Quick Review: iBooks on iPad

ibooks-ipad06

iBooks on the iPad is the best ebook reading experience I've ever had (though to be fair I only have compared it to the Kindle 2nd Gen, Kindle on iPad, Kindle on iPhone, and various ebook readers on webOS and PalmOS).

Although initially I was a little concerned that reading on an LCD for extended periods of time would cause eye strain, reading for a couple of hours last night wasn't a problem at all. I will have to wait and see if even longer sessions cause problems, but my hunch is that won't be the case. You can adjust the brightness of the screen, the font size, and even the font type right from inside the app as you're reading to ensure that you're not squinting into some insanely bright screen.

You can search an entire book, look up words in the dictionary, jump to chapters, and so on. Bookmarking seems to only work on specific words, not on pages, but once you figure that out you're set to go. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a way to enter notes, only to highlight text in one of five colors. In other words, academics can add the inability to add margin notes to the other reasons to shy away from ebooks for now (the others including the fact that you can't trade or sell ebooks and, of course, DRM).

The iBooks Store is in-app and ties into your iTunes account, so you won't need to remember a different password to use it. Book selection seems to be slightly worse than what you can find in Amazon's Kindle store - but this early it's not completely fair to judge on selection. As with iTunes, there are plenty of top-charts like the NYT bestseller list, categories, and the ability to download samples of books to see if it's something you'd really like to read.

If you were thinking of buying a Kindle, don't.

Video and gallery after the break!

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Dieter Bohn

Dieter Bohn is former editor-in-chief of Smartphone Experts, writing across iMore, Windows Phone Central, Android Central, and more. You can find him on Twitter (and everywhere else) @backlon.

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There are 14 comments. Add yours.

Rajjh says:

To be fair, reflective glare when reading outside is a major drawback, however.

Dave says:

The inability to take notes is because of the ePub format.

Stephen says:

Wow, I had a completely different experience. I love the iPad, love the tech, love every aspect of it... except the reading... it's TERRIBLE... I mean TERRIBLE (<- all caps). Eye strain set in about 3 minutes in... I had to go back to my Kindle... I will watch movies, tv shows, play games, surf the web, manage my calendar and e-mail on it... but I will never read again... it's SOOOO BAD.

mlapida says:

Try the kindle app, it's much better, plus it syncs with the iPhone app using wisper sync, so if I'm without iPad I can still get my read on.

Stephen says:

My issue isn't the software... it's the screen... it's not even the brightness, I mean, the brightness is a problem, possibly the biggest problem when it comes to eye strain, artifacts, headaches and the other "difficulty" aspects... but it's also the contrast and the other intangibles... e-ink is just better for consuming large amounts of text... better contrast, better clarity, no strain, no artifacts, no headaches... look at a writing on a book (you know, made from paper) and then compare that to your iPad screen... then compare the book to your iPad screen with the brightness turned down... the iPad display just doesn't work for reading and the Kindle or the Nook or any other e-ink display does (not supporting any particular type of non-lit display and I'm using the term "e-ink" informally... just a regular guy who reads a lot for a living and likes to not get constant headaches)

Andy says:

I had a problem importing books that were downloaded originally for the Sony Reader. The books are in ePub and show up on the book shelf. But, when you try to open them they said "unknown format". Anyone get these type of books to work?

Sean says:

iBooks can't read ebooks, even ePub format, that have DRM from sources other than Apple. Currently Sony Readers use Adobe Content Servers DRM. They used to use their own proprietary DRM. It's the same thing as with the Kindle which only reads Amazon's proprietary DRM and same as the when the iPod started out. You can now buy millions of legal MP3 songs for the iPod from a variety of sources but the publishing industry is a few years behind the music industry. DRM free ebooks are not widely available. The publishing industry has not yet come to the conclusion that it is in their interest to make ebooks easier to use for their paying customers. They must not yet believe that barriers to device compatibility are more likely to limit their sales more than piracy will.

robinson says:

Stephen, my LED/LCD screen or my iPod Touch screens look a lot more like the paperback next to me here on my sofa than the Kindle's screen does! The Kindle reminds me of an early, old black and white calculator screen. And that flashing on page turning with it--don't get me started. Scientists who do ophthalmological research report LCD screens do NOT cause eye strain.
You really should try changing colors (text and background) and font size on the iPad. You can even set up a parchment or faded paperback background if that floats your boat! If you did your test in a store, then florescent lights are also a culprit! That light in stores is horrendous and it alone can give you eye strain...
Try it again; you just might like it!

Pearse says:

@ Robinson. Can you please point me in the direction of the research by these "Scientists who do ophthalmological research" who "report LCD screens do NOT cause eye strain" ... I would think you will not be able to find any of these research papers or studies because LCD is (as is ANYTHING with a backlight) a strain on the eye due to the unnatural source of light in comparison with the background light of the natural environment.

Egoiste says:

iBooks can read epub format. I have 3 on my iphone and ipad right now. If they do not have the DRM, you should have no problem. I even created my own from text files using Calibre for Mac OSX and opened with no problem in iBooks.

Julia says:

I can read for hours on my laptop, on my iPhone, and on the Kindle. But I too get terrible eyestrain on the iPad which I otherwise love. I am an early adopter of technology and not one prone to complaining about new technology, and I have tinkered around with the fonts and light level. But I still get a persistent sense of strain in my eyes after 10 minutes or so. It's possible that people respond differently and that there doesn't need to be One Absolute Best E-reader for Everybody. For those who mention the blah aesthetics of the Kindle, I completely agree - but when I'm reading a good book, the device itself disappears and I am just right in the book. Ultimately that's the goal with most fiction. But I know that with nonfiction that doesn't call for that kind of immersion, the aesthetic pleasures of the iPad far surpass the Kindle.

james h jackson jr says:

ill stick to hardcover books most of the islamic books ibuy and read arent on the kindle, nook, or the ipad a lot of books may ever come to those formats 30 years from now i can open the book vs hoping epub is still around to read mt ebooks then can lend the book to others and not having to buy a new gadget every time the 1 we have finally stops working so to me its a matter of those things and not finding the books i buy and read in the ebook stores and i dont have to worry about battery life with my book and my book wont have drm on its pages lol