I’ve noticed the gripes about e-books have largely faded, and today I read Amazon has announced they’re selling more electronic titles than they are hardcovers. I suppose that shouldn’t be a surprise given they’re so much cheaper, but I also think the devices have finally gotten to the point they’re both useful and user-friendly.
Given I’ve got a book available for the Kindle, and I’ve watched my wife enjoy hers, I decided to take a crack at the iPad as a digital book reader. I noticed the iBooks store and Amazon are fairly close in price, but I decided to use the iPad Kindle app instead so I’d have the flexibility to read the books on just about any electronic platform.
I read it on a plane trip to Hawaii, and the iPad battery lasted the entire flight, including through a layover in Los Angeles. I even switched over to Pages for a while to work on some of my own writing with no problems. I liked that I didn’t have to hold it the entire time; I was able to set it down on the seat tray and keep reading. Quick brightness adjustments made reading easy on the eyes when the lighting in the cabin or outside changed, and I had no problems with glare even though I was sitting in a window seat.
In fact, after just a few minutes, I forgot I was reading an electronic edition at all. I just read, swiped, read, swiped, read, swiped, all without thinking about it. I had no troubles with the font, developed no eyestrain with the backlit screen, and never lost my place even when going in and out of the Kindle app. I did use the bookmark, but going back to the same book every time made it unnecessary.
Next I’ll try reading it in bed. My wife reads her Kindle in bed, but she tends to prop herself up against the headboard in a sitting position, while I like to lay flat. I can’t imagine the Kindle will be any worse than doing so with a hardcover, but I’ll find out. I’m already planning on purchasing another Kindle book, probably Gischler’s Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse.
I’d also love to start building a reference library on the iPad. Not just dictionaries, encyclopedias, or a thesaurus, but technical manuals, programming guides, and even martial arts books could all be handy. For example, it would be nice to have Kodokan Judo and my karate school’s curriculum videos available on one portable device rather than lugging a laptop and book(s) around. This would even make them readily available in class, not stashed away in a gym bag in the locker room. (Now I just have to wait for some of those books to show up on Kindle…)
While on vacation, I started looking at the folks who accompanied us on the trip. Some of them were avid readers, and they packed along several books. They were very curious about my wife’s Kindle, with the obvious advantage being they can cut down on the weight of their luggage. If they needed to pick up another book while on the trip, they could just download one instead of picking up one at the bookstore.
One of those avid readers has poor eyesight. I showed him the Kindle and iBooks apps, and we learned he could read from the iPad much easier if he switched to white text on a black background and zoomed the text a bit. He didn’t read from it for any length of time, but at least we now know it may be an option.
The next step for me will be carrying it around more often. I still haven’t convinced myself it will replace my trusty Moleskine (I can still write much faster with a pencil than I can on any keyboard, and I type almost 100wpm on a standard keyboard), but for writing outlines or making edits that I’ll need to share with other people or push to another computer, I have no problem using the iPad.
Heck, with Dropbox, I have all of my documents available on all devices just like I do Kindle books. I dropped three or four PDFs into Dropbox before the flight, all of them comics I’m reviewing for other folks or needed to look over for Evileye (including Big Bad Wolves), and the resolution and clarity were great, even on a color book. I pushed an outline I was working on from Dropbox to Pages with no problem, though I do wish I could export from Pages to Dropbox just as easily, instead of having to go through iTunes.
I’m not convinced it will ever replace my laptop for day-to-day work, but for travel and short road trips I could easily get by with it instead. Having just a camera bag and the iPad on a flight made things so much lighter and easier, and I could have had several books available should one have been disappointing or just not what I was in the mood for. I still have a pile of dead tree editions waiting to be read on my nightstand and I won’t be completely replacing my library any time soon, but I do think I’ll be making more digital purchases in the future.
Back to my original point, I don’t think e-books are going away, nor do I think it’s fair to assume they’re just a fad anymore. The major bookstore chains have their own readers and stores now, and every time I run into someone with a Kindle they can’t wait to show it off.
Bibliophiles love their paper books, but it would appear the average reader just doesn’t care. It’s LPs vs cassettes and cassettes vs CDs all over again. Paper books will be to future generations what vinyl is to our generation: novelties and collector’s items.