For techies and early adopters, Saturday's launch of the Apple iPad can't come soon enough. But the rest of us – and specifically, for those of us who are serious book readers – it may require a little more time before we know if we're interested in upgrading from a Kindle or Nook.
Reviewers have now had a chance to get their hands on the iPad and much of what they're telling us is that the device is a winner. But when it comes to buying and reading e-books, the verdict is a bit more murky.
Here's some of what we've heard so far:
The Wall Street Journal: Overall, Walter S. Mossberg writes under a headline that declares the iPad a "game changer that makes browsing and video pleasure." He also declares that "The iPad is much more than an e-book or digital periodical reader, though it does those tasks brilliantly, better in my view than the Amazon Kindle." He goes on to say that he found "iBooks, Apple's book reader and store, easy to use, and read a couple of books on it. I consider the larger color screen superior to the Kindle's, and encountered no eye strain." But he adds, "[T]he iPad is much heavier than the Kindle and most people will need two hands to use it. The iBooks app also lacks any way to enter notes, and Apple's catalog at launch will only be about 60,000 books versus over 400,000 for Kindle."
The Washington Post: The Post's reviewer asks, "[H]ow well does the iPad – with its glossy, glarey screen and slightly greater weight – do as an e-reader?" The answer (billed as "first impressions on the subject"): "The iPad makes it easy to browse your library books, represented visually by colorful book covers. The iBooks app, in horizontal mode, allows you to have two pages on the display at once – and it tries to mimic the experience of reading a book, right down to the visuals of additional pages on the left and right, and the darker area in the center, where the spine would be. I could easily scroll along the bottom of a book to jump to a specific page, with no notable delay when doing so. And I particularly liked how the iPad showed the page number, and out of how many, you were jumping ahead to; and, how it indicated the number of pages remaining in the chapter. (Just one more chapter before I go to sleep...I swear!) Dedicated e-readers could learn something from this part of iBooks' design." One minor reservation: "I found the iBooks reader's page-turn animations are both cool and annoying. The flicker for a quick page turn bugged me – nevertheless, it was better than suffering through the multiple flashes that one endures on most E-Ink readers as they try to redraw the page."
PCMag.com: PCMag.com promises a full review of the iPad as an e-reader at a later date. But for now, the reviewer issues a warning to Amazon. "Kindle: I like you, but I am nervous about your future. The iPad displays books in a way that is much flashier than your black and white e-ink screen. It shows illustrations in color. Page turns actually look like page turns. And Apple gets the extras right, like being able to bookmark any word in the book you're reading and then find it on a menu of all your bookmarks, sorted by date. The Search function is also excellent." One hesitation: "What remains to be seen, however, is how it will be to read for long periods on the iPad. Kindle, and other e-book readers' e-ink screens are known for being very easy on the eyes."
USA Today: In an article headlined, "Verdict is in on Apple iPad: It's a winner," Edward C. Baig nonetheless has a few reservations about reading books on the iPad. "Judged solely from a sizzle standpoint," he says, when you try to compare the iPad to a Kindle, "There's no contest." iPad wins in terms of looks, touch, and graphics. However, he adds, "Amazon retains some bragging points for avid readers, starting with a cheaper $259 price that I suspect will need to drop a lot further. At 10 hours or so, the iPad battery life, while impressive, falls far short of the two weeks you might get off a Kindle charge. It remains to be seen whether reading on a backlit screen for hours will be as easy on the eyes as the Kindle is. Curling up in bed was more comfortable with a 10.2-ounce Kindle than with the weightier iPad."
That's what the experts are saying. As for the rest of us? We may have to put our own hands – and eyes – on the iPad before we decide whether or not it needs to become a part of our lives.
Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.