Doubts Resolved: My only doubt about the iPad, before using one myself, was whether Apple’s text rendering would be good enough at the resolution of the iPad – or whether I would miss ClearType. The answer’s unequivocal. The text rendering is great – so much better than Kindle – and I don’t miss ClearType at all.
I had always believed that our invention of ClearType was a brilliant Band-Aid for the problem of low-resolution displays, back in 1998, but that it was a technology with an expiration date. At some point, increasing screen resolution would obviate the need for it.
However, I expected that it would take screen resolutions of 150ppi (pixels per inch) or more to make ClearType redundant. Apple’s display technology on MacBooks, and now the iPad, at 133ppi, is good enough that it’s no longer needed. And that raises a whole raft of issues about the value of future investments in font hinting.
The iPad, with a crisp, bright high-resolution screen capable of handling color and video, yet with acceptable battery life, has moved us out of the Dark Ages. It’s the first eBook device I’ve seen that really feels like it’s changed the world. I vastly prefer it to paper.
The emergence of the iPad does not necessarily mean that Amazon will lose out. The company which pioneered online book sales did a great job on the Kindle application for the iPad, which is definitely my favorite eBook app – in fact, it’s the only one I find myself using. It looks fantastic on my iPad – my “Library” looks like a shelf of “real” books, with high-quality, color covers. And Amazon’s Kindle bookstore is far superior to any of the others.
There are still issues which the Kindle app – and all other eBook apps I’ve seen – need to address if they are to truly match the readability of well-set type on paper. It’s all do-able, there’s zero rocket science involved. It’s simply the case that the companies creating eBook readers have not made the investments required to completely nail the issues. All the readers can certainly be improved. There’s work still to be done.
The main problems with the Kindle hardware device are these:
First, the iPad screen makes Kindle look incredibly dated – and cheap. I know, Kindle is a lot cheaper, and eInk is more readable in bright sunlight. But honestly – how much of your reading do you do in bright sun? In any other light conditions, the iPad wins hands-down, with its clear, bright display, which is also capable of displaying great video and animation. At night, reading in bed, there’s just no contest. With Kindle, I need a light. With iPad, I can read for hours without disturbing Tanya. And its larger screen also gives more real estate, and feels less cramped than the Kindle. It’s worth the difference in cost, by a long way.
Second, the iPad does a lot more than just let you read books. I find myself popping out to the Web to check a fact, or get more information. I use it to play videos, check my email. I even use it as an emergency cellphone (using Skype). Flipboard is an excellent way of checking a few news sites, my Facebook page, etc., all at the same time.
I refuse to pay a data charge of $25 a month or more. So I use only the WiFi connection. I figure that if I need to make an emergency call, I’m always able to find a Starbucks, or a Borders Books…
I’ve reached the point where I’d be glad to ditch thousands of paper- and hard-backed books from my bookshelves. I’d rather have them all on an iPad. More in future posts.