I’ve thought for some time that an iPad would be the perfect e-reading device for me. Now that I’ve acquired one (by which I mean: won one on the Intertubes) I can confirm that this is the case, though there are also several drawbacks I hadn’t predicted.
So what’s awesome about the iPad?
First and foremost, page turning is as fast and responsive as I need it to be. Some people may not be bothered by the black flash between pages on other devices, but I find it really disruptive. Using Kindle on the iPad, pages turn with no discernible delay or interference. I can even choose to scroll instead of flip, so I never have to take my eyes off the text. This was a deal-breaker for me on other devices and it’s awesome that the iPad gets it right.
Second, it’s transformative for doing research-oriented reading. I’m still developing my academic workflow, but I’m moving toward something like this one. I can access my entire research library of PDFs on the iPad through the Mendeley app, then annotate and highlight away. If something’s been published, I can do the same using Kindle. Crucially, highlighting becomes a zero-impact activity. I’ve never been a big highlighter, even when there are things I want to remember, because it breaks my flow. So far, though, I will do this on the iPad and I will like it. Also crucially, my highlights and annotations become searchable. I have dozens of books with post-its stuck in them at important points … but then I can’t find the information when I want it, unless I type things up right away*. Now I can easily see all my thoughts, not just for each book but across every research book I read using this technology. This is possible on an iPad in ways that other e-readers don’t support, because I’ve got a Mendeley app and a PDF reader / annotater and Kindle and Dropbox and a browser all on the same device. Super awesome.
Third, some Kindle books seem to have internal linking to, for example, footnotes. It makes handling references so much easier that I’d pay extra for a book with internal linking. Or what if I could click on references and have them automatically start downloading in the background? Not only would I pay for that feature, I’d end up buying a hell of a lot more books off Kindle. Can you imagine letting me loose on an “Other Books In This Series” page?
Finally, I would love to get rid of some of my vast book collection. There are many books I must own in hardcopy, whether for sentimental reasons or because they’re affiliative identity objects or just to enjoy their physical beauty. However, there are plenty of books where I really do just want the words. It’s not like I don’t love and use my books, but there are certain logistical problems with having a book collection that must be measured in cubic meters!
This sounds pretty idyllic, but there are a few problems as well. Here they are:
First, Shabbat. I’m going to be making some posts about Shabbat in the next few weeks, but (spoiler alert!) I don’t use technology** from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. That means I lose access to all my iPad books. I chose not to start reading a book on the iPad this morning, because I didn’t want to have to stop reading at sundown. Worse, it means I think twice about whether I buy a book on the iPad, if I can’t read it on my most reading-centric day of the week.
Second, PuzzleQuest. I’m sure I won’t be obsessed with this particular game for much longer, but there’ll be a new game (or app, or website) soon enough. Holding the iPad makes it easier to contemplate switching tasks, even when reading is what I’d rather be doing. Because I could be using the device for multiple things, it lowers the barrier for me to stop reading and start doing something else.
Finally, docking. I haven’t figured out yet how to read the iPad in bed, because then I have to get up and dock it before I can go to sleep. This is possibly just a logistical problem, but it’s a placeholder for a larger issue of size, shape, and not being able to give the thing the same knock-about treatment my books get sometimes.
None of these are deal-breakers, and I’m definitely a very happy iPad reader. I suspect these problems add up to one easy solution: I do the bulk of my non-fiction reading (especially research reading) on the iPad, and do the bulk of my fiction reading the old-fashioned way. But we’ll see how it shakes out!
And speaking of Shabbat, Shabbat Shalom!
* This only happens when I’m reading in order to write a specific piece of my argument … and even then, not always.
** With some exceptions, like taking the elevator to my high-floor apartment!