iPad Reading Leap Marginalizes Kindle Hardware – But Not Kindle Reader…

Around 20 years ago, I set my personal bar for an onscreen reading experience which would tell me when eBooks had finally surpassed paper books. I would be able to read one of the many books illustrated by Victorian artist Arthur Rackham, on a device which was not only comfortable to use but which did full justice to the detailed, rich illustrations, as well as displaying text which was as comfortable and luxurious to read as a well-printed hardcover edition.

Yesterday, I finally held that dream in my hand – and there was an Apple logo on it. It was a Rackham-illustrated version of Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland, and I was reading it on my iPad…

We have a few early editions of Rackham-illustrated books. But we’ve been collecting for many years, and today you’d pay several hundred dollars for one in good condition – meaning that millions of people would never be able to experience them until electronic versions were possible.

Alice meets the Dodo : iPad meets the paper book?
(Screen captured from Stanza Reader – also owned by Amazon)

It caused a minor sensation on the Web a few months ago when I suggested – before it had even shipped – that the iPad, with a good color screen and 10-hour battery life, would cause serious problems for Amazon’s Kindle and other eInk-based eBook readers.

I haven’t blogged much since then. I felt it just wasn’t possible to write credibly in a blog entitled “The Future of Reading”, without a detailed analysis of the iPad based on extensive reading experience using it.

Having now had the chance to test iPad as a reader on many different types of book, I’m happy to say that this is without question the best reading device I’ve seen so far. It’s good enough that within ten minutes of installing the Kindle Reader software on it, I transferred every single one of the books on my Kindle onto the iPad. Because that’s where I’ll be doing all my reading from now on.

There’s a plethora of good reading software for the Ipad. Apple’s own iBook reader is also excellent, as seen in the screen capture below.

“Ah, Piglet! They used to cut down trees like this just so people could read us…”

Don’t get me wrong. The iPad’s not quite the absolutely perfect device yet. If I had a magic wand, I might make it just a little lighter. And perhaps the battery could run for longer – not that battery life has ever been even remotely a problem so far.

But I’m just being unreasonable. It’s an outstanding device, especially considering this is iPad v.1. Because not only is it a great reader, but I watch videos on it, surf the Web, check my email, and listen to music. The backlit screen is so much better for reading in bed. OK, I haven’t tried reading on the beach, but I just took it out in the garden in bright sun, and was pleasantly surprised. The level of contrast in sunlight still seems better than the Amazon Kindle in any lighting condition other than perfect. And you can’t read a Kindle in bed without a reading light.

Watching what’s been happening with Kindle prices over the past few weeks, it seems to me that the iPad may now marginalize the Kindle, instead of killing it outright, because Amazon has been smart enough to see the writing on the eInk and dramatically cut its prices. If you can afford only $140 or so, you might still want to buy a Kindle. But if you can stretch your finances to an iPad, you will – and you should.

The rise of iPad may not be a disaster for Amazon. The Kindle bookstore is great, and My Library of downloaded Kindle books with its attractive, colored covers looks so much better on the iPad than it ever did on the monochrome Kindle screen.

The one misgiving I had before the iPad shipped was how the 133ppi display would handle text without ClearType. And I have to say, the iPad text is terrific. It’s a great display. I think we’ve reached the level of display resolution, combined with better pixel technology from Apple, where we’ve crossed a boundary. I’ll be writing more about this – and many other issues the iPad raises – in future posts on this blog.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this lovely page of text from a Terry Pratchett novel, captured from the iPod running the Kindle Reader.

This is the device Microsoft – which had at least a ten-year lead over Apple – should have built, but couldn’t, stuck as it was between an unwieldy Windows totally unsuitable for this class of device, and a mobile operating system which has been little more than a series of disasters…


4 thoughts on “iPad Reading Leap Marginalizes Kindle Hardware – But Not Kindle Reader…

  1. Curt Arbtin

    Bill, I took a look at an iPad. I opened the ebook app immediately to sort of test it. I agree completely that it looks sharp and crisp even lacking ClearType. But I think it fails in other areas like hyphenation, poor inner-word spacing and general layout issues like orphans. It appears that they may be using their safari render for the ebook app. Do you see these features coming along soon?

  2. Anonymous

    yes, Apple is using epub standardhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EPUBSo they have to use WebKit rendererbut it does support video tag so some HTML5 is supported. It is matter of time before MathML is supported andif they combine it with Canvas to render interactive 2D graphics.That would bring real math textbooks to the ebook world.I am sure Apple will be driving the epub standard.

  3. Richard Fink

    Hey Bill, long time in between posts here. Figured the iPad would getcha.I agree with you on all counts. However, I don't agree with Anonymous on the EPUB spec.In view of what can be done in the browser – which an electronic "book" reader like Stanza can't ever match for ubiquity, EPUB doesn't make any sense. CSS has become a very capable language. Canvas, SVG, and Web Fonts complete the publishing puzzle.(EPUB has support because of DRM – but you can always put content behind a login so HTML wins there, too.)As you've found out, the Kindle is really a delivery service – the Kindle device just happens to have the same name. As usual, Amazon is two steps ahead and they're poised at every entry point into this market.

  4. Work smarter

    Rackham illustrated books have some early versions. However, we have collected over many years and today you have to in good condition for several hundred dollars.


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