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You can read opinions about Apple’s iPad elsewhere. Here I ask if it is the eBook reader to lead the way from print to a paperless digital future.

The iPad is a serious contender and likely to displace Amazon’s Kindle from pole position. While the iPad in its current form is still short of ideal, it nudges ebooks nearer the goal.

Consumers will buy the device regardless of its suitability as an ebook reader. So the iPad could be the breakthrough ebook. My comments relate only to Apple’s iPad as an ebook reader.

How I rate the iPad as an eBook reader:

Its size is right. The iPad is lightweight, slim and big enough for comfortable reading.

I’ve doubts over the way Apple sells ebooks – the company clips the ticket too hard. Publishers will feel they have little choice but to conform.

Ten hours battery life is at the low-end of acceptability. It may handle a long-distance flight, other readers do better.

At 9.7 inches, the display size is right. Colour is good. The screen resolution at 1024-by-768-pixel is less than ideal for long-term text reading – I’ve seen reports of either 100 or 115 dots per inch (dpi). I’m indebted to Bruce Hoult (@brucehoult) who twitters a simple calculation sqrt(1024^2+768^)/9.7 shows resolution is 132 DPI.

While this is better than the PC standard 72 dpi, it means tired eyes. Likewise the LED-backlit display is less than ideal.

Apple’s price is respectable for a multi-function device able to handle many applications, but at US$499 plus, the iPad is an expensive eBook reader.

My first impression is it needs a lower price, better display and improved battery life if the iPad is to become a serious threat to the printed book – these are all matters Apple may address in coming months.

Scorecard (out of ten):

Physical size and weight:9
eBook sales and distribution:7 (with reservations)
Battery life6
Display characteristics8


These opinions are based on media reports – I haven’t yet touched the device.

3 thoughts on “Does Apple’s iPad pass muster as an ebook reader?

  1. Bill: The iPad display uses IPS (In Plane Switching) to give a much higher contrast ratio than normal backlit displays. It should be very readable.

    • A high contrast ratio is important, but the display is still going to be more tiring on the eyes than print. Of course the great majority of people simply won’t care about this.

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