iPad versus eBook Readers
The Barnes & Noble Nook.
By Tom McKinney
Two months ago I
wrote about Apple's iPad. It hadn't actually been released yet, and now it has. It's done very well, with analysts suggesting over a million have already been sold. In that article, I also focused on aspects of the iPad other than its ability to serve as an eBook reader.
I decided this month to compare eBook readers with the iPad. The ones I tested out are: the Sony Reader Touch Edition, the Sony Reader Pocket Edition, and the Barnes & Noble Nook. All three use digital "e-inks" that emulate actual printing, and like real books, require a separate source of light because they are not backlit like the computer screen of the iPad is. The upside to this is that it's easier on your eyes, and they're better for reading in direct sunlight. I downloaded the same book on all four devices, and read for two hours on each, nearly finishing my purchase by the end! It isn't the longest time spent reading, but it's what I could spare.
We already know a bit about the iPad, at least you do if you read my other article! But I never mentioned eBooks. Apple calls them iBooks, and they've setup an online store connected to the iTunes store (also the App store). If there's one thing Apple has mastery over, it's interface. I've talked about the inherent simplicity and ease of use of the iPad, and the bookstore is no different. I'd never visited their bookstore, yet I could buy books immediately because I already have an Apple account from my years on iTunes. These accounts are free to create. Getting to the bookstore on the iPad was the simplest of the four devices I looked at. All I had to do was check which page on the home screen iBooks was located. I'll admit right here, though, that the iPad is familiar to me based on my owning iPhones alone.
The Sony Pocket Edition is a smaller reader that has a readable screen size about that of a common paperback. It has a lot of buttons! Nineteen to be precise. That's compared to the iPad's two (power & home). All those buttons are necessary because it's the only piece of hardware I looked at which lacked a touchscreen. I was actually a little confused on how to get to the bookstore when I first picked it up, but figured my way out. There's a slight learning curve. The positive of having the buttons off the screen is that your fingers are not touching the screen constantly, potentially leaving fingerprints. I found this came up later with other readers. Even so, unless ultra-portability is the number one priority, I'd recommend a reader with a touchscreen based on practicality.
iPad versus eBook Readers
The Sony Reader Pocket and Touch Editions.
I was able to test out another Sony product, this one known as the Sony Reader Touch Edition. This larger sibling shares some similarities with the Pocket Edition, but incorporates a larger and touch-sensitive screen. The software is actually different because of the touchscreen, but this wasn't a bad change. Touch and go is easy and there's a reason everyone is trying to make touchscreen phones, computers and tablets. I also enjoyed the added screen real-estate!
The last dedicated eBook reader I got my hands on is Barnes & Noble's Nook. This device actually does have a partially backlit screen. It also has a unique screen setup where roughly one quarter of the reader’s screen is separated from the main e-ink reading area, and instead is a full-color, backlit, LCD touch display (3.5" diagonally). This area at the bottom is responsible for navigation, and it does a good job. The main reader portion of the screen is also touch-sensitive.
The e-ink, of this reader, and of the other two, does feel less draining on the eyes. I need breaks from long writing projects on my computer, both for my wrists and eyes, and after a few hours of reading e-ink my eyes felt none the dryer or itchier! At the same time, I already spend hours on end on the computer, and I'm used to it. I don't personally read enough to merit buying a dedicated reader.
The iPad is what I view as an eBook reader-lite. If you are a casual reader, and don't read for hours on end, you'll probably get more money's worth out of it by doing things with it other than reading. Because while it does a great job handling reading, that's just one thing out of a plethora of options. The downsides for the iPad as a dedicated reader are its computer screen, and its weight (1.5 lb. versus the Nook's 12 oz. or the Pocket Edition's 7.7 oz.). Again, avid readers, buy a dedicated reader. I liked the Nook. Casual, multi-purpose users? Go iPad. That's what I'm going to do, eventually.