iPad as an eReader

Last week I made the big switch to eBook by purchasing and downloading several technical book titles from Amazon to the Kindle app on my iPad. I have always maintained that paper is still king when it comes to reading. Reading from a book is a lot easier on the eyes. And holding a book while reading and flipping through the pages of the book still feels a lot more natural to me.

The Benefits of eBooks

Nonetheless the top reason for jumping on the eBook bandwagon is that the digital book is constrained only by the physical and electrical limits of the device. Like the digital music revolution of the past when one’s entire music collection can be made digital and stored in an MP3 player, the eBook revolution is well under way. For someone who has gone through four international moves in the last three years, I can tell you that moving books across internationally boundaries is inconvenient and certainly not cheap because the books are so dense and heavy. So┬áhaving virtually my entire library in a portable device is godsend. Contrary to conventional belief, an eBook isn’t locked into single device. Most eBook vendors allow an eBook to be downloaded to a limited of devices (or the devices on which the eBook reader application runs). The limit ranges from 1 to unlimited devices, depending on the license set by the book publisher. There is the flexibility of unregistering a device and adding a new one when the limit is reached. Because of this, most eBook reader has a syncing function for registering a device, downloading eBook content, and managing a set of bookmarks among all your devices. Another feature of eReaders that I find indispensable, especially for referencing electronic technical literature, is full-text search. This feature is instant gratification as I frequently use technical books as reference for my professional work.

Kindle for iPad vs iBooks

I have both the iBooks and Kindle apps installed on my iPad. In terms of user experience, I prefer iBooks to Kindle. The former has a smoother interface, and eBook content rendering/layout seems to better structured and formatted than that of Kindle. But Kindle has one huge advantage over iBooks: a larger, more diverse collection especially technical books. Also, eBooks purchased from Amazon can be read on a variety of devices through the Kindle application which is available on multiple platforms including desktop systems.

Market Fragmentation

Right now the eBook market is very fragmented. In general, eBooks are published in different formats and each eReader has its own store and proprietary format, which is not compatible with other eReaders. Wikipedia has an comprehensive comparison of the various eBook formats. Then there is pricing. In general, pricing for popular fiction and non-fiction bestsellers are fairly consistent between different online book stores. However availability and pricing for technical books vary considerably.