be any heavier than a largish hard-bound book.  This didn’t really annoy me very much but your mileage may vary.  Based on comments from other iPad owners I talked to, the standard cover will solve this problem.

iBooks easily lets you look a word up in the dictionary.  Tap and hold the word in question (just like the bookmark) and select the dictionary option.  A nice scrollable popup occurs with the word definition.  You can easily search for a word or phrase in the same manner and you also get the option of searching Google and Wikipedia.

In a nutshell, despite the few negatives, reading a book on the iPad is a much more pleasant experience than on the Sony eReader.  The only real question is will I be able to find the iPad when I want it or will my sons be playing games on it (which it does nicely) or will my wife be using it for recipes when cooking (the glass screen is easy to clean)?

9 thoughts on “Bye-Bye eReader. My iPad Wins!

  1. I agree, Bob! I have tested ereaders at stores and didn’t like the poor contrast, but I love reading on iPad. My eyes need lots of llight and the backlight is great. I haven’t tried it outside yet. Book reading is definitely one of the killer apps of this device.

    If you’re a Netflix subscriber, you need to check out the free Netflix app that streams your instant view movies to iPad — I am shocked at the amazing quality of the streams.

  2. @Marc Zeedar
    Funny you should mention the Netflix App. I literally, *just* watched a 30 Rock episode. It’s a really nice image and pretty seamless. Very nice and recommend it.

    Now if I could get that for the AppleTV I’d be ecstatic!

  3. I’m glad for you. No iPads on the schedule for Sweden and with the focus on iBooks we are not likely to get any in the future. In most of Europe we are not able to rent or buy movies in iTunes.

    A question: As Apple is aiming for the middle ground between a laptop and an iPhone – how well would you say it replaces any of the devices? I hate to think I would need to carry another device around but as the iPad is running the iPhone OS instead of Mac OS X I don’t see me doing much work on an iPad…

    Would you leave your MBP at home and just go on a trip with your iPad?

    My travelling device is for the moment my OQO with Windows XP where I have the SSH and VPN solution required for connectivity and also the possibility to run RB or the other tools I use for development. The screen is very limited but PHP and JavaScript can be edited using a texteditor and uploaded using an FTP-client and I have even been fixing bugs in RB apps, compiled and made the customer happy – all using the zoom mode of the screen…

    I am eagerly waiting for the mystical HP Slate device that I see as a replacement for my OQO…

  4. @Mattias Sandström My review was aimed specifically at the eReader aspects of the iPad since I’ve had an E-Ink device for several years. The iPad does much, much more than just replace the eReader.

    Would I leave my MBP at home when traveling. Honestly, it would depend on the travel type. For vacation? Absolutely! For casual email and web surfing it’s much better than an iPhone. It’s considerably better than the iPhone for games and video.

    For work, probably not, because the iPad isn’t meant to replace the laptop. I know this sounds funny, but the iPad would probably go with me on the business trips in addition to my laptop. Its form factor is pretty nice and I’d probably use it as my entertainment device so I wouldn’t be tied to the laptop. Reading a book or watching movies on a laptop can be done but I don’t think they’re very fun, IMO. The iPad makes all this easier.

  5. I’m definitely going to buy 2 of the high-end iPads — one for my wife, one for me. My wife expects to read eBooks and magazines on her. Mine will be for travel (to lighten my load) and reading eBooks. I can’t totally replace my laptop because I don’t think the iPad can handle my graphics- and animation-rich presentations. In addition, I can’t develop applications on the iPad unless Apple decides to put the iPhone version of XCode on the iPad, which I think is very unlikely.

  6. I can’t see an iPad replacing my laptop for work related things.
    Thats definitely not where it’s aimed.

    I was glad to get rid of having to lug around two laptops when I got my MacBook Pro + Parallels.
    Now I just have the MBP with lots of RAM and big HD and can run OS X, Windows (several versions) and Linux (several distros) all pretty reasonably on one computer.

  7. @Bob Keeney:
    ok – they are thus aiming to create a new market for a new class of devices (not as I interpreted the keynote from January where the iPad is placed in between the MBP and the iPhone in the context of failed netbooks). This combined with the (probable) lack of the bookstore in Sweden in the forseeable future definitely puts the iPad off my shopping-list for the time being. I hope I am wrong about the bookstore but as we are not able to buy all titles from in Europe, the printing companies sure have their say in this… It is pathetic that we are not able to rent movies in iTunes in Europe and for that the movie industry is to blame, but I hope the iPad will make both industries to come to their senses.

    Part of the success with the iPhone is that it replaced something with a device that was way better than everything else and I have been enjoying my iPhone 3G for almost two years now.

    I’d rather go for one of the “underprowered slow netbook devices” that were mentioned during the keynote simply for the reason that it actually replaces something – albeit something slower and less useful, but still useful for me doing all my work. Books and movies play decently on the iPhone and I am happy with that and packing another device… no thanks… (I don’t even want to think about all problems when flying if the TSA considers the iPad a laptop… Flying into US with TWO laptops and a cell-phone is hard these days as I noticed on my recent trip to the US in February…)

  8. Well, I can rent a movie here in Germany. But you can do what I did: get a second account in another country where you can download movies. I did have a US account for renting movies, but nowadays I do it in Germany 🙂

  9. @Christian Schmitz:
    Cool! I see that UK and Germany are listed as approved for movie-rentals. Last update from Apple Sweden was “anytime soon” from April 2009 where they list Germany as the first non-English country to get movierentals.
    According to the net and forums, lots of Swedes did have double accounts but that apparently stopped working in iTunes 9.0 when they had to choose primary account (and thus lost access to many Swedish-only Apps as they were not approved for distribution outside Sweden…)

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