Saturday, I got in touch with my inner geek. I bought an iPad. I didn't wait in a long line to get it. I was running and errand and, as I went past Best Buy, I decided to drop in to see if they had any. Not yet. The truck was on its way from Houston and was about fifteen minutes away. Well, fifteen turned into ninety during which I played with the demo model. It didn't take long before I was sold.
Now that I've had it four days, my opinion is that it is awesome! Finally, the world of electronic reading has matured.
The iPad is not an ebook reader, but a full function tablet computer. Besides reading, you can listen to music, watch videos, surf the web, do your taxes, create a presentation and write a novel. And more. Nobody knows yet how people will use the iPad. My guess is that this is the all-purpose application we've been waiting for. For students, this will replace a book bag of texts, tablets, and calculators. For the rest of us, it will unleash our imaginations.
The iPad is about the size of a Kindle, albeit a little heavier. Not so heavy that you would notice. There is a free reader, called iBook, that, like the Kindle, allows you to download books from an online store. My first choice was Michael Connelly's Nine Dragons. The reading experience on the iPad, using iBook, is terrific. The interface looks like a real book. You turn pages by swiping the page to the left if you are going forward, or to the right to go backward. You can read a single page at a time in portrait mode or side-by-side pages in landscape mode. The page turning strikes me as more natural than the Kindle's button pressing.
A year ago, March 30, 2009, to be exact, I blogged about my experience testing a Kindle. You can read it here. I liked the Kindle. My one gripe about it was the absence of page numbers. Me, I need page numbers when I read. You can read my reasons here. As a writer, I simply can't read without page numbers. It's how I teach myself to plot. Kindle doesn't have page numbers; iBook on the iPad does. Even the version of the Kindle which you can get for the iPad (and it's free) doesn't have page numbers. Kindle's "location" numbers can be made to work like page numbers, but not as intuitively.
iPad is the first truly hypertext reader. Tapping any word in the story brings up either a dictionary definition of the word or a two-function search engine. You can search for other occurrences of the word in the same story or you can search the web for that word, pictures, video, etc. It's a handy feature when reading Nine Dragons, part of which is set in Hong Kong. The book also comes with a video of Connelly talking about the book. The video itself is unremarkable, but it's exciting in what it represents.
There are other features about the iPad that I could go into, but the best feature is sitting on my deck on a warm spring evening, my music playing on the iPad while I read a mystery on the backlit screen. For a decade, we've heard about how ebooks will change our experience of the printed word. It's finally happened.