I'm writing this blog on my iPad. This device has been a revelation. Not since my first microwave oven has a piece of technology so changed my life.
I waited until ten years after microwaves came on the market to buy my first one, due to concern about leaking radiation. When the iPad was first introduced, I waited because I already had a Kindle and felt I couldn't justify the expense. Since my primary interest in the iPad was its iBook capability, it seemed ridiculously self-indulgent to purchase a second electronic reader.
I enjoyed my Kindle and appreciated its light weight. It was easy to tuck into the pocket of my purse when traveling or when I had a dentist appointment. With my Kindle in hand, I almost looked forward to sitting in the waiting room.
I never had a problem giving up print books; it's the content I care about. Years ago, I stopped reading print editions of newspapers and found I preferred the online versions, especially as the websites improved and slide shows and videos added an extra dimension to the news. So, I wasn't surprised that I made the transition to electronic books easily.
However, there were some aspects of print books that I missed with the Kindle. The device uses locations rather than pages and I found this perpetually confusing and annoying. And the contrast was poor, making it hard to read in dim light. (The contrast issue has been improved in the next generation Kindle and the device has been made even smaller and lighter without sacrificing much screen size.) I knew the iPad was heavier, but its screen size was commensurately bigger. I'd also heard that it had backlighting, a feature that really appealed to me.
For years, I'd bothered E. with my penchant for reading in bed after he'd turned out his light. We'd tried various fixes—bedside lights with dimmers, overhead pinpoint lights, even tiny book lights mounted on my book or Kindle. Nothing helped.
Then one evening a few months ago, we had dinner with my nephew and his wife. They both had iPads and were enthusiastic about the iBook backlighting feature, whose brightness they said could be adjusted. Plus, they told me, the iBook background could be reversed from the normal black-on-white to white-on-black, which can be easier on the eyes in low-light situations.
This really peaked my interest. I decided to visit the Apple Store and take a look. Two hours later, I walked out with my new iPad and quickly became a convert.
Here's what's so great: First, the backlighting in the iBook application is fantastic. With all the lights off, I dim the backlighting and activate a feature called Sepia. This makes the print appear brown on an off-white background and is even better for me than the white-on-black option. It's easy to read and the light doesn't bother E. at all! This alone makes my iPad a worthwhile investment.
Second, the iBook uses regular pagination. I find it easy to go backward or forward without losing my place. Also, the touch mechanism for turning pages is simple, silent, and elegant. Designed to look as if you're turning the pages of an actual book, the iBook acts as a wonderful transitional device for people raised on print books. Like the Kindle, the iBook enables you to adjust the font size, a great advantage over print books.
All these iBook features are terrific and have exceeded my expectations, but what's really surprised me are the other ways I'm using my iPad. After many years of reading the newspapers on my computer at my desk, I now check out the news over breakfast on my iPad. I have a nifty stand originally purchased for my Kindle but equally effective for the iPad, and once again I can enjoy my cereal with the New York Times or the Boston Globe. The Kindle also enables newspaper reading, but the screen size and color photos on the iPad provide an optimal experience.
I bought the 3G version of the iPad so I can travel with it and use it to respond more easily to emails than with the smaller iPhone. And I can even write a blog on it! My iPad is noticeably heavier than the Kindle, but its greater versatility makes it a worthwhile tradeoff for me.
The most exciting new use I've discovered for my iPad is as a radio. I regularly listen live to WBUR (Boston Public Radio), WHYY (Philadelphia Public Radio), WBEZ (Chicago Public Radio), and WEEI (Boston sports radio). The sound quality is great and I can choose from a variety of programs. Since the iPad is so portable I can listen in any part of the house.
As I write this, my PC is in crash mode, having been infected by a trojan virus. Hopefully it will be up and running soon. Meanwhile, I feel very fortunate to have my iPad handy.