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)?