What follows are some thoughts about a realisation that I first had several months back, and which I find myself consider once again today (2012-01-02). The realisation is simple enough; I seem to be reading more books since I got my iPad.
Reading Web Content
I’ve always done a lot of reading on my iPad, from the moment I got it. Even before I had my own I borrowed the iPad from work for a few weeks (in order to get a feel for how I’d use it) and I did a lot of reading on it.
One of the primary things I do with my iPad is process my RSS feeds. Some of the feeds I read in place (typically the short stuff) while going through the new articles, but many are saved to Read It Later where I can view a simplified view of the articles without all the extra cruft that many websites have, including advertisements. I’ve always read a lot of web content, comprised mostly of blog posts and articles from various sources of interest to me. Prior to getting the iPad I would read all of this content on my computer, so aside from shifting the activity to the iPad nothing much has changed with regard to reading web content.
What I’ve noticed that has changed, is that I’m reading more books than I typically would prior to getting the iPad, and I’m using the iPad to do that reading. When I say books, I’m referring to any content that would normally be found in a typical paperback or hard cover physical book, be it fiction or non-fiction. It so happens that all the books I’ve read on my iPad so far have been novels, but I have a few non-fiction books lined up to be read at some point and I’m planning to read at least one of them during 2012.
I’d noticed that my book reading had dropped of considerably in the last several years so at the start of 2011 I set myself the goal of reading six books (one of which I’d started in 2010). I ended up finishing eight. Based on that positive indication and the fact I still have a number of books I’d like to read, I’m aiming to finish eight books this year (three of which I started at some point in 2011). Even if I reach this goal I’ll still have a backlog of books that I want to read, but at least I’ll have put a sizeable dent in the pile.
So Why Am I Reading More?
The following are some of my thoughts on why I think I’ve started to read more books since getting an iPad. I’ve not spent vast amounts of time trying to self analyse all of this, but after several hours of thought over the better part of a year, I think it would be fair to say that these points make up most of the reasons for which I’ve started reading more books.
- Because I still like to read books: I still have a goodly number of books I want to read eventually, and I’ve been meaning to try to read more for some time. I think the iPad combined with a little will power and the following points have finally come together to produce a scenario in which I want to read books a bit more.
- Because it’s another cool thing I can do with my iPad: It seems shallow, but there it is. There’s still a small part of me that finds using the iPad to do something is cool, and reading ebooks on it is one of the things that falls into the “feels cool” category.
- The convenience factor: Since the ebooks I have are on the same device that I’m often holding for a variety of reasons (playing a game, reading articles etc), switching to reading a book is simple and easy. I also find using the iPad easier than holding a book. I have a Book Bag (like a small bean bag) which I place in my lap and sit the iPad on. Since I don’t have to hold the iPad’s weight that aspect doesn’t bother me, and it’s real nice to not have to use both hands to hold the book open. Call me uncoordinated if you will, but I’ve never felt comfortable holding most paperbacks open with one hand, and doing so tend to promote bending the book enough to break the spine, something I hate). And holding a book with one hand is almost never an option with hard cover books, which are large and heavy in my experience.
There are a number of pros and cons that come from using the iPad to read books, a (probably) incomplete list of which follows.
- ebooks don’t take up any physical: This is nice for someone like myself who has aspirations towards minimalism, and who just doesn’t want to have to lug a large library around if I move. I got rid of most of my physical books last time I moved, and I’m not looking to grow my small pile of books any more than I feel I absolutely need to.
- Portability It’s easy to cart my digital library with me if I choose, which means if I’m taken with a fancy to read something again, or switch to another book I haven’t started yet, I can easily do so. (This is related to the previous point, but is an advantage in it’s own right so I’m listing it as it’s own point.)
- Customisation: Because the rendering of an ebook is controlled by software all the various reading devices (or apps that run on devices) offer some options to alter the appearance of a book to fit the way you like to read. These options typically allow you to change the font, make the text bigger or smaller (great for those with failing eyesight) and often there is also an option to invert the colours to put less strain on your eyes when reading in a dark environment.
- DRM: It blows, and I don’t like the concept of having my books locked to a single provider. Fortunately that doesn’t seem to be a too big a risk currently, since the Kindle platform is available on pretty much any device you can think of, and Amazon aren’t likely to disappear any time soon. Since it could be argued that the Kindle store has the best selection of books, this means that Kindle is king of the hill currently, and probably for some time to come.
- You can’t (really) lend books: There is a limited form of lending provided by Kindle (and some other devices as well, I think), but it’s so restrictive that it almost might as well not exist. I think/hope that this will improve in the future, but I rarely lend books so it doesn’t really effect me. For those that are accustomed to swapping books, this means your swapping days are largely over. The move to ebooks also means that the age of cheap second hand books is quite probably also drawing to a close. This isn’t great for the consumers of books, but it might end up meaning more money for the writers, which could possibly translate into them being able to produce more content. Given that, the inability to purchase ebooks second hand might turn out to have some benefit to consumers, though it will probably be some time before such an effect could be seen or felt for most writers. I think it would be good if the companies providing the book stores implemented a mechanism where you could resell a book you no longer wanted, but I can’t see this happening for number of reasons (would need to be full prices because there is no degradation of quality; there’s no money in it for the publisher/author etc)
As things stand, I don’t see myself wanting to move away from ebooks and back to physical books. All of the advantages of ebooks are things I like, and the disadvantages either don’t bother me or have little or no impact on me so far. One change I am considering is to by an actual Kindle device, rather than just limit myself to reading on the iPad (or iPhone), which is how I do it currently. For the most part I’m fine with using my iPad, but it would be nice to be able to read on a device that is sufficiently small and light that it could be held in one hand for an extended period of time.
I don’t relish the idea of having a second device on which I would do my book reading, but now that the price of the low end Kindle devices has come down I find myself thinking more and more that it’s something I could buy and not regret. I’m aware that part of the desire for a Kindle is the “it’s a cool and nifty gadget” feeling and that I really don’t need one, which is largely why I haven’t yet made the purchase. However, with the prices as low as they are, the value proposition keeps getting better and better, and I think that I will keep finding it harder and harder to avoid getting one. My current excuse for not getting one is to wait until the Kindle Touch is released in order to be able to compare it to a regular Kindle 4. I suspect that I will probably find myself the owner of Kindle by the time the end 2012 rolls around.