The iPad is so focused due to its design that it tends to become an appliance that replaces real-world items. One of those items is a Book.
Before the iPad, probably the most popular “middle” device that was between a laptop and a smartphone was The Kindle by Amazon. You could read books with The Kindle along with magazines, newspapers and blogs. They come in different sizes but the biggest is the Kindle DX that is 9.7″ diagonal.
Fast-forward to now and the most striking hardware spec of the iPad is this: The iPad screen is 9.7″ diagonal.
To me, that screams that the iPad is intended first and foremost to displace the Kindle. Which it does. I used to want a Kindle but not after reading books on my iPad. But if you really want a Kindle, you can get the Kindle app for free on your iPad.
Our brains have come to expect a lot of things when we read a book. We expect that there are black words on white or off-white paper. But there are more subliminal things that I think our brains expect. When we read, we expect to see a stack of paper. If it is a hardcover book, we expect a dust jacket. We are used to reading a book two pages at a time. We don’t really think about these things, but I think Apple studied this.
iBooks replicates that reading experience faithfully. It’s a free download in the App Store but really it probably should pre-installed on the iPad. You can read a book in portrait mode so that you just see one page, which still has the page stack and also the dust jacket behind all those pages. Or you can read it in landscape mode so that you see two pages at a time with the center crease. There’s a page curl and really the only thing missing is maybe the cracking of the spine and being able to inspect the inside front/back of the dust cover and also the back cover.
What I really want to convey is that the iPad replaces having a physical book. Laptops kind of did it, but it was awkward to hold it with the keyboard and holding it sideways. iPhones and other smart phones are just too small to read on for long periods of time.
I’ve started reading more again and I think that’s due to the iPad. I actually enjoy reading late at night before I go to sleep. The backlighting is nice then, though I usually turn down the in-app brightness a lot. Still it is enough to read by without turning on a light and disturbing your wife, roommate or cat. The hardware rotation lock on the iPad helps you read it in whatever mode you like. So one of my favorite things about the iPad is that the iPad is a Book.
Apparently you’ve never used a Kindle. :-)
The iPad is a brilliant LCD screen, which means that for extended periods of reading it will never come close to the ease and comfort of a Kindle (or any e-ink device, for that matter). I’m sure that iBooks is a compelling experience, and LCDs are certainly fine for occasional reading (or low-light conditions; no back light on the Kindle), but I would never give up my Kindle for an iPad. The user experience? Yeah, I’m sure the iPad nails it far better than Kindle. But comparing the screens is apples and oranges.
I don’t get why people keep thinking the iPad is a Kindle killer. Certainly, it will take some potential Kindle customers away, but anyone who wants the best reading experience possible should and likely will buy a Kindle, as well.