Tuesday, April 6, 2010

iPad as an e-reader? - Not in sunlight. Update3

Len Edgerly, host of the excellent TheKindleChronicles and TheReadingEdge podcasts, is also a long-time Apple fan, and then some.  You can read his Twitter tweets for the last two days to see just how much, as he was in line at 4:30am to get his iPad.  He loves it and has written and video'd first impressions.  The aspect that will interest readers of e-ink e-reader blogs is how the iPad does in direct sunlight, and the images borrowed for this blog entry leave little doubt on that.
  You can read the words in the original, larger image.

Len also did a video of his first impressions.  There is wind noise in the beginning but it clears up within a minute or so.  Near the beginning he shows the iPad and his Kindle (U.S.) side by side, outdoors.

Teleread's Paul Biba points us to an excellent article by Jane which, in addition to spelling out the beauties of the iPad, also draws needed attention to why it is not meant for reading in sunlight (where the Kindle does especially well).  Paul inserts the picture comparison and some text from Jane's report:
'`This is something that most reviews have skipped over:
IMG_5572-300x200.jpgIMG_5571-300x200.jpg "The iPad is fairly heavy. It weighs 1.5 pounds versus the Kindle’s 10.2 oz. Plus, it is unuseable in bright sunlight. You really, really need to have some shade to be able to see much of anything. You can see the comparison between the two. The indoor picture is the exact same screen, finger prints and all." '
The article by Jane has plenty of pro's for the iPad otherwise, so please read it.  The iBook reader app is beautiful indoors, though there is no note-making feature on it yet (doable on the Kindle app for iPad).

Since this is an image-happy blog entry, here's a delighful picture by the Denver Post.  The larger photo, slowly viewable upon a click, is done with Adoble Flash but, ironically, cannot be seen by iPad users due to lack of Flash support.

UPDATE 3 - APRIL 6, 2010 - 3:40 PM PM PST - Original posting was at 2:07 PM PST)
  While identifying the source, I somehow forgot to identify the two main people in the photo.  This is of Len and Darlene Edgerly, up early to get the iPad and enjoying what they see.  This is the same Len Edgerly who made the photos and video in the first section above, in his trials of using the iPad outdoors in sunlight.  Outside of that direct sunlight scenario, which Len and other Kindle users with iPads will be using their e-ink Kindle for, he is thrilled with his iPad, as you'll see in his Twitter stream that I linked you to.

 The Denver Post offers to let us share the larger photos from the slideshow, so I made a straight-viewable non-Flash version also, that iPad users can view.
  Your browser may reduce the size of this 950 pixels wide photo and, if so, then PC users can just press the function key, F11, to see it full screen and then press F11 again to get back the toolbars.  (You can also press "Ctrl" and "+" keys together to increase the size (PC) or "Cmd" and "+" keys (Apple).)  On a laptop you normally need to use a special function key-combo.

The readability in sunlight is a not-trivial consideration for those intending to read books outside when on errands or in an outdoor cafe or sunning somewhere.  Also almost all reviewers note the relative heaviness of this device for mainly-reading.  See the very thorough review by Melissa J. Perenson for Businessweek, which includes these aspects.

OTHER UNEXPECTED MISSING FEATURES (besides those covered earlier along with pricing analysis):
I was surprised to read that you can't print from the iPad basically - it's recommended that you send a document to a computer that will print it.  However, some are making special apps to provide printing.  I think iPad II will have a lot of features added to it.

(UPDATE APRIL 5, 2010 - 3:49 PM - Original posting was at 2:07 PM) - FURTHER UPDATE (#2) at 4:53 PM, thanks to commenters to this topic.
I had actually been a little shocked to read in two places that the iPad had no native PDF support.  Thanks to Mary McManus and "Anonymous" for alerting me to the fact that apps are being sold (at reasonable prices) that deal with the PDFs.

It turns out that GoodReader handles both reading of original layout and reflowing of text.  There's an iAnnotate app that lets you add notes to a PDF and there's also something called ReaddleDocs that's more expensive, but GoodReader seems the current favorite at 99 cents.  That's impressive.

Will be back with more tonight.

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  1. How nice of you to post that lovely picture of Len and Darlene. I can't believe that he dragged her with him to the Apple store that early in the morning. (She must have taken the video of him entering the store to applause.) But, to be fair, I have dragged my wife similarly (and she took me bird watching at 5 am last fall). That's what makes a great marriage.

    I'm not an Apple guy (not even an iPod, though a client is giving me one very soon), but the iPad does intrigue me (especially in a year or so once it's a little better) as a supplement to my DX. But I do not envision doing my work on it (really can't write legal papers on that).

    I do like to read outside (yes, even in Boston), especially at the beach and on my deck, and the Kindle works great for that.
    Rick Askenase

  2. Andrys, I just answered the pdf concern on another blog. The app, GoodReader, has been re-done for iPad and costs 99 cents. I have it for the iPhone and it handles pdfs, reflowing them. But you cannot annotate, highlight or edit; it's only for reading. I have not tried the iPad version yet because I'm waiting for my 3G, but it works fine on the iPhone.

  3. That picture says it all, I thought. Love it. The photographer is really good. I noticed in the slideshow that Len sat down before Darlene did. Hey! :-)

    I hope your client gives you the one with 3G - I'd hate not to have it. Nice client to have! Appreciative of some good work, I imagine.

    Right now I'm still negatively amazed that PDFs are not supported at this point.

  4. Wait I got a PDF off the apple site last night and it worked. Plus you can read pdf's In email as well.

  5. Mary,
    Thanks for the additional info, but for a unit that is 10" of the screen I really expect actual native PDF support rather than reflowing the text.

    Are you saying the app would provide the native pdf format as-is? With my manuals and other reading materials (and sheet music) PDFs are very important to me. I seldom need them reflowed except to make it possible to use the dictionary, Kindle-specific search, and annaotations. But I want to see the original copy as-is, which is a delight with my DX.

    For the 6" I use the landscape mode to see the original PDF layout (no reflow) and I ask for conversion with reflow if there's a problem with the font size.

  6. Anonymous and Mary,
    Thanks again for responding so quickly with info about the pdf apps that provide the PDF handling and apparently excellent handling at that.

  7. I was a Kindle early adopter and was anxiously waiting for my iPad to arrive Saturday. I think it is an incredible device with many possibilities, but so far iBooks is a joke. I am an avid reader and have been reading almost exclusively on the Kindle for several years. I decided to buy one book in iBooks just to compare the experience, but so far have only purchased a couple of free classics! I hav never had trouble finding a book I wanted to buy at Amazon! I am so glad to have the Kindle app and I love being able to sync between my iPhone, my iPad, and my pc at work. This has also made me truly appreciate Amazon's wonderful selection and the quality of the website.

  8. Donna,
    Fun to hear from a Kindle owner who quickly bought an iPad. On the forums there are quite a few, and their experience is, on the average, very similar to yours. Loving most aspects of it but still preferring the Kindle for the long-session reading (and the selection in Amazon's bookstore).

    Thanks for the feedback on the iPad!

  9. Why single out direct sunlight? Sure, the difference is most dramatic when you can barely see the LCD I guess, but let's not forget that e-ink is better for reading in mose situations, even indoors in low light. LCD is always unsuitable for long reading sessions. Bright sunlight is just the situation where it's impossible, instead of merely uncomfortable, to read with the iPad.

  10. Anonymous,
    Why single it out? Because that's what Len made his first still-photo of and then the first part of his video impressions.

    And, pardon the word, but the syndrome was 'glaring' :-)

    I was actually surprised it was that bad in direct sunlight.

    In dim light, indoors, I think the Kindle is sometimes hard for some people to read (in which case I would just turn on the light as I do with a physical book).

    I think it's harder to photograph a situation where long-session, serial-character reading on a back lit reader with light coming into your eyes direct ofr a longer period of time is harder on some eyes than with the relaxing (to me) e-ink.

  11. I wonder if Len realized that by default, iPad screen brightness is only 50% of maximum. Turning up the brightness to 100% obviously will improve readability in bright environments.

    Also why the heck has Adobe not done a PDF reader for iPhone/iPad? Seems like a no brainer...

  12. Tomster,
    Let's face it - that glare is realllly bad. EVERYthing would be turned up and it's not just the glare, it's the really vivid reflections.

    And the nthe battery would be more drained too.

    If you've read the news of statements by Jobs and by Adobe, you'll have seen that Jobs has no regard for Adobe.

    Adobe said they've been willing to help on all things Adobe, including Flash, but Steve Jobs is not interested.

  13. Nobody's claiming it is anything but terrible in bright sunlight, like any other LCD display, and nobody really expected it to be different, but several say it is okay for reading in the shade. As they say, only mad dogs and Englishmen read ebooks in the midday sun.

    Re Adobe, there's nothing to prevent them from having a PDF Reader in the App Store, it doesn't require any cooperation from Apple beyond the usual. Several 3rd parties have PDF viewers for iPhone/iPad. Adobe's could be best of breed, and they've quite some time to work on it (since App Store has existed). Adobe has nobody to blame but themselves for not making this a priority, and it hurts their PDF-everywhere story. I don't get it, Acrobat and related tech accounts for a significant and stable part of Adobe's profits.

    Flash is a different story altogether since it would require integration with the only browser that's allowed, Safari, and ideally, access to the GPU for hardware acceleration and reduced power consumption. Adobe would gladly dedicate whatever resources would be required, so it is clearly Apple's fault that it doesn't seem to be happening, not 'lazy Adobe programmers'.

    The pressure may mount on Apple if Android devices and Atom based Win7 tablets prove to be able Flash hosts (when Flash 10.1 ships). It's not clear they will be at this point, though the Flash betas have been somewhat promising. But until then, Apple can well afford to take a hard line. Yes, watching videos tends to drain batteries, but

    Too bad for iPad users who need to visit Flash enabled sites. Not just Flash games, and commercial sites, but business intranets that increasingly use Flex/Flash RIA interfaces. iPad could be a fantastic device for vertical, in-house developed Flex RIA applications (e.g. for accessing/updating medical records, inventory, etc.) if only it supported Flash. But Apple doesn't seem to cater to corporations at all. They make it impossible to deploy iPhone SDK apps internally and instead force everything through the app store. Of course, because otherwise everyone would bypass the app store to avoid paying royalties to Apple.

  14. Tomster,
    "Nobody"? Walt Mossberg said it was fine in sunlight. He's fairly influential. And plenty of Kindle owners have posted how they love to read it when outdoors - it's a real feature. Friends of mine were surprised to see that in the sunlight there was just no glare or reflections so that you're not aware of -not- having to find shade to read in.

    True what you say about flash and Apple/Adobe. There is added enmity today signaled by S. Jobs with http://bit.ly/newadobeflbarrier. As I've said, Adobe execs express bewilderment at Jobs's attitudes, but I did read of some bad blood from earlier times when Adobe refused something.

    A Wired GadgetLab reporter ( @pgcat ) tweeted today as a result, "Why is Apple so intent on screwing Adobe? Ban on Flash for mobile no longer feels like business, now smells like revenge."

    Forum reactions are running fairly high against Jobs' seeming enmity in how he approaches explaining all this. So, I don't ask why Adobe doesn't bother. They're another company bent on making money anyway (as is Amazon of course). With companies and PDF support for their file formats, Adobe has licensing interests, and both Amazon and Apple have resisted at different points since both prefer to enjoy more control.

    Reader vendors have to pay Adobe money for some native support for its reader formats though especially for the DRM aspects of it.

    Only recently did the Kindle 2 get the native support for PDF that Sony and Astak had early on. But it's licensed to them.

    It could be that Adobe doesn't really feel like "submitting" even this basic and helpful an app to Apple for its "approval" - who knows? I do know that Apple iPad users are very happy with the Goodreader app.

    On your last paragraph, yes. And I read several columnists who, in 100% fan-mode, just insist that Flash is totally yesterday and HTML5 will be all that's used within a few months. Dream on. Maybe a couple of years.

    It's funny that Web-NYT fixed its front page for Apples's non-flash support but deeper on down, the flash-based apps still are plentiful and iPad users wanting "the best web experience you can ever have" will just tell themselves when viewing these blank rectangles and advice to download flash that those non-running portions couldn't be useful anyway.

    In the meantime all kinds of 'interactive ads' are being planned for them using other means.

    By the way the $4.95 TIME e-issues are something? I get a year of TIME for $20/yr.

  15. Mary, re editing of PDFs, full licensing from Adobe is needed for that, from what I've seen. Doesn't look as if Apple (or even Amazon, to their disadvantage on the DX) are interested enough in paying.

    Here's a good article on the difficulties (in communicating with other companies with differing technologies) that Apple is setting up with this stronger wall they're building, making developers increasingly frustrated.


  16. Below is how I use the iPad as e-reader under direct sunlight.



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