Friday, April 9, 2010

Reading on the iPad

What can I say, I bought an iPad. I'd planned on waiting for the early-adopter jitters to work themselves out, but then my college bookstore got them in stock, and, well...

In any event, as most of you have probably heard by now, this thing is just about perfect right out of the box. (One advantage of its being "just a big iPod Touch" is that its operating system, and general hardware scheme, are mature and user-tested.) It's not especially comfortable for writing (for that I'll stick with my laptop), but it is an ideal casual-computing device. It excels at video and photos (the photo-viewing app is spectacular, and my family has already enjoyed browsing pictures we haven't looked at in years), and is pretty good for internet as well. Its main use for me so far has been quick readings of student manuscripts, and responses to them via email, and this experience (after getting my email accounts squared away) has been smooth.

But what about books?

If you were thinking about buying a Kindle, you might want to reconsider. The iPad Kindle app exceeds it in pretty much every way except for reading in bright sunlight, and the iBooks app is even better looking (though the iBookstore, so far, contains little I want to read and is a pain in the ass to navigate). In the evening, with the screen brightness adjusted down to about 25%, I experienced no eyestrain, no more than when reading a paper book. The only thing I've actually bought (in the Kindle store) is a Lawrence Block story that is apparently unavailable anywhere in print, and the pages look great. The iPad is rather heavy and you might find that it slips around in your lap too easily; if so, get the rather ugly but very utilitarian grippy-feeling case that Apple sells--it will serve you well until a more elegant solution becomes available. Personally, I suspect I'm always going to prefer a real book. But I think that, for a lot of people, this is going to become their primary way of reading.

The one thing I am excited about, however, is something not many reviewers seem to have mentioned--magazines. For several months, I've been a subscriber to JPG, a photography publication whose print edition died of poverty, and which has reimagined itself as a pdf-only concern. I had downloaded all 20 issues, figuring that, some lonely day, I would get around to reading them on my laptop. But the iPad suddenly seemed a better bet. I picked up the $1 Goodreader app (it displays pdfs on the iPhone OS) and loaded in my JPGs via iTunes.

Holy moses! JPG looks incredible--and so, I suspect, will most art magazines. This platform, I think, is going to revolutionize the periodical business--it should single-handedly make electronic magazines, full-color magazines, commercially and aesthetically viable. This is great news, as a lot of fine special-interest magazines have bitten the dust in recent years, thanks to declining advertising revenues and increasing postal and printing costs. I realize that generating good editorial content is not cheap, but suddenly there seems to be some wiggle room in the previously claustrophobic and crap-heavy periodicals market. My book-buying dollars are likely to keep flowing towards my local bookstore, but magazines? I will be watching closely for new offerings in the niche markets that interest me. I suspect a lot of would-be editors are entertaining a lot of very interesting ideas this week.

8 comments:

Sung said...

Congrats on your iPurchase! I think the magazine thing will go far, too. The size of the iPad is just right for that type of reading, and the colors are brilliant and eye-catching on the screen. Hopefully this means that magazine publishers will one day charge rates comparable to their print counterpart.

I doubt I'll get one. I've already spent a good chunk of cash on a pair of dSLRs in the last month, so my allotment of disposable income has already been disposed.

jrlennon said...

Double DSLR's, huh...what kind?

I just realized today, Sung, when I dug the NJ stories anthology emails out of my spam folder, that I missed the change to read with you in New York, alas.

Nancy said...

Thanks for your review, John. Keep us updated.

I was wondering what Nicholson Baker would think about paperless magazines..

- Nancy

jrlennon said...

When I wrote him about his Kindle piece in the New Yorker, he replied that he had high hopes for what at that time was being called the "Apple tablet"...I'm curious what he thinks, too!

Russell said...

For most people, the iPad is the ever-elusive portable TV but with much more stuff and it finally works. Many of us, of course, already know what content turns us on, and we get it without something like the iPad. On vinyl, even. "Please allow me to introduce myself," etc. It's mainly about the content. The device is secondary, at best.

jrlennon said...

Agreed, the device is a convenience for appreciating the content. The appeal of having so much of what you like (or need to do) in a neat little package can be irresistible, though.

Sung said...

Oh, that sucks -- the reading is gonna be in Jersey City, I believe. It's entirely possible (even likely) the anthology folks can still have more readers, so I bet you could still email them to get on the roster.

I've become a Pentaxian -- first I got the K-x because of its super reviews and low price tag (got the 18-55mm + 55-300mm kit for $700), and then, when realizing that my wife and I would end up wanting to both use it at the same time, I got a refurb K100D from bestbuy.com for $250. Neither are super-duper SLRs, but for my entry into the world of better photograpy, I couldn't be happier. The best part is getting these ancient lenses from eBay -- I've gotten a Sears 50mm f1.7 manual for $35 and a Korean "Commander" 135mm f2.8 manual for $30! It's just a joy to use such old-time-y optics in the digital universe.

Mary said...

I can't say I've ever been much of a fan of JPEG magazine (crowd sourced curation will kill art faster than anything else). But, I AM a fan of the iPad. And, I doubt I'll read any books on it; I like real paper. However, for the occasional book that has no index, I wonder if the/a iPad reader would let me search it... hmmm...