I’ve had my iPad for a few weeks now and have used it to purchase and read several books. The overall experience has been excellent. Buying books through Amazon, B&N, and iBooks is a snap and the convenience of getting a title downloaded and ready to read in less than ten seconds is really compelling. I even found myself buying the electronic version when a used copy was available for less. I justified this by telling myself that the author would get paid (unlike with a used book) and a little less carbon would be spewed bringing the book to my door, but really it was more a matter of waiting a week for something I wanted vs. getting it RIGHT NOW. Delayed gratification? Ha!
Reading on the iPad is quite pleasant. I was worried that the screen would cause eye-strain so I bought an anti-glare film for it but I don’t think it’s really necessary (although it does keep scratches at bay and makes cleaning fingerprints easier). So far I have not had any discomfort, even after reading sessions lasting 5-6 hours. Additional benefits of apps like Kindle and iBooks include the ability to increase font sizes (very useful for those with diminished eyesight), adjustable brightness, highlighting and appending notes to the text, and bookmarks to easily return to passages you want to refer back to. Drawbacks include the weight of the iPad which, over time, can be quite a burden on your arms. Holding the iPad is also tricky as it is very sleek– I bought a folio that has a hand strap which helps a bit. As for reading in direct sunlight, the iPad’s glossy screen simply has too much glare to be useful.
Besides the epub format, there are apps available for reading PDFs and other file types (one of the ebooks I bought had some minor formatting errors, but nothing too distracting). The on-screen keyboard is fine for light note taking but would be pretty irritating for extended writing projects.
One thing that I hadn’t anticipated was the increasing amount of magazines that are available for the iPad. I’ve subscribed to Electric Literature and several other literary e-mags and found them to be really well done, often incorporating music, video, and audio-readings to complement the text itself. Comics on the iPad also look terrific.
Finally there are other benefits for word-lovers– Crossword puzzles (a subscription to the NY Times crosswords is $17 a year and also gives access to all of their previous puzzles), word games, and reference material (the collected works of Shakespeare is a free app, is searchable, and has font increase/decrease). Lengthy web articles can be saved for later reading with a program like Instapaper, a very useful tool. The iPad is also great for getting your daily news from RSS sources or applications like the NY Times Editor’s choice or the excellent NPR app.
Despite some irritations with the iPad’s OS (no multi-tasking, clunky email reader, etc., which the upcoming iOS release should solve), I’ve found the iPad to be a terrific device for reading. A stylus is a necessary addition for navigating websites and doing other tasks– there are lots of stylii now available– as is a well-designed case. Battery life is as promised (about 10 hours or so). It wont replace a full-sized notebook but it does have lots of advantages over a netbook. It’s an expensive purchase (for me at least) but if your needs fit in with what the iPad offers, I think you will be as pleased as I am.