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Macs, Movies, Games, Books, etc. The Rants of a Mad Man.

Is the iPad really the best e-book reader? I say no.

July 14th, 2010 by Raj

In what could be construed as a modern day version of “rock, paper, scissors” usability gurus Nielsen Norman have released a report paper pitting today’s most common e-book readers against one another, whilst throwing ye-olde paper in for good measure.

Revealing Apple’s iPad as the favoured device many websites, be them Apple-centric or not, have been touting their findings as the death knell for conventional e-book readers and sprouting figures at how we will undoubtably see the cannibalising of Amazon’s 80% market share, let alone the never-ending debate over paper’s so-called demise.

I can’t but help think the entire report as a waste of time pitting apples against oranges in a pineapple competition. Conventional e-book readers such as Amazon’s “Kindle”, Barnes & Noble “Nook” and the old stable horse from Sony “Reader” are E Ink driven devices. Their screens the closest digital representation we have to paper yet. They do not entail glossy glass reflections under any and every light source in the known universe and their battery life is measured in page turns lasting months (if not years) and not in minutes switched on. They’re designed to “read” books.

The iPad on the other hand is not a dedicated e-book reader, it is a computer, or at least a multimedia device that happens to offer an application(s) to read and purchase books on. It’s higher “User Satisfaction” rating (5.7/10) over Amazon’s Kindle 5.6 (paper won at 5.8) can be put down to the products slick user interface, colour and application use, easily overlooking the fact that consistent page by page reading is little to no different to reading from your desktop computer’s screen in terms of ease on the eye. The PC scored a paltry 3.6 I might add.

In addition to which gadget the subjects enjoyed best a metric based upon the speed at which each device was read at compared to paper was also devised. Alas, the results were apparently completely useless, as noted by Neilsen stating “…the only fair conclusion is that we can’t say for sure which device offers the fastest reading speed.” leaving me to wonder again what the point of this report was?

It would appear that the introduction of the iPad has indeed ruffled some feathers, despite it’s adhoc grouping under the e-book reader banner, Amazon has recently released an update and price drop to its Kindle DX, following suit in Barnes & Noble and Sony’s footsteps of a price reduction. The promise of a more “interactive” experience amongst the future of digital publishing is enough to sway general e-book consumers to a more vibrant reading platform but I challenge any person, be they digital evangelist or not, to read twenty pages of anything on the iPad and then do the same on any E Ink device and tell me it wasn’t a better “reading” experience with E Ink.

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