Sunday, September 12, 2010

Reading on the Beach for Boomers --iPad Vs. Kindle

I was very lucky that this summer ran into fall, and our family had a beautiful, sunny Labor Day weekend, as they say here, "down the Jersey shore."  The first thing I want to tell you  is that my Jersey shore is nothing like the TV show. We go to a beautiful little family-oriented town, calm and peaceful, with a great beach.

The second thing I want to tell you is this: reading on the beach with the iPad is not an experience I'd recommend. The glare of the sun on the iPad screen made reading very difficult. Yet, I wanted to try it out, and try it out I did, squinting through an entire book. My family was somewhat amused, especially those who vow not to give up paper reading.  I must admit that I didn't realize that you could change the background color to sepia, and that reduces the glare a bit, and you can adjust the brightness of the screen.

Still, walking out into the bright sunshine today I see that it really doesn't solve the problem. Since the iPad has a touch screen, each time you touch it you leave fingerprints. Normally, you don't see them. Under the glare of a beautiful beach day, or even a sunny fall day, you see every one. Yet my iPad has been so good for almost everything else I've wanted to do with it, I'd never give it up now. 

Another drawback, but one that applies to all e-readers, is that others can't tell what you are reading. My sister-in-law saw how much I was enjoying my book, and had to ask me what I was reading. That's because e-books have no covers to show the world. The covers appear inside the iBook application, for the reader's eyes only. Publishers have long used cover art for marketing their books, and when you are walking down an airplane isle, don't you take a peek at what others are reading?  One day, I'm sure, iBooks and all of the other e-readers, will have a way to tell the world what you are currently reading, if you want them to, and everyone will benefit from this. Maybe the answer will be a second screen on the back of the device, to display the cover of the novel that so engrosses you.

All that being said, I'd like to tell you some of the features of the iBook app that I really like.  I like looking at my books on the library shelf. That's where you see the covers of the books you've downloaded.  As you can see, I don't have a lot of books on my shelf as of yet, since I wanted to try the device out in various environments.

I  also like that the book has a clear table of contents. Here is a sample of the Contents from Hangman, by Faye Kellerman.

I really liked that Apple's format tells you how far along in the book you are and how far in the chapter. A little note comes up at the bottom right of the page saying something like "there are 15 pages left in this chapter."

It's amazing how much I missed those measures--the equivalent of flipping through the pages--on the Kindle I tried last year. They definitely help me figure out if I'm going to have enough time to finish the chapter before I start something else.   The new Kindle app for the iPhone says what "location" you are at and what percentage of the book you have finished but it doesn't  give quite the same feeling as the Apple app does.

So the dilemma still remains: do you go for an excellent single use device like the Kindle or a Nook, or do you go for a multi-use device that has some serious drawbacks? The prices of the dedicated e-readers have come down, and you can now purchase a Kindle for as little as $139 and a Barnes & Noble Nook for as little as $149. I've seen some other e-readers advertised for under $100. Those numbers look really good compared to the $499 starting price of the iPad, but then the iPad does so much more.

I've made my choice, Boomers, but you may make a different one. I've seen the ads for the Kindle, the ones showing people sitting on the beach, reading comfortably, and I can say, if all you want to do is take your device to the beach to read, then maybe the Kindle or any other e-reader made with e-Ink is for you.

1 comment:

Greg Katz said...

I never even thought about the fact that it would be difficult to know how much more there is in a chapter to read with an e-reader. That's a cool feature Apple put in there.