imageWhere to start—in this first look at the iPad and some major e-reading apps for it? How about the new ones like iBooks and oldies like Stanza?

A 32G WiFi-only iPad, almost fresh off the jet from China, is resting on my lap as I type. And even as a fan of public domain e-books and author of a novel from a clueful, DRM-hating small publisher, I’m delighted.

No jokes about “hands-on” and the iPad name, please, and don’t be a jerk on the openness issue, either.The iPad is about much more than Apple’s control-freakish App Store and other failings. We’re talking grays, not absolute blacks and whites. Apple’s ePub-capable iBooks is just a one-minute download away on the iPad, for example.Since when has Amazon made the Kindle’s built-in software able to read the ePub standard without conversion software?

imageimageBut what about the iPad’s ergonomics and other first-look basics? Believe me, the iPad 9.7-inch high res screen will help even though I’ll keep my iPod Touch for MP3-playing and reads in the supermarket line. And the new apps tailored to the iPad will make it more than just overgrown iPod. With a gem of an app from National Public Radio, for example, you can more easily browse through the segment choices and view accompanying photos. Similarly on a 9.7-inch screen you may see more hits at once when you search within e-books. Difficult upgrade? No. In less than 45 minutes or so, I picked up 5Gs of apps, books and music from my Touch via iTunes although the Stanza titles unfortunately didn’t transfer this way.

Lurking somewhere out there, even on an Easter weekend, are a few other TeleRead readers with iPads on Day One. Go to our comments area below the continuation of this review, then pitch in with your own set of pros and cons. Whether you already own an iPad or not—let us know—do you think it will change the e-book scene? For better or worse?

Based on just a few hours with the iPad, here are my preliminary impressions.

As the owner of an Acer Aspire One netbook, I find that the text is sharper on the iPad. Besides, I’d rather use a tablet for e-reading—I don’t want the keyboard to get between me and The Education of Henry Adams (Google Books ePub shown earlier, via an iPad screenshot with the dictionary in use). If I were making plenty of annotations, I could plug the iPad into Apple’s keyboard-dock, which I’ll receive later this month.  Furthermore, Apple has given the screen enough sensors so that the touch feature is a pleasure.

Text-to-background contrast vs. E Ink’s? No comparison. The iPad shreds the Kindle and the others. And in standard room light, I do not feel any eyestrain so far and don’t expect to, even if I’m at the iPad hour after hour. That’s me. I know others would feel otherwise about.

Apple’s closed approach—its oft-shabby treatment of third-party apps, even those meeting technical standards—is the biggest drawback so far beyond the weight (1.5 pounds) and fragility of the iPad. I want the best apps up there regardless of whether Apple thinks they might compete with the sacred Jobs-blessed apps such as iTunes. But meanwhile, no, you won’t go to hell if you overspend and buy the iPad despite the outrageous prices of $499 and up. You’re simply paying an oversized early-adopter’s-tax. Meanwhile, you’ll be getting an idea of the possibilities for Android machines. And more immediately, you’ll be able to import your existing ePub books, as long as they are not DRM-infested (although it would help if the iPad worked with memory cards and weren’t so iTunes-centric). Even Apple isn’t Satan in full.

Devil-gizmo or not, the iPad will in fact be a scene-changer, at least as the prices drop from the current $499+ (16G WiFi-only model), and if you want to understand where e-books are going, the tax is worth it. Be glad this machine is around to spur innovation elsewhere. Cory Doctorow is usually right, but oh how wrong he was in his anti-iPad rant, even on details such as the ultimate longevity of the 10-hour battery (will the iPad really be “e-waste in a year or two”?)!

Most people will not buy the iPad for reading e-books; but what a way to entice them! In a minute, for example, after I fired up the NetFlix app and logged on to my account, I was watching a movie I’d started on my HDTV.  Add NetFlix to the zillion of other apps such games or reading or listening programs for news junkies, and you can literally see and hear the possibilities here. Dedicated readers like the Kindle are not going away, but multiuse devices will probably be the big show, as Amazon itself may have recognized in porting its Kindle app over to a variety of devices.

Books will become increasingly multimedia and cloud-based—stored on remote computers rather than just locally—and the iPad’s hardware is already powerful enough.

If nothing else, it’s even more capable overall than the TeleReader I envisioned in the early 1990s. I hope that public libraries will come out with their own apps—or work with vendors such as OverDrive, which, as I recall, is gearing up for the iPad—and use the existence of e-book-capable tablets as an argument for well-stocked national digital libraries. Early adopters’ taxes could help pave the way for lots and lots of iPad-style gizmos selling for a fraction of the price.

And now some random observations on the apps:

–Apple’s new iBooks program whips the just-released Kindle iPad app, if you forget that Amazon’s bookstore currently dwarfs Apple’s in size and that the K app can sync with the same Kindle-hardware software. I can change the font style with iBooks and even read in a dual-page mode; and the iPad app lets me blow up type larger—the Amazon rival . Exactly as billed, iBooks instantly downloaded Project Gutenberg books.

I’m just sorry that the read-aloud feature is apparently just for one given page, based on what I know. No wonder publishers didn’t object to the iPad’s TTS. Pathetic, Steve J!

Apple and Amazon should pool their legal resources, anti-trust laws permitting, to launch a major assault on the legal obstacles blocking read-outs of books from Random House and the like.

Meanwhile the right apps on the iPad, if I had my druthers, would let the device read public domain books aloud in their entirety—even now. Here’s hoping that the forthcoming BlioReader, designed with the disabled in mind, not the general population, will indeed be able to read books aloud in one swoop.

Stanza works great while filling up just part of the screen, and, yes, you can still download nonDRMed books from Feedbooks and a variety of other public domain and commercial sources. But full-sized, the characters are a bit blurry. However quixotic this may sound, I’m dearly wishing that Amazon will upgrade Stanza since it is  so much more flexible—in ways meaningful to me, anyway—than the Kindle app for the iPad. I’m using Stanza’s Aerial Rounded MT Bold just as I do on my iPod. In the 2X mode, enlarging the characters, it fares better than most other fonts. Less of a blur.

–The old eReader app for the iPhone and Touch will also look fuzzy but, like others, seems snappier with the iPad’s faster processor than with my Touch’s. B&N’s reader probably should be the same.

–Judging by the interface, Kobo’s new iPad app seems off to a promising start. What’s up with the Kobo  reader and public domain books? Not sure. If nothing else, I want to see if the Kobo can import books easily from other sources. Maybe commenters can tell me—I’ve focused on other issues.

–The bundled Safari Web browser is much more fun with a larger screen. I have mixed feelings about the lack of Flash; this could get in the way, but then Apple has done a public service in smoothing the way for HTML 5.

USA Today’s iPad app (no charge for now) has set the bar high for the others. The New York Times’ free rival contains just a  limited number of stories and doesn’t exploit the iPad’s color screen as well as MacPaper does.

NPR for the iPad definitely deserves the five stars that downloaders have given it so far. Too bad Apple currently won’t allow multitasking of third-party apps like this one. I’d love to read e-books or cruise the Web with my Pad while listening to All Things Considered or On the Media. The iPad’s audio isn’t perfect but still is better than I expected.

Finally, how about the WiFi models vs. the more expensive one with 3G wireless?  Depends. If you move around a lot, away from WiFi and can afford the 3G, go for it. But I’ve spent enough and decided that the additional storage was worth more to me. What’s more, given my iPad’s price, I’d rather not take it out in public, and risk a good mugging, more than I have to. My little iPod Touch will do fine for trips around town. Meanwhile the iPad’s lack of 3G will encourage me to keep it safely at home.

To sum up, I’m put off by Apple’s closed approach and the iPad’s price and fragility but am in love with the interface, faster execution of apps, overall convenience and the iPad’s possibilities in general, for both me and society in general (not to exclude the forthcoming rivals!).

I strongly recommend that you consider the iPad if you can easily afford tech toys or if you want to understand better where e-books are headed—both the conventional variety and the multimedia and in-the-cloud varieties. Sorry about that early adopters’ tax, of course. I don’t like it either and might not have plunked down $600+ for my iPad if I lacked professional reasons to buy it, as both a book-crazed writer and follower of the technical side of the e-book scene. But oh how glad I am to own one.Yep, I’d even recommend a look at the iPad if you’re a hardcore techie—writing code for the real world, not just your buddies. If you want to sell your products or services to a market beyond the uber-Net-hip, and if your budget allows, the iPad may well be worth your attention. If nothing else, using one may give you a head start in coming up with more open Android approach that I hope will ultimately prevail.

Once again: Whether you own an iPad or not, use our comments area to share your thoughts with TeleRead Editor Paul Biba and me! If you’re using an iPad already, what are your observations and insights on the iPad’s treatment of your pet apps and the news ones?

Now—ouch!—back to taxes.

Related: Google and Techmeme roundups on the iPad—and more on the iPad and e-books in particular. Also see iPad charging tips from MacWorld.

And a reminder: I’m the former editor-publisher of TeleRead and speak only for myself.


  1. Tried one out at Best Buy since I am waiting for my 3G model. Awesome! This is what I was waiting for. The speed of page turning is on the money. It does not feel like I am waiting for anything to happen or that it’s fine but could be better. We will see though.

    Will give a full review once I have my 3G rocking iPad.

  2. I see no reason to invest in an iPad when the Notion Ink Adam is expected this year. Android is far more capable than the iPad OS and the Adam’s specs blow the iPad’s away. The Pixel Qi screen is sure to make for a better reading experience, as well, given how well it performs in direct sunlight.

  3. How did you get your non drm ‘d epubs onto the iPad? iTunes crashes when I drag them to the iPad. I can’t find a way to import them through iBook. Every app seems to require a different method to bring files onto the device. Goodreader can use dropbox and ip addresses but it’s complicated to set up. Any way to just drag and drop the files and have the right app find them?

  4. Teddypig: Thanks! Keep us posted on every bleepin’ detail about your forthcoming iPad—pros and cons! And if you go ahead with a review for Paul in the main part of the TeleRead blog, so much the better.

    Meanwhile I’m also eager to learn about other TeleRead community members’ iPad experiences! Perhaps they, too, can share tentative impressions based on Best Buy visits.

    I’m busy as all get-out with non-e-book stuff, and of course the iPad isn’t the Second Coming that some say; but it is indeed of great importance to e-bookdom. Just can’t resist doing the current write-up. I like to spread good news when it’s merited.


  5. Received my iPad this morning and soon found that my expectations were largely met, unfortunately.

    I have never before owned, or even touched, any Apple product, and this fact has probably added 10 years to my lifespan due to reduced frustration.

    Is there any other other company so arrogant that it is willing to supply a consumer product without a single word of paper reference or machine label?

    I happened to stumble across the User Guide pdf at one of the Apple sites, so I wasn’t completely stymied, but would it have it been so unthinkable to supply a url for it? Even then, the results of plugging in the cable were instructions hidden beneath the pdf User Guide on my desktop. It seems rather clumsy to enter a long WIFI password while being required to switch the kb mode back and forth between letters and numbers.

    I wanted to give the unit the benefit of the doubt, and I’m still hopeful that a small number of applications will make it all worthwhile.

    Random observations :

    1. It often occured during problems with sign-ins that it would take several seconds of an error display before it would finally agree that my entry was correct.

    2. Either I have a unit with an erratic touch screen, or it is part of the interface design that the same touch sequence isn’t meant to produce the same result. For example, it is hard to produce the font size menu for the Amazon Kindle for iPad and equally hard to make it work reliably once it appears.

    3. The combination of the weight and small general font size seems to give me problems with my back and neck within 15 minutes.

    4. I find it fundamentally strange that the high size ratio of even my small fingers to the small links on a typical blog roll leaves it unlikely that I can precisely choose the desired link reliably.

    5. Overall, the text is very sharp, but it has to be with its typical tiny size.

    6. I find that it is even difficult to be sure of getting he right key on the portrait keyboard. I suspect that this is partially due to the capacitive keyboard as it has no definite distinct barriers.

    7. It seems that it is almost a requirement that apps have no or minimal documentation.

    Presumably things would have been better if I had been pre-programmed with an iPhone.

    Regards, Don

  6. @Don Lloyd re. issues with touchscreen accuracy/responsiveness:

    My partner described the same frustrations when I first gave him my old 3G iPhone last summer. I watched him interact with it and noticed he was pressing on the screen rather hard with his fingernail. I realized he was assuming the touchscreen would function the way resistive touchscreens have always functioned (exactly the way I had to press to get things done on my Nokia 5800 a year ago) so I encouraged him to use the pad of his finger and trust that the software was smart enough to interpret big squishy fingerpad presses in a precise way. His opinion of the touchscreen immediately improved.

    I don’t know if that’s your story as well, but I thought I’d share.

  7. > Presumably things would have been better if I had been pre-programmed with an iPhone.

    Very possibly, Don; but I still suspect that the iPad will be easier for the nontechnical to use than other tablets. Overall my iPad experience has been much nicer than yours; I do wonder if your unit has defects, or whether your Net connect might have caused the delayed error messages. I will agree with you about the Kindle font adjustment problem; thanks for the jog. I wonder if others are experiencing them. But it’s something I can get used to.

    I do think written documentation for the iPad would help (although the apps are so darned simple I’m not sure about the need), and I agree that the virtual keyboard is less than optimal—the reason I pointed people to the keyboard dock (the iPad will also work with BlueTooth keyboards). Of course in the portrait mode the KB is more usable.

    Weight? I’ve already said the iPad could be lighter. I would not be surprised if the next gen were. But for reading at home, as I see it, the iPad is the winner regardless of the weight, especially with the machine resting on my lap. The Kindle screen lacks enough text-to-background contast. For toting around, I’ll use my iPod Touch.

    Big thanks for giving the other side, Don! But for me, anyway, the iPad beats the Kindle by a long shot.

    Looking forward to hearing from others—whether pro- or anti-iPad.

    Happy iPadding!

  8. @Spider and @Fugubot…

    Spider: Navigation and aesthetics and ergonomics in general are better with the iPad’s newspaper apps, etc., than the raw Web. That’s why Web browsing alone and even Calibre-ing are not the same. A matter of opinion. BTW, for some reason WordPress wouldn’t let me approve your Web-vs.-app comment, so I’ll reproduce it in full below.

    As for Android, I join you in rooting for its success. But meanwhile the iPad is doing a helluva job in increasing interest in e-books. If Jobs doesn’t loosen up on the iPad just as he did with DRMed iTunes offerings, the market will shift to Android tablets or othres. I predict that eventually Apple will be more reasonable if people keep speaking up. So have at it! Same on the feature issue. Of course, not every user will insist on the features you want.

    The iPad’s LCD vs. PixelQi displays? I need to see the latter before I can make a judgment.

    Just keep in mind that we’re talking more than specs—sheer usability matters. That’s where, in my opinion, though you and Don are welcome to disagree, the iPad shines.

    @Fugubot: Try the file-names approach as a way to get the books into iTunes (an aside for late-comers: the books won’t display except on the iPad). Keep us posted on your problem and any solutions. As I recall, you can even import entire folders of ePub books into iTunes.

    Thanks, both of you, and keep the comments coming about both the pros and cons of the iPad! I’ll probably have to stop due to taxes, non-TeleRead stuff, etc., but others can continue.

    Happy iPadding (for those so inclined),

    Spider’s comments:

    Submitted on 2010/04/03 at 7:42pm
    Simply ridiculous. Why wouldn’t people simply use the browser to access the web version instead of using the app if it saves them almost $10 per month? If you wanted to download content for offline reading you could still use a program like Calibre to compile the content into an ePub or Mobi file.

  9. I just read for about an hour on it, and man, it really gets heavy. I noticed that about the DX as well, which is why I prefer the K2 (or Nook, etc). This device feels even heavier than the DX, and the shape combined with the slippery surface seem to add to the strain. Awesome device over all no doubt about it, and I anticipate carrying it around in my pack and pulling it out often. But I think I’d choose any of the mid-size eInk devices over it for any “long” reading sessions, e.g on a plane, in bed, etc.

  10. I got my 16gGB this afternoon and have tried three readers. Kindle, iBooks, and eReader. The Apple app is a little snappier at first glance, but without more experimentation, it isn’t overwhelmingly better than the Kindle app. Amazon has the books I want to read and I’ve already have many purchased but unread. There is little good reason to switch.

    The Fictionwise eReader on the iPad is too fuzzy for me on the free samples given with the download. Too bad, I’ve still got unread books on my account there and I’d like them to release an iPad version.

    Also, I do think ink is easier on the eyes. But the Kindle app brightness is turned down and sepia color looks good, so maybe over time I’ll get used to the LCD for long form reading.

    This note was submitted on theiPad, by the fireplace, with a sleeping cat on me.

  11. Initial thoughts (after 2 hours of usage).

    Great design and organization.

    Where is a decent RSS reader?

    IBIS ebook reader looks decent (although you have to download a 50 MB initial file.

    my fiction site looks great in landscape mode, not so great in portrait mode.

    In the app store, I like how user reviews go up and down while screenshots go left and right. Good use of screen size.

    Comic books on the marvel site look awesome. comic type books will shine on this platform.

  12. Hope this is appropriate. I’m waiting for a 3G iPad and my biggest question which no article seems to have addressed is this:

    Since I already own a Touch and an iPhone, I have a ton of apps. When I first plug in the iPad, how will I keep all of these apps from syncing with the iPad? When I click on Apps in the toolbar, will it present me with blank little boxes next to each so that I can choose, or does it default to checking all the boxes? If the latter, eeek!

  13. Honestly, I don’t see this is a viable substitute for a dedicated ebook reader. I went to Best Buy and fondled it and thought it quite heavy but then again, we can all adapt/adjust accordingly. I still prefer my dedicated ereader though. Comic books is a big draw for me if I were to get an iPad for myself. If only it wasn’t just Marvel. I read a lot of DC Comics myself + indies. I do realize that the iPad is much more than it’s ereading capabilities but to buy it solely for that alone: no.

  14. One app for David and other iPad owners to check out is SplitBrowser. I don’t know why, but Apple approved it. It lets you view 2 websites side by side on the iPad. So you could have streaming radio from one site, or NPR news, and be reading the Times on another site, simultaneously.

    @Robert Nagle: do you find that old comics are readable in full page (portrait) view on the iPad? I’m really worried that only a 12″ screen would show them big enough to read. Right now my best solution is reading them on a 26″ HDTV monitor off a thumbdrive. But holding a slate in my lap with my whole collection would be the ideal, if the slate is big enough.

  15. I come with questions.

    As a large print reader, I’m interested to hear what the situation is concerning font size in the various e-reader apps for iPad. I read at 28 point in Arial Rounded MT Bold, which would be doable in a screen the size of iPad, but do iPad e-readers offer fonts that size? And does anyone besides Stanza offer Arial Rounded MT Bold? I’ve surfed and surfed, but nobody seems to be talking about fonts on the iPad except in general terms. I need specifics, please. 🙂

    Am also interested in hearing more about the file-moving and file storage situation with various e-readers. Having never used a mobile device, I find the lack of a USB port a little scary.

  16. From the User Guide :

    “The onscreen keyboard appears automatically anytime you need to type. Use the
    keyboard to enter text, such as contact information, email, and web addresses. The
    keyboard corrects misspellings, predicts what you’re typing, and learns as you use it.”

    It may be my lack of imagination, but this seems to be a lie. For at least some blogs, trying to enter a comment/reply doesn’t seem to bring forth a keyboard.
    Maybe I need to triple tap with the left hand or something. If it weren’t so much work I’d go back and try a double tap, but someone should know.

    Thanks, Don

  17. Hi David,

    The kb appears if a comment requires a sign-in.

    The problem is if I am already signed in on a general, permanent basis and all that is addressed is the text box, which cannot be filled without a kb.

    Thanks, Don

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