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Old 05-06-2010, 02:03 AM   #1
6charlong
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Initial iPad release fails as a book reader

Having tried every book reader app in the iTunes store except the Amazon app I was disappointed to find my new iPad makes a poor eBook reader. It certainly does many other things admirably well and I am happy to keep it. Even its problems as a book reader could be fixed and I hope they will be. This is my subjective impressions of the iPad as an eBook reader. I hope someone will correct me where I am in error.

First I tried eReader because it’s the oldest. Like many MR members I have lots of eReader books in my library already and I’d love to read them on the iPad’s larger screen. Alas, since Barnes and Nobel took over Fictionwise they have failed to provide eReader support for Apple. The old eReader app that Fictionwise originally designed for the iPhone appears as an iPhone screen sized box in the middle of the iPad screen. If you enlarge it to 2x, it renders text either as rather poor large print with medium jaggy letters or headache making jaggies when you render your book in the smallest font.

That was disappointing. Next I turned to Kobo which had become my favorite eBook store. Most of the books I previously bought from Kobo were still in my Kobo library and I was able to retrieve them into the Kobo reader. All was well until I discovered that you have to be connected online to read books from Kobo. When you go offline all your books are deleted from the iPad along with your bookmarks. Not so good. But worse was still to come. I bought two new books from Kobo: 1491, a history of the Americas before Columbus arrived, and a copy of the NIV Bible. The table of contents on both of these books failed to work properly. 1491 could jump to chapters but while the TOC listed the maps they could not be viewed. Curious, I loaded it into my 5-inch Pocket Pro which uses adept DRM from Adobe and sure enough, the TOC worked and the maps were there—unreadable for sure on the little screen, but at least they were there. The TOC for the Bible also worked on the Pocket Pro. On the Apple however, the Kobo app was unable to render more than the Bible's title page and copyright notice.

On to iBooks. This one has promise. It looks great, especially in its ability to present a two page view in landscape mode. Sadly, despite its being hyped for supporting ePub, any book you buy at the iTunes store for the iPad can only be read on an Apple iPad and frankly, I find the iPad inconvenient to haul around. It makes sense to me to put current reading on a smaller book reader and keep the large one at home or in the office for books that need the big, color screen.

Perhaps Apple has no more control over what Barnes and Noble does with the Fictionwise app than you or I have. eReader would make a pretty good contender on the iPad if it could render eBooks on the larger iPad screen. I have no idea how hard it is to change an existing app to work on the bigger screen so I have to admit I don’t know what I’m asking of B&N’s Fictionwise property.

Likewise I have no idea what problems are engendered by letting a genuinely ePub rendering engine onto the iPad device, whether from Kobo or someone else, but I think Apple has to do something like that in order to reach an audience of experienced eBook readers. We collect books after all, and many of us follow the dictum that the only reason to read a book is to find the ones you want to read again.

At another level, iPad is great at rendering comic books—this is the first time I’ve bought a comic in 40 years and I plan to get more. It’s also great for newspapers and between Okay and excellent at WEB browsing. iPad does many other things like games and office apps that other eBook readers can’t do. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping Apple can get these shortcomings fixed. I think the iPad is excellent at many things but only promising as an eBook reader.
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Old 05-06-2010, 08:40 AM   #2
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I seem to recall somewhere that Barnes & Noble might release an iPad aware version of their eReader, but neither Fictionwise or Stanza have been forthcoming about Universal versions of their readers. There certainly don't seem to be any technical reasons why they won't but some political ones (on account of being owned by B&N and Amazon respectively).

I am sure that iBooks will be improved over time though, but choice is always good.
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Old 05-06-2010, 09:02 AM   #3
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Haven't tried the kobo reader. The iBook app is great. I've not bought a single book from Apple but merely loaded my Baen Free Library pubs and they work fine. If you want to read your kobo books in the iBook app, you could liberate them from their drm.

The kindle app works great as well. I can switch between reading on my iPad and reading on my iPhone and the kindle app keeps them sync'd.

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Old 05-06-2010, 09:32 AM   #4
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Haven't tried the kobo reader. The iBook app is great. I've not bought a single book from Apple but merely loaded my Baen Free Library pubs and they work fine. If you want to read your kobo books in the iBook app, you could liberate them from their drm.
I agree. I have several non-DRMed books in the iBook app and they work well. As to ripping the DRM, I've considered it. iPad almost insists on doing it, but the law seems to me to make that illegal in the US where I live. That law is so poorly written that people can't be certain what it says, which is poor governance really...but that's a different discussion. Suffice it to say, that since I believe wholeheartedly in the rule of law I'm taking a conservative approach.

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The kindle app works great as well. I can switch between reading on my iPad and reading on my iPhone and the kindle app keeps them sync'd.
I haven't used that one because I dislike closed DRM. Until the Apple devices came along you could only read secure Mobi books on readers that allowed no secure books except Mobi, so I don't have a Mobi library. I have Sony readers and Astak readers and neither of them is capable of doing secure Mobi.

My feeling is that books are different than music, games, etc. in one important way: I do not want anyone to be put in control over what books people are allowed to write or read. That means there have to be multiple sources to buy books and closed DRM systems like the Amazon model--which B&N seems to be trying to copy--move us two steps closer to putting someone in control of what I will be able to read. While I don't fear Amazon or B&N under their current management, I don't want to see publishing head in that direction.

There is also the matter of the inconvenience of having to keep track of what book was published by which press and which book store you bought this or that book from and which book reader to get out for the book you want to read.
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Old 05-06-2010, 09:41 AM   #5
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Different strokes for different folks I guess. The iPad is my 4th device that I can read ebooks on and I love it. I have a Sony 505, a Jetbook and a Kindle. For each one, I have to remember which formats can be read on which device & need to convert appropriately. What I love, love, love about the iPad is that I can read all formats on one device. My ePub go into iBooks, my Kindle can be accessed thru the Kindle app, my pdf in Goodreads. Yes, I know it takes 3 apps to do it but they are all on ONE DEVICE. Plus, the device has so many other functions like listening to my music, checking my email, internet, etc. And, I love that I can read it in the dark.

The only drawback for me personally is the glare in the daylight so I am planning on keeping a back up device for travel - beaches, cruises, etc. I don't experience the eye strain that others say they do and I read it for hours.
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Old 05-06-2010, 09:55 AM   #6
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I'd contact Kobo support if all your books were deleted when you were off-line. I've purchased one book from Kobo and have downloaded the free ones and have not had any issues reading them when I am not connected to the internet.

I generally like reading on my iPad and find it no harder on the eyes than the iRex 800 I returned when I purchased it (especially once I put an anti-glare screen protector on). I think the three big reader apps each have their own advantages and disadvantages, which I 'm still figuring out. My main problem with iBooks is it does not have a night reading (white text on black background) feature (there's a workaround by changing the universal settings on the ipad, but that's more cumbersome than in the Kindle and Kobo apps, which allow you to do it on the fly). Right now, I think my preference is for Kobo, as I find it's fonts, particularly the sizes, to be more adjustable than the Kindle App. (On the free books from Kobo, both the font and sizes were adjustable; on the one I purchased, I could only change the size. Also on the free books the text was not fully justified, but it was on the one I purchased). For day-time reading, I do like the sepia background from the Kindle App.

I'm not sure how well the Kobo syncs with other devices, but that is a feature I plan to look at soon. Also, in another thread, a Kobo representative said they were considering adding the ability to import adobe drm epub books from other sources into their app, which would make it my app of choice if they do. He was soliciting feedback on whether people thought this was an important feature.
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Old 05-06-2010, 10:16 AM   #7
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I'd contact Kobo support if all your books were deleted when you were off-line. I've purchased one book from Kobo and have downloaded the free ones and have not had any issues reading them when I am not connected to the internet.
It actually happens when you touch "Logout" in the Kobo app, and they warn you what's going to happen if you do logout. Next time you start up, if you log back in, Kobo begins restoring your library and as long as I remained "Logged in" I could read my books even if I took the iPad itself offline.

I still like Kobo and I will contact their support. A sample of just two iPad books is probably too small a sample to be sure there is a general problem. But when I bought only two books and the TOC doesn't work in either one...well, it may have lead me to think the problem is bigger than it might be. This could just be a start-up problem.
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Old 05-06-2010, 10:21 AM   #8
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Personally, I think that's one thing it does quite well. Having multiple apps is great, books look great etc. LCD is better for most of my reading since I don't read outdoors and generally keep my place pretty dimly lit.

But I get that some would find it (or other tablets) unsuitable for reading due to the size/weight, prefering e-ink etc. Just a matter of individual preferences. When I get a Tablet I probably won't keep my Kindle.
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Old 05-06-2010, 11:17 AM   #9
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It actually happens when you touch "Logout" in the Kobo app, and they warn you what's going to happen if you do logout. Next time you start up, if you log back in, Kobo begins restoring your library and as long as I remained "Logged in" I could read my books even if I took the iPad itself offline.
Wait. So they warn you not to log out or you'll lose access to your books, and you do so, and you complain anyway? I thought you had a semi-valid complaint until I read this comment. Unless you have more than one user ID there is no reason to log out ever. I logged in once when I first installed the Kobo app and have never had a reason to log out, never had to log back in and never lost access to my books.

You complain the iPad is large and bulky compared to your eReader, were you not aware of the size of the iPad before you purchased one?

iBooks easily loads any DRM free ePub file I have purchased (mainly from Kobo, who doesn't laden their files down with DRM). That is something more than the Kindle or Kobo applications can do at this point. You complain that you can't take your iBook files to other reader applications, but you can't take your Kindle files to another reader application either. You pretty much can't take any store's DRM protected files to another application, again this is pretty well known.

I don't believe Apple is blocking anyone from writing a "genuine ePub rendering engine onto the iPad." It is simply a matter of someone writing one. Given that the iPad is a month old, give developer some time. It's unfortunate that Amazon killed Stanza off or we'd probably have a version of it for the iPad by now.

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Old 05-06-2010, 11:22 AM   #10
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You complain the iPad is large and bulky compared to your eReader, were you not aware of the size of the iPad before you purchased one?
Well to be fair, there wasn't much way for him to know the size would hurt his "immersion" into books until doing some long-term reading on it. And it seems like he didn't buy it primarily as a reader...
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Old 05-06-2010, 01:11 PM   #11
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...

iBooks easily loads any DRM free ePub file I have purchased (mainly from Kobo, who doesn't laden their files down with DRM). ...
I don't mean to question you scottjl, but this doesn't sound quite correct. Are there any qualifications to this statement. It sounds very unlikely that kobo doesn't have DRM on at least some of the EPubs they sell? I think I've bought EPub from kobo before, and I think it had DRM.

Another question. When you purchase EPubs from Kobo on the IPad, how do you get access to them to import them into iBooks?
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Old 05-06-2010, 01:17 PM   #12
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...
I don't believe Apple is blocking anyone from writing a "genuine ePub rendering engine onto the iPad." It is simply a matter of someone writing one. Given that the iPad is a month old, give developer some time. It's unfortunate that Amazon killed Stanza off or we'd probably have a version of it for the iPad by now.
ADE is used as an engine on many other platforms (I think), what are the plans for ADE on the iPad?
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Old 05-06-2010, 01:35 PM   #13
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@JohnF, every book I purchased from Kobo was available to download in several formats, none of which had DRM. I was free to download .epub files with my browser (Chrome) which saved them to disk. A simple drag and drop into iTunes and they are load right up into iBooks. No, you can't buy on the iPad itself and save it somehow from Kobo into iBooks. At least not yet.

You might want to go back to the Kobo site, you can download your purchases at any time, and see what your options are. It might vary from book to book or I could just be lucky.

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Old 05-06-2010, 03:17 PM   #14
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I just checked my Kobo purchases (Last Night In Twisted River and U is For Undertow), and, from what I can tell, I can only download them as epub. When I click on the download button, I get a file with extension acsm, which I beleive kicks off ADE, which means it has DRM. It says "available for Web, Mobile, EPub", but the only option I seem to be able to download the book for is EPub).

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I was free to download .epub files with my browser (Chrome) which saved them to disk.
Gotcha. I thought you were using the Kobo iPad app, so I was curious to know how you were getting them into iBooks.
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Old 05-06-2010, 04:51 PM   #15
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Yeah, Kobo's site is a little goofy with picking a default format for you. I know I was able to download a different version once, I forgot how I got to the option though.

I'm a big fan of Calibre, so I download everything in ePub so I can load and manage it in there first. Then I have a simple Applescript workflow that adds new .epubs into iTunes for me. iTunes organization of eBooks is pretty bad, ok, it's very bad.
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