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Apple iPad - iBooks & Magazines

Andy Vandervell

By Andy Vandervell

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

7

Though the native apps are the bread and butter of the iPad, it's the new iBooks app (and semi-associated interactive magazines) that will ultimately drive the potential success of the iPad. Apple has every intention of making the iPad to books, and publishing as a whole, what the iPod was (and is) to music. Given this fact it seems odd that iBooks isn't installed as standard, instead it's a free download from the App Store that comes with a copy of A.A. Milne's, Winnie-the-Pooh.

Nonetheless it's an essential download, as the application itself is simply outstanding. Not only is it visually charming, arranging books into a virtual bookshelf and mimicking the look and feel of a book, it's packed with attention to detail that makes it a joy to use. Small things, such as the counter that tells you how many pages remain in a chapter, are great touches, as is the ability to quickly look-up dictionary definitions and search Wikipedia and Google straight from the app. Such features add a level of depth and sophistication missing from eBook readers like the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader PRS-600 Touch Edition.

Accompanying this is the inevitable iBookstore, which is pretty similar in format to iTunes and the App Store. Buying books is very slickly handled, even allowing for reasonable size samples to be downloaded before you decide to buy. At this point, however, the weakness of the store is its library. Official numbers suggest a catalogue of 60,000 books, of which around half are from the Project Gutenberg free eBook service, but independent assessments suggest the figure is closer to 45,000.

In either case it's a far cry from the 500,000+ books currently on sale on Amazon's Kindle store, so Apple has a long way to go before it becomes anything close to comprehensive. Of course Amazon has its own Kindle application for the iPad as well, so it's not a pure either/or decision, but the Kindle application isn't anything like as polished and enjoyable as iBooks is.

Another question is whether the iPad is the right kind of device to read books on. Compared to eBook readers and their paper-like displays, it's difficult to read on the iPad in bright sunlight unless it's at full brightness, and even then there are reflections and fingerprints to distract you. eBook readers also benefit from battery life that can be measured in days rather than hours, though the iPad doesn't do too badly itself. Really pummel it and it will still go 10 hours or more before a charge, while more real-world (semi-regular) use should ensure battery life approaching 24, 36 or maybe even 48 hours at a push.

Finally, there's also the question of eye-strain to contend with, since a backlit LCD will unavoidably put strain on your eyes over a prolonged period. Reading for just an hour or two is unlikely to be a problem, but more prodigious readers (and anyone who's more sensitive to such issues) may disagree. You'll want to purchase a case for your iPad, too, since the smooth aluminium back makes it slippery to hold.

So the jury might still be out for reading books on the iPad, but there's no doubt that it could herald a whole new lease of life for magazines and newspapers. There are various examples of dedicated apps, such as USA Today, Popular Science and the Zinio viewer app, which demonstrate the potential. By far the best example, though, is Time magazine's dedicated app. It brings the magazine format into a completely different, interactive light that showcases the potential for media designed specifically for large-format tablets.

Lance Uppercut

May 7, 2010, 3:59 pm

It does seem a bit of a mish mash, but I still want one.

Jones

May 7, 2010, 4:05 pm

Good revie, one that's changed my opinion on the iPad slightly. I had this written off but reading through the review I can definately see the potential for future generations (or in software updates). The iBook reader looks like a joy.





I have sort of understoof Apples reluctance to allow multi tasking on the iPhone but I do think it is a missed opportunity on the iPad. Im sure the usual replies of battery life limitations, slow performance and what not will be used but why not set a cap on open applications then?





The functionality of Apple's products tend to eventually catch up with my expectations so looking forward to what they churn out in 2 or 3 years time but this is way over priced for how I would use the device in its current form. Wont be the case for others (millions!) though.

rav

May 7, 2010, 4:11 pm

What's the value score based on given that we don't have UK pricing yet?





For me personally it's far too limited and overpriced but no doubt for others who can't wait 20 seconds for their laptops to resume it's perfect.

Alvin

May 7, 2010, 4:11 pm

looks aesthetically nice and works.. however no flash.. and sitting requirement to use the on screen keyboard at a decent speed = fail in my opinion. When would it actually be used? at home? (desktop/laptop/notebook) on the go? (smartphone) If it were used on the go, it would require carrying a bag when sometimes you don't even need one...

Runadumb

May 7, 2010, 4:15 pm

That the UI is slick as hell, im sure it goes a long way to whoo people into buying it. Also I wonder about eye strain from reading on an LCD screen, is it really an issue? Im sure outdoor reading would be much more of a problem.


I do wonder if my current monthly publications went fully digital with their own apps would such a device start to maybe begin to kinda interest me...sorta. I could imagine PCgamer with trailers embedded in the review, interviews with video and such like. Would push them into spending more though I guess and may not be worth it. Also would this really improve the experience or would it feel unnecessary?


I certainly don't want one now and most of the current uses Ive heard seem absurd to me but maybe it really is the beginning or a viable product. Just for the love of god people don't, DON'T say it replaces your pc/Laptop because it damn well doesn't.

Runadumb

May 7, 2010, 4:15 pm

Oh forgot to add, wheres the podcast?

Malderon

May 7, 2010, 4:17 pm

A really nice balanced review. I'm a bit of an Apple hater, but I think in my heart I knew that the iPad wasnt going to be a terrible device. The software is proven, and the hardware and design impressive (with the exception of ommitting some important ports). But I think its also clear that the device as it is now is certainly not a game changer in the way the original iphone was. I think if another company had made this exact product then it would be impressive but niche, but the apple brand will lead to wider adoption than it perhaps deserves.

Jonas

May 7, 2010, 4:54 pm

A tablet that cant multitask gets a 8 for performance...really?





Other than that, very nice review, one of the few fair and objective ones that i have cn.

BOFH UK

May 7, 2010, 5:42 pm

Review seems fair, although I'd have liked to see consideration of how well it works for the less-technical user that is going to make up a fair old chunk of the userbase for not just the iPad but all of these mobile OS tablets.





Two things do jump out as missing though: 1) Web browsing. This is kinda a core element of the iPad and I didn't see it mentioned anywhere. Yes, it doesn't do flash but what does the browsing experience actually feel like? 2) A fair evaluation of eInk. This is hardly unique to TrustedReviews but we do see a LOT of reviews pick up on the downsides of LCD versus eInk displays (direct sunlight, battery life) but very little about the major downsides of eInk versus LCD (refresh times and, most importantly, that eInk displays are just as unusable without an external light source as LCD's are in direct sunlight).

Retset

May 7, 2010, 5:45 pm

I love my iPhone, my (gaming) laptop and desktop. However, I fail to see any need for an over-sized iPod Touch - certainly no need for one in the Retset household.





I understand the Spirit jailbreak (worked a treat on my 3.1.3 iPhone 3GS) will JB the iPad and so people can multitask whilst waiting for 4.0. However, and this will probably come out wrong, I reckon the sort of people buying it are not the same sort of people who will be JBing it ...





One day digital magazines and books will achieve a critical mass. This is when such a device will really rock.

Andy C 1

May 7, 2010, 6:07 pm

Well done on a balanced review. Yes, OK there were a few things missing perhaps, as detailed above. But I for one am gratified that the review was balanced and, well, trustworthy. I look forward to deciding whether to be an early adopter or not.





A question; Is there anywhere one can go to see the books which are on sale from the bookstore now, to try to ascertain whether this will be usable at this time?





Thanks.

Jones

May 7, 2010, 6:20 pm

I had a sleep at my desk over lunch and had a dream that Footy Manager was brought to the iPad - I mean a full PC version. Forgetting the fact that I can get away with sleeping at my desk at work I woke up thinking that that would probably sway me into buying one!

Cliff

May 7, 2010, 6:27 pm

Runadumb,





The podcast is now live at http://www.trustedreviews.com/...

Aidan5ea

May 7, 2010, 6:30 pm

* 16GB WiFi-only £429


* 32GB WiFi-only £499


* 64GB WiFi-only £599


* 16GB WiFi+3G £529


* 32GB WiFi+3G £599


* 64GB WiFi+3G £699

lensmann

May 7, 2010, 6:52 pm

This is an excellent review{*} guys - no hyperbole, no hype, just a balanced summary of the device's strengths and weaknesses. So the gadget's definitely not for power-users as yet, but the 3rd or 4th generation iPad (and its Android / MeeGoo / other equivalents) just might be.





{*} (known in Applese as a magical review)

Kieran

May 7, 2010, 7:00 pm

Can i just ask what the appeal is in ebook readers (i don't read so i think im missing the point somewhere)





You pay £300+ for a reader (in the case of the ipad)then you "PAY" for the books on top of that at the same price you can buy then in a shop without the need to buy a £300 piece of equipment.





I wacthed the video review and the biggest impression i got was its main selling point is as a reader, and i wouldn't personally pay over 300 quid on something to read a book.

Chris

May 7, 2010, 8:20 pm

@Aidan:


Really?!?





£429 for the base model? At £90 less they might be onto something, but that's ridiculous, though not entirely surprising.





@Kieran:


a) Average ebook readers cost less than £300


b) The iPad does a lot more than just read books, or else it would be competitive, as you point out.


c) It's convenient to be able to carry 100 books around with you, and that's got to be worth something. Add to that the usability and convenience features that an ebook reader brings (bookmarks, navigation, search for text, instant purchases, etc.)


d) Ebooks are hideously overpriced, but there's a decent free catalogue and hopefully the prices will come down in time.

Tim Evans

May 7, 2010, 8:44 pm

I'm wring this on my iPad now and sort of agree with most of the review apart from the stuff on the multitasking because that's a bit of a mute point now. You can see in OS4 that it's coming and you cab Spirit jailbreak the iPad to use backgrounder. The iPad seems to have quite a lot of memory to run background apps. I have Spotify, early Edition and Safari all working well.

GoldenGuy

May 7, 2010, 9:08 pm

@Aidan





I've been toying with iPad price projections as well, and I agree with that entry point of about £425-£429 too.





For what it's worth, I converted the US iPad prices based on the exchange rate on April 20, plus an average 7.25% Sales Tax, so this is roughly what the US pays :





16GB iPad £349


32GB iPad £419


64GB iPad £489


16GB + 3G iPad £440


32GB + 3G iPad £510


64GB + 3G iPad £580





If you replace that average sales tax with our VAT instead, I got this :





16GB iPad £384


32GB iPad £461


64GB iPad £539


16GB + 3G iPad £485


32GB + 3G iPad £561


64GB + 3G iPad £639





Once you throw on top the anomalies of the dreaded 'Apple Tax', 'Being British Tax', and 'We Prefer Psychologically Satisfying Numbers Tax', I basically agree with your figures.

Hugo

May 7, 2010, 9:18 pm

Kieran - eBook readers are awesome because I can carry one device that is no less portable than a single reasonable-size paperback and much smaller than a hardback, but which contains hundreds, if not thousands, of books. Also, eBook readers save the effort of covering a copy of "Harry Potter" or "Twlight" with the dust cover of "A Tale of Two Cities" - an important consideration, I am sure you will agree.

Leonardo

May 7, 2010, 9:21 pm

I'd like to second what many have already said and also praise you guys at TR for a fair, balanced review of a very divisive product.





However, I also agree with people who have said the review could have been a bit more comprehensive. I'd be interested in your opinions regarding web browsing, the audio experience (is the iPad not Mono?), and the ergonomics of the device. You mention the aluminium back being a bit slippy, does the weight and thinness of the device make it difficult or painful to hold for longer periods?

Ataripower

May 7, 2010, 11:35 pm

Great review!


2 killer uses for me have pursuaded me to buy this:


1. A superb living room SONOS controller


2. A Slingbox client enabling me to watch my TV anywhere using the Slingmedia app





Also considered the only other alternative, the JooJoo but lacks the two requirements above

Aidan5ea

May 8, 2010, 12:58 am

@Chris, @GoldenGuy





Not a guess with pricing - http://www.engadget.com/2010/0...

Kieran

May 8, 2010, 2:16 am

@Hugo. fair enough I don't read books so I just probably looked over the practically of it

hankb6d

May 8, 2010, 3:00 am

The Ipad does have sex appeal judging from the import in our office. Among the geek girls it has serious pulling power the only shame is the sales rep is gay. Well maybe he swings both ways that is one nice feature the Ipad owns.





Nice but hideously overpriced I will stick to a netbook thanks.

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