Since its release the iPad has taken the world by storm. Well designed, compact, solid battery life and a huge app base, has made the iPad a very desirable product, it's even introduced ebooks to a much wider audience.
Apple isn't pushing this as a Laptop/Netbook replacement, but as an audio/visual entertainment product. It comes with a large colour multi-touch screen, with the same iOS that's used on the iPhone and iPod Touch; making it instantly familiar as well as having a great number of apps available.
Along with the device itself, Apple has introduced their own ebook store; iBooks, which stocks many of the big publishers book, along with free titles from Project Gutenberg.
Design and Features
Before getting into the features for ebook users, here's a quick rundown of the basic feature set and design attributes.
Based on the same minimalist design as the iPhone, the iPad is sturdy, sleek and compact, without too much waste beyond what's needed for the 9.7-inch screen, which is as crisp and clear as one would expectfrom this type of display. It's actually very difficult to fault the design and this is probably as good as it gets for a tablet device.
The screen being LCD means that you can't take your iPad out into the park on a sunny day and of course battery life is greatly reduced compared to all E-Ink screens. Also, as this is a touch device with a glass surface, it suffers quite badly with finger smudge marks; even though it was designed to be fingerprint resistant. There are screen protectors available that reduce the marks plus make using the iPad much better in bright sunlight, so these are worth investigating.
The weight of the iPad is somewhat of a concern. Compared to a netbook or laptop, the weight is quite respectable, but during book reading, you'll likely be using two hands even under the best of conditions.
There are two options for web connectivity; WiFi and 3G, though this latter option will add another 1/5th to the purchase price, plus the monthly connection fees. I've found the WiFi model adequate 99% of the time, although I do live in a city with lots of free WiFi cafés, which helps.
Apple says the battery will last up to 10 hours, and this was received with raised eyebrows, but they have come through on this promise and for many tasks, this mark will be reached easily enough. Of course, the more intensive the application you use the more quickly the battery will deplete. Although the battery life for such a device is very good, it cannot be compared to dedicated eReaders like the Kindle, where we normally talk about battery life in weeks not hours.
eReader Content & Apps
The iPad comes with its own ebook reader app called iBooks, which is also the name of the Apple ebook store. When the iBook Store first went live, it wasn't well stocked, especially outside of the U.S., but over the last few months things have started to pick up and the choice is growing.
One of the big surprises was that Apple had decided to use EPUB as the main format for iBooks, even though they are using their own FairPlay DRM. This means you won't be able to buy from the iBooks store and read your purchases non Apple devices or vice-versa.
One of the big advantages of the iPad is that many different stores have now released their own apps, so you can buy from Amazon, Kobo, B&N, etc., which is certainly one of the more positive things about using an iPad as an eReader.
At the bottom of this review is a short overview of some ofthe reader apps available.
Most reviews will tell how amazing the iPad is, and to a point, they're right. For a mobile entertainment system the iPad is the best around. As an eBook reader, there's many negatives, which I believe are important for many people - it's too heavy for one-handed use and even with two hands, you'll tire quickly. Outdoor use will be limited as it doesn't work so well in bright sunlight, and you'll be constantly aware of how little battery life is left; 10 hours (max) isn't a great deal. At 500 bucks, it's also expensive! If you're expecting to do a great deal of reading, the iPad may not be the most suitable option for you. All of these things do tend to fade into the background when it comes to E-Ink readers.
If you're thinking of using one of these as a laptop replacement then you'll need to think hard on what you use your laptop for; the iPad will not be a suitable replacement for many people. I consider it to be a compliment to your current gadgets.
If you have deep pockets and absolutely need features like email, web browsing, gaming and those other apps – with only some casual reading – then the iPad will certainly be a worthwhile purchase.
There are currently three iPad models available: 16GB, 32GB and 64GB both with and without 3G connectivity.
First up we should talk specifically about the iBook reader.
Cosmetically, iBooks is very appealing, offering a bookshelf library and a book-like display for reading. For those users who are used tothe Stanza Reader on the iPhone, you'll be a little disappointed with the lack of control over what can be done with the text and page formatting; allow just basic font, size, justification and brightness controls. One great feature is the built in dictionary, which is accessible by double tapping a word. The dictionary however is only available in English.
To purchase new books you just click the store button and shop like you would on the Apple App Store.
Non-DRM EPUB & PDF titles can be read on iBooks which means all the titles from epubBooks can be downloaded and read for free.
Get iBooks for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.
After the success of their Kindle eReader, Amazon didn't want to lose out any book sales to Apple so they introduced their own Kindle Reader app for the iPad. Amazon has one of the largest selections of books available and as purchases can be made from many different countries around the world, this is a great choice for many people.
Features in the Kindle Reader are basically the same as with iBooks allowing the font and size of the text to be changed. There is the addition of making the page white text on a black background, which many people do prefer to read like this. As an eReader the Kindle does the trick nicely, even without too many frills.
The biggest drawback is that there is no EPUB support so you can only get eBooks into the app by purchasing them directly from the Amazon.
Get Amazon Kindle Reader for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.
Kobo is one of the few stores from where you can buy eBooks and read on the iPad as well as dedicated eReaders such as the Sony Reader, they even have their own dedicated eReader device. With over 2 Millions titles for purchase, Kobo is second only to the Amazon Kindle as the one-stop shop.
Features on the Kobo Reader app are very similar to those ofthe iBooks and Kindle apps. Like iBooks, you purchase your titles directly from within the app which makes book purchasing very easy indeed.
EPUB is supported in Kobo, though you can only add titles that have been purchased directly from the Kobo Store.
Get Kobo Reader for iPhone and iPod Touch.
Stanza is one of the oldest eReaders on the Apple platform,and the first to support the EPUB eBook format. It has a large following ofusers and its age means it has plenty of features. No other app offers the variety of options that Stanza has; giving you the exact reading experience you would want. This can include changing line spacing, margins, page orientation locking, hot- key/gesture, annotations, multiple background colours/images, social networking integration, and so on. The choice of options is truly staggering.
You can add EPUB titles to Stanza via iTunes, along with using the integrated catalogues, which are taken directly from a number of sources such as Feedbooks, SmashWords, etc.
Get Stanza Reader for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.
Comics are not something for everyone but Marvel is probably one of the most popular and they certainly provide a wide selection of titles along with a great app. The full colour display of the iPad allows comics tolook really fantastic and with cool reading transitions (or with regular pageturns) this creates a great experience for any comic book fan.
All purchases are made from directly within the app and you can either buy individual comics or subscribe to a series; all new releases are automatically downloaded to the app.
Get Marvel Comics for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.
GoodReader is a document reader, specifically for viewing PDF, although you can view a number of other formats along with Pictures and some Audio/Video files.
There is no store to purchase from and you can only read DRM-free material. It is however a great PDF reader allowing you to read allkinds of work documents, computer manuals (like those that can be purchased from O'Reilly) and PDF novels so it is still worthy of buying--sure, this app is not free, but then it is cheap and very, very useful.
There are a great number of options available to help customise things to your own liking; page orientation, layout (single/doublepage) and brightness controls. One of the more interesting options is the crop feature, allowing you to remove all those white borders that often come with PDF documents.
Get GoodReader for iPad.
Get GoodReader iPhone and iPod Touch.
There is number of magazine apps around but most just focuson one publication. One of the best apps for subscribing to multiple magazinesis Zinio.
Zinio is an international distributor so you can getmagazines from many different countries and languages. You can buy individual issues or purchase subscriptions online, or from directly within the app itself. Often you will receive a discount on the physical cover price, though I haven't seen any trends so the discounts can vary.
The magazines you buy from Zinio all seem just to be the electronic counterpart of the paper issue, so you won't find any enhanced content. Not an especially bad thing in most cases.
Get Zinio for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.