Wednesday, June 9, 2010

iBooks: The Magical & Revolutionary Way to Read

I've been using my new iPad for the past couple of months and have to say...I absolutely love it!

Now I could go on and on about what a pleasure it is using this incredible tablet to read periodicals like The New York Times; or how amazing watching videos and movies can be; or how productive time spent checking email and browsing the web is while commuting; or how much fun it is to play games like Parachute Panic with family and friends; or listen to music, stream audio, view photos, and so much more!

But I won't.

Instead I'd like to simply focus on what it's like to browse, shop, and read books using the iBooks application from Apple on this powerful thin slate made of metal and glass.

Let me first point out that I'm not a voracious book reader, so the E-Ink vs. LCD screen debate regarding eye-strain doesn't apply to my reading habits. That said, I do read a tremendous amount of articles on a daily basis, which in the past I would mostly do on the iPhone, so reading with a bright lit screen is something I'm very comfortable with and have never been aware of any eye fatigue as a result.

Before the iPad was released I read books on three different dedicated eReaders: Amazon's Kindle, The Sony Reader, and Barnes & Noble's Nook. Frankly none of them ever lived up to my expectations when it came to the user experience and I would consistently be reminded of this whenever using the Kindle or B&N eReader App on my iPhone. I was struck how the same Hemingway novel on my grey and black 6" Kindle would suddenly come alive on the smaller 3.5" color iPhone. And how the tactile motion of swiping the screen to turn a page instead of pushing physical buttons or moving a tiny toggle just felt more natural, which is saying a lot when you consider we're talking about viewing the printed word on a screen. Plus the ease of changing font size, bookmarking, and managing my library, all with the touch of a finger on the iPhone made me long for the day when these actions could be done on a larger screen.

So back in April when Steve Jobs demonstrated the iBooks App and iBookstore during his introduction of the iPad, it became quite clear that reading eBooks would never be the same. I'm sure Apple was fully aware they accomplished something extraordinary with iBooks, which could explain why the App is presented front and center as a download when first-time iPad users launch the App Store. It's a terrific endorsement for the act of reading from one of the most influential companies in the world and I would hope bibliophiles everywhere have some level of appreciation for it. Of course, it's also a very aggressive move by Apple to go head-to-head with Amazon for market share of eBook sales.

Naturally I downloaded iBooks and immediately began browsing the iBookstore, which is conveniently hidden behind a virtual wooden bookshelf that slowly revolves to reveal the storefront. It's a small but cool feature that never gets boring (for me anyway) 'cos it's as if Bruce Wayne himself commissioned this clever feature. Once in the store you can't help but notice the amount of available selections is limited compared to Amazon, but it should only be a matter of time before that improves. One thing I did find a bit surprising was how a user cannot view a larger version of a jacket image on the book's product page, though I've been told this feature will be introduced sometime in the near future.

But until then, the ease of browsing from one book to another or the ability to instantly read a sample chapter makes the titles that are currently available a pleasure to discover and buy.

If you've watched the Winnie the Pooh demo, then you're aware how beautifully text and illustrations appear within the simulated pages of the iBooks application. But it's not until you actually read on the iPad yourself that you truly appreciate the elegant way functionality such as brightness adjustment, font selection, and pagination appears, disappears, and reappears with a simple tap of the finger. It's pure reading bliss as far as I'm concerned.

And now Apple has announced that soon we'll be able to view PDFs within iBooks, that the iBookstore will be available for the iPhone, and everything viewed between Apple devices will synch together quite nicely (at least I'm confident that'll be the case).

It's worth mentioning that those hoping to read outdoors with the iPad will be disappointed, so an eReader with an E-Ink screen would be the way to go, especially if you like reading at the beach. And as we know, lots of people do, which means dedicated eReaders aren't going away any time soon and here's another reason why: Check out this cool video featuring Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm, demonstrating a new display technology during the recent All Things Digital D8 Conference that is not LCD.

But if you're like me and enjoy the ability to do a variety of amazing tasks with just one device, then I think you'll find the iPad will transform and enhance your daily enjoyment of the things we love: Music, Movies, Magazines, News, Games, and especially...Books!

Got an iPad? What do you think of it so far?

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