A few miscellaneous thoughts on iPad reading

I’ve come across a lot of articles about reading on the iPad lately, and thought I’d pass along some of them with some thoughts:

  • Jakob Nielsen doesn’t think the iPad is that cool in terms of usability. I dunno, seems a little like he’s a hater, though Nielsen does raise some interesting points about how the iPad exhibits the growing pains of moving from one kind of literacy technology to another.
  • How to self-publish a book for iPad. Really, how to self-publish a book for ePub format period.  This combined with this NYTimes editorial from Garrison Keillor, “The End of an Era in Publishing,” makes me think.  On the one hand, I don’t think that “self-publishing” is automatically going to spell the end of publishing business simply because there has always been self-publishers trying to get their work out there. Some were, for their time, pretty successful too– I believe Leaves of Grass was initially self-published.  On the other hand, this certainly changes the ease and scale of delivery possible with self-published electronic books.  Print something up on paper and your distribution point is pretty much limited to the street corner, maybe the trunk of your car; make an ePub book and the distribution point becomes international.
  • An interesting review of reading on the iPad, comparing iBooks, Kindle, and GoodReader. I personally think the differences between iBook and Kindle are pretty negligible, and really, Kindle has two possible advantages right now.  First, amazon.com/Kindle has A LOT more books available than Apple/iBooks.  Second, I can read Kindle books in multiple places.  So, for example, I have been reading (very slowly, in fits and starts) The Omnivore’s Dilemma on Kindle.  Sometimes, I read it on my iPad, but as often (maybe more often, since I do this at the gym while on the stationary bike) I read it on my iPhone.  What’s nice about Kindle is the book syncs up to my place.
  • I think a lot of the “love of the object” of the book is sort of misplaced, sort of like the sentiments in this NYTimes editorial, “Further Thoughts of a Novice E-Reader.” Verlyn Klinkenborg is mostly lamenting the loss of paper and look, probably smell and touch too.  Interestingly, it seems to me that a lot of what’s going on with the iPad is also a love (or hate) of the object.  I don’t think that the iPad or other tablets is going to completely eliminate the sort of fine books that Klinkenborg feels she (or he?  what is Verlyn?) might miss, but what might be a good thing is that these devices might save a lot of trees.  As the post “To Kindle or not to Kindle?” from “Limited Prerogatives” points out, a lot of those wonderfully smelling and feeling paper books end up wasting a lot of trees.  She quotes a NYTimes article about how the book and newspaper industries harvested something like 125 million trees, and something like about a third of books printed are returned to the publisher and/or “pulped.”
  • And while I don’t have any links to it, I’ve heard some interesting reactions to the Wired iPad App, which I (of course!) bought.  I don’t think it’s fair to complain about it because of all of the ads, because a) the print version of Wired is basically a Geek Glamour magazine, intensely heavy on ads that many of its readers actually want to read; b) a lot of the ads are pretty cool and interactive, and c) it’s how magazine publishers make money (dirty little secret).  I don’t think it’s fair to complain that it is just the print version on the iPad since I never had a print version of Wired that included video and audio.  And I also think it’s only a little fair to complain about how the Wired iPad app doesn’t allow for “cut and paste” copying or bookmarking, because while I would agree that these features would be nice, Wired is not exactly the kind of thing I read to “cut and paste” from.  Besides, they still have a web site.

    What I thought was more interesting with the new Wired App and all of these other things is how they are the latest in a long history of what happens when we make the transition from one literacy technology to another.  A number of people talk about this with the transition from early handwritten manuscripts into printed books:  at first, the printed books looked a lot like the handwritten ones, but then, after people figured out the capabilities of the technology, they looked different.  We still call web pages “pages” because they initially looked a lot like “words in a row” pages with some links, and once we figured out the technology, they ended up looking a lot different.

    But I’m not going to keep paying $5 a pop for it.  They either are going to have to set up some sort of subscription service (the print version delivered was about a third of the price on the newsstand), or they are going to have to drop the price for me to be a regular reader.

  • Finally, I downloaded and installed onto my iPad (as part of my iBooks library) Cory Doctorow’s new YA book For the Win. Despite his dislike of the iPad, I like Doctorow’s thinking and writing a lot, and I very much admire his practice of putting books up online for free.  But the iPad and similar devices raise an interesting question about the sustainability of this practice:  before the iPad, I might have been inclined to buy one of Doctorow’s paper books because as a matter of convenience and form, I would much rather read the paper book than the PDF (or whatever) on my computer screen.  As a result, Doctorow (and his publishers) would still sell a lot of books.  But if I’m inclined to read one of his books on an iPad or similar device anyway, why would I do anything but download the free version?  In other words, since the “free” version is no longer is a means of selling/promoting the “not free” version, how long will it be before Doctorow starts charging something to download the ePub from his site?
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