This is a guest post written by Adrian P..
Ive been using the iPad for five months now, and I find it to be a very useful device. The video, apps, music, and the browser make it a worthwhile purchase. Its really nice to have the Internet at your fingertips without having to boot up your machine every time that you want to check out something on the net.
Before I begin I think it would only be fair to say that I am a big fan of standard paper books. With that being said, I hope that I can separate my love of books in order to give a fair assessment of the iPad reading experience.
The iPad has some great features:
- The ability to look up words using the iPads built in dictionary.
- The orientation can be changed (landscape or portrait).
- The animated graphic for each page turn mimics page turning in a standard paper book.
- The paper color can be changed to a yellowish to mimic discolored paper.
- The typeface can be changed and the font size can be increased or deceased.
The ability to instantly look up unfamiliar words is truly a handy feature. When reading books I normally keep my iPod touch close by to look up words using a dictionary, or I will simply look it up in a book dictionary. This can become irritating as it distracts you away from the subject matter of the book that you are reading. The iPad definitely scores a big win with the built in dictionary.
The orientation and page turning animation graphic are nice touches, but ultimately this makes no difference to me. I find that this is something that is more a novelty that you would show your friends in order to impress them and say: Hey look how my iPad can mimic paper books the future is now! Blah blah blah. The ability to change the color of the pages to yellow from the bright white is an essential feature. When I first started reading on the iPad I used the white colored pages (the default setting), but I found that this really strained my eyes after a long reading session (even with the screen brightness turned down really low). With the screen brightness turned really low and the paper color turned yellow, this can definitely mitigate eye strain, but it isn’t a panacea.
Another feature that effectively mitigates eye strain is the ability to change the font sizes and typeface. This makes reading on the iPad superior to books. It is superior because the only way to enlarge text when reading a paper book is to move the book closer to your face or wear reading glasses.
So far it seems that I would prefer reading on the iPad to books, but this is not the case. I’m not sure if its because the culture of paper books is so firmly entrenched in my psyche, but books just seem to be a more natural method for reading. As you turn the pages you get a feeling for the texture of the paper that the iPad cant even dream of being able to recreate. Another issue that adds to the books experience is that each paper book has a smell that adds to the reading experience. I cant take credit for this observation. I saw an interview with poet/writer Nikki Giovanni on This is America with Dennis Wholey where Wholey asks her opinion on technology/ebooks/ebook readers. She responds by saying that The ebook wont work until they can find a way; well we already know how to turn the page now[sic], but were going to have to find a way to bring the smell of paper and ink. This was something that I hadn’t thought about until I heard Giovanni make this statement, but now I do notice the smell of books. I think unconsciously I was noticing the smell of books all along. However, after reading on the iPad where no smell is emitted, you do start to miss the smell of paper and ink as Giovanni claims. I suppose smell is one of the most under-appreciated senses always being relegated to a subordinate position to sight and hearing. Giovanni’s explanation is far more robust than this; Ill embed the video of the interview at the end of this article.
One thing that can get irritating on the iPad is that after the 9 hour battery dies you have to plug in the device for recharging. This can be irritating because it interrupts the flow of reading during a long session. I know that this seems like an insignificant point. Im sure many would argue that after 9 hours of reading having to plug the iPad in is not a big issue. However, this can be more irritating than it sounds. Suppose you were reading in a comfortable position on your couch and there is no power outlet near you. You would have to get up from that position and find a spot near an outlet where you can plug in the iPad and continue reading. Now if you cant achieve the same level of comfort in that new spot, you will most likely just stop reading and move on to doing something else. Your reading session has been interrupted. Books don’t suffer from this deficiency. So long as you have a working light you can keep reading for as long as you want.
So which method of reading is superior? This is a very difficult question to answer. I will say that the iPad definitely has clear advantages (all of which have been mentioned above). I don’t think that the iPads advantages necessarily eclipse the advantages of books. Books are low-tech, but they are still effective at disseminating knowledge. I think the reason for ebook popularity is really more of a consequence of novelty rather than efficacy. When we look at both methods objectively the main purpose is to disseminate and read information no matter how high-tech or low-tech the medium is. Both the iPad and paper books serve the purpose of making knowledge accessible, but is one a better method than the other? Really, I don’t think it makes a difference. While it is true that you can buy an ebook and have it downloaded to your device instantly, I don’t think that this necessarily makes the ebook experience more advantageous. Have we really become that impatient as a society that we cant wait a day or two for a paper book to arrive in the mail? Personally, I can wait for the paper version to show up, but that’s just me. The final verdict: I will say that the iPad and ebooks are here to stay, but they will never fully replace paper books. In terms of which method is better really depends on which method is more suitable for the individual.
I will personally be using both the iPad and paper books for reading.
Let me know what you think in the comments section.