iPad versus eBook Readers
By Tom McKinney
Two months ago I wrote about Apple's iPad. It hadn't actually been released yet, and now it has. It's done very well, with analysts suggesting over a million have already been sold. In that article, I also focused on aspects of the iPad other than its ability to serve as an eBook reader.
I decided this month to compare eBook readers with the iPad. The ones I tested out are: the Sony Reader Touch Edition, the Sony Reader Pocket Edition, and the Barnes & Noble Nook. All three use digital "e-inks" that emulate actual printing, and like real books, require a separate source of light because they are not backlit like the computer screen of the iPad is. The upside to this is that it's easier on your eyes, and they're better for reading in direct sunlight. I downloaded the same book on all four devices, and read for two hours on each, nearly finishing my purchase by the end! It isn't the longest time spent reading, but it's what I could spare.
We already know a bit about the iPad, at least you do if you read my other article! But I never mentioned eBooks. Apple calls them iBooks, and they've setup an online store connected to the iTunes store (also the App store). If there's one thing Apple has mastery over, it's interface. I've talked about the inherent simplicity and ease of use of the iPad, and the bookstore is no different. I'd never visited their bookstore, yet I could buy books immediately because I already have an Apple account from my years on iTunes. These accounts are free to create. Getting to the bookstore on the iPad was the simplest of the four devices I looked at. All I had to do was check which page on the home screen iBooks was located. I'll admit right here, though, that the iPad is familiar to me based on my owning iPhones alone.
The Sony Pocket Edition is a smaller reader that has a readable screen size about that of a common paperback. It has a lot of buttons! Nineteen to be precise. That's compared to the iPad's two (power & home). All those buttons are necessary because it's the only piece of hardware I looked at which lacked a touchscreen. I was actually a little confused on how to get to the bookstore when I first picked it up, but figured my way out. There's a slight learning curve. The positive of having the buttons off the screen is that your fingers are not touching the screen constantly, potentially leaving fingerprints. I found this came up later with other readers. Even so, unless ultra-portability is the number one priority, I'd recommend a reader with a touchscreen based on practicality.