Reading on the iPad

I’ve just finished reading my first novel on the iPad.

There was a certain irony in my choice of material - Singularity Sky, by Charles Stross - as I’d already read half of it as a paperback on holiday a while ago, only to be scuppered when I turned from page 138 and found myself on page 203.

Yes, it turns out that paper books can have bugs in them too! In my case the book had been mis-bound causing a sizeable chunk of the middle section to have been replaced by a copy of another sizeable chunk! Much swearing ensued…

Anyway, that was the paper version - what of the iPad? Overall I found the experience quite favourable.

I’d read a few technical documents already using iBooks, which is pretty functional. The display is great (though an iPhone 4 style retina display would be even nicer), and even reading documentation outside in the park is very manageable.

I’d wondered though whether I’d get tired or feel awkward reading fiction on the thing, late at night or for extended periods of time. Apparently not! Despite it being a bit heavy, the iPad is no worse than a large hardback, and reading in bed was fine. Reading on the train was easier too - other than generating a few interested glances from fellow passengers - since it’s considerably slimmer and easier to fit into my bag. The only thing I missed was reading in the bath!

Regarding software, as it turned out, I didn’t use iBooks, I used the iPad version of the Kindle application instead - which has pretty much the same interface.

My choice of the Kindle app reflects my only real criticism of Apple in the iPad experience so far, which is that the UK book store is absolutely rubbish. I can only assume that this is down to a failure to negotiate licensing deals. The upshot seems to be that if you want to read something that isn’t on the best seller lists, you’re out of luck. Science fiction? I think not, unless it’s so popular that I’ve already read it…

Luckily, Amazon, whilst still not having anything like universal eBook coverage, nevertheless has a much better selection, and the Kindle application is at least as functional as iBooks.

Overall conclusions? Much as I like paper books, I’m sold on the iPad as a reading experience. I have approximately 1000 paperbacks and a couple of hundred hardbacks on my shelves at home, and they don’t half take up a lot of room. One or two are special, but the vast majority are cheap paperbacks, bought second hand, with no intrinsic sentimental value above and beyond their contents. At this stage in my life, the opportunity to do one of my favourite things (reading), without adding more clutter to an already too cluttered existence, feels highly attractive!