Monday, November 15, 2010

I caved and bought an iPad

As the headline says, I recently caved and bought an iPad. As the lovely Gwen suggested, I am blogging about its capacities as an e-reader, because "inquiring minds want to know!"

I was totally skeptical about the iPad when it came out. I'm not a huge Apple fan, I was worried about there being a lack of options for where I could buy stuff, and I thought the name was annoyingly reminiscent of sanitary napkins. I started to come around when I read more about e-readers and the relative environmental impacts of buying paper books or using an e-reader. I also discovered that while I don't like audiobooks, I can READ a book in nearly any format - although something I can take to bed with me is best. Then, my little sister got an iPad for free (I know!) and LOVED it. She convinced me, and might have inspired some serious jealousy.

So I bought one. I considered other e-readers, but the iPad appeared to do books reasonably well while also doing lots of other interesting stuff. I won't cover all the other stuff now, because this is about books!

To start with, my worries about where I could get books were pretty unfounded. I currently use the iBooks ap, which is intended for iPad use, and I also have the Kindle ap and I'm experimenting with a few others. From what I've seen, there are tons and tons of e-book aps and stores available to iPad users. Some of them seem more usable and aesthetically pleasing than others, but they are definitely available.

I actually really like the iBook ap, because I can change the font size and brightness and turn on a sepia effect, all of which help prevent headaches (one big difference from other e-readers is it doesn't have that "real paper" look, so it is like reading a computer screen). The touch screen is pretty awesome in the iBook ap, because it makes turning pages look amazing - although I still occasionally turn pages I didn't mean to turn. One thing I find totally awesome is the dictionary - I can tap a word and then have the option to, among other things, look it up in the dictionary. I have actually used this tool several times already, which is not to imply I have a poor vocabulary!

My biggest concern currently is getting access to books, regardless of which ap I use, without paying for them. Buying books is easy - I bought one from the iBook store and it worked just like buying something from iTunes. I don't have a Kindle account, but I assume it is equally easy to use that if you don't want to give Apple more money. Books are generally also a little cheaper than they would be if you bought the physical object. I've downloaded a number of free Project Gutenberg books from the iBook store, but it takes a little more searching because Apple really does not like presenting all the free stuff right up front. I've also downloaded a few from sites online that provide EPUB books for free. These are, of course, all older books, because of copyright issues.

Getting newer books for free has been harder, because dealing with the library has been the most challenging part so far. Unfortunately, part of that is because the library's selection is a little unimpressive. The other part is because I have yet to figure out the perfect way to get the books actually onto the iPad. My techy boyfriend got it to work on another ap, and he says the problem is a DRM issue. I've had multiple awesome librarians respond to my cries for help with more information, which I need to check out - I want the process to be as quick and easy as possible, and I want it to be on an ap that I like.

So, this is an epic post, but here's the bottom line: The iPad is really expensive if you're only using it as an e-reader, but as an e-reader I think it's pretty darn good. Since it also does other stuff, I think it justifies the price, but be prepared for a few struggles with library books especially, since it hasn't been around as long as other e-readers.

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