Some time ago, I wrote about my feelings for books, and where I thought reading was going.
At that stage (March 2009), I had just discovered reading on my iPod Touch. It was long before the iPad was announced, but I’m pleased to find that my earlier comments are all pretty much still valid. I still treasure the feel of a “real”, dead-tree book and will no doubt still hang on to most of my current collection of some 3,000 volumes – at least until the next time we move house!
But since I bought an iPad in late May of this year, it has become my reading device of choice.
I have now read almost a dozen books on the iPad, and I find it a very comfortable experience, though I am appalled at how badly some e-books have been constructed by the publishers.
Apart from free classics, I have paid full price for all of the e-books I have acquired.
My favourite e-book store is Books on Board, which has a great selection, good prices and a really easy mechanism for selection and payment. Though I have bought a couple of books from Amazon to read in their Kindle app, and a few from Kobo books to read in their app, I prefer to use the Apple iBooks app, which I find is by far the best of the reading apps on the iPad. However, in Australia Apple are still only offering classics from Gutenberg (they haven’t been able to negotiate agreements with local publishers, it seems).
Getting my books into iBooks has involved some shenanigans to remove the Digital Rights Management. I’m not going to tell you how I did this, because it’s arguably against US legislation to publish such information. But I am confident that I am within the law to actually do this – I have paid for the books, after all, and all I am doing is format-shifting them. What nonsense that we even have to worry about this stuff!!
But as well as books, I have been reading a lot of other stuff on my iPad. There are newspapers, for example. I also regularly look at the New York Times. I tried their “Editor’s Choice” app, but though it is well-designed I prefer their web site, which has more varied content.
My local-city newspaper, The Age, doesn’t have an app out as yet (and judging by the offering from their sister publication, The Sydney Morning Herald, it won’t be worth waiting for), but their web site is OK, if a little tricky to navigate by touch. My wife and I both sit reading The Age in the morning on our iPads as we have breakfast. In this regard, I am very fond of the set of MoviePegs I bought, which enable me to prop up the iPad in a portrait orientation.
In the morning I also check out the local weather, using a great Australian app called Oz Weather HD.
I also particularly like the Guardian newspaper app called Guardian Eyewitness. Every day there’s a stunning photograph, complete with tips for budding photojournalists.
Looking rather like a newspaper itself, though actually a collection of my favourite RSS feeds, is The Early Edition, which I use to scan through what is new. Mostly, though, I shunt off longer articles to the brilliant app Instapaper. I’m particularly enjoying following the 17th Century blogger, Sam Pepys, this way.
My latest delight has been discovering that I could subscribe to New Scientist magazine on the iPad, through the Zinio app.
Over the last 30 years (!) I have tried to keep up with New Scientist in many different ways – a subscription to the hard copy through my local newsagent (expensive), a subscription on microfische (required a special reader, and uncomfortable), a digital version through an organisation called Newsstand (I could only read this on my computer, sitting at my desk – also uncomfortable).
But finally, I can subscribe at a reasonable cost (only a third of the cost of the hardcopy), and read it in comfort in an armchair. Brilliant! And much more pleasant and interesting to see all of the photographs, diagrams and sidebars (and even the advertisements) in their right place in the magazine, with excellent layout. The pinch and stretch zoom capabilities of the iPad make this a very comfortable way to read a magazine. I wish The Age was available in this way.
And then there’s… well, comics. OK, I know I’m now nearly 60 years old and I shouldn’t be indulging in reading the kind of escapist stuff I read when I was 13, but the fact is that I still enjoy it. Some time ago I bought a DVD collection of 40 years worth of Spider-Man comics, all in PDF format. I read some of these on my computer, but as usual, sitting at a desk staring at a computer screen is hardly relaxing. But come the iPad, and the excellent GoodReader app, I can sit and read my way through these with great comfort and lots of nostalgia.
Then there are modern comics, or graphic novels, whatever. Both Marvel and DC comics have their own apps (based on the same engine) and both have a good selection of free comic books. I particularly enjoyed ElephantMen, both for the quality of the graphics and the interesting story.
And if we want to get out of the graphic gutter and reach for the literary stars, then there’s always the excellent Shakespeare Pro app. Every play the Bard wrote, complete with line numbers, search capabilities, illustrations and much more.
Reading will never be the same again.