Reading Rainbow

The first time you launch the App Store, it prompts you whether you'd like to install the iBooks application. It's puzzling that iBooks isn't installed by default - perhaps it wasn't finished by the time Apple started flashing EEPROMs for production. Whatever the case, Apple definitely wants you to install their books and reading application immediately upon launch. Until something better comes out, there admittedly isn't any reason you shouldn't.

iBooks is fairly minimalist in its initial presentation, there's no organization or categorization to speak of, just virtual shelves that your "books" sit on. It'd be nice to have some organization here, lest the same kind of icon hell happen with books instead of applications now.

I totally put my real books in bookshelves with their front covers facing out, too

Inside, Apple has crafted a virtual book layout complete with some flashy 3D page turning animations. There's even transparency on the backsides of pages when viewing them in portrait mode.

Ooh look at the flashy page turn animations

Controls for brightness, text size, and search adorn the top corner, and a slider at the bottom lets you quickly scrub through the book. You can't flick pages quite as fast as you can in a real book, but it's decently fast. Tapping on words in the body of the text brings up the normal copy dialog, but there's also dictionary, bookmark, and search. Bookmarking puts a faux highlighter mark on the selection, and makes a bookmark. Dictionary pops up an OS X dictionary widget-like popover with the word's definition. Search, well, searches.

I regularly ride my space shuttle to Boston, er, what?

The store itself is relatively limited in scope this far - searching through it for many of the classics I love revealed that they weren't yet included. Free books from Project GutenbergOrganization and appearance is just like the App Store, except with books. That means ratings, categories and featured are all there as well. The reviews themselves are still getting fleshed out; it's a bit unnerving to see one star ratings on timeless classics, but all of that same goodness from the App Store is here in the book store. Nominal price seems to be somewhere around $9.99, though prices are bracketed by the occasional $14.99 or $8.99 book.

Books sync back to iTunes, but you can't open them. In addition, it's apparent that the book store is segmented from the App store somehow, as you cannot buy books in iTunes from the iTunes Store and load them on the iPad. The iBook application fully supports the ePub format for books as well.

Other Reading Apps

If reading through iBooks isn't your thing, there are other ways of consuming print media on the iPad, but for those, you'll have to go install an app.

Case in point are PDFs; if left to using the OS' PDF reader, your only options are either browsing online or as email attachments, and both of those get old fast. Though the default reader works, its typical Apple minimalist style leaves out just about everything that makes modern PDF readers, modern. You can view the document; that's it. If you're serious about reading PDFs, one of the best applications for the iPhone was GoodReader, and its developers launched an iPad compatible version day one. Layout is essentially the same as it was on the iPhone version, just larger and more readable.

PDFs and Text files can either downloaded from the web or email, or loaded over WiFi, WebDAV, Google Docs, Dropbox or FTP, and are then stored locally. In addition to being noticeably faster than the OS' PDF viewer, there's also an interface complete with bookmarks, search, view, reflow, and even auto scrolling. If you've already got an expansive library of books or notes in PDF form, this is the optimal way to view them for now.

For students, the majority of material is passed down in PDF form; it's nice to finally see a polished document reader for one of the most veteran document formats. In practice, this is the way that iPhone OS' PDF reader should work out of the box.

Of course, there's also the Kindle app which has adopted a similar style to the iBooks app, complete with animated 3D page turns, a grid layout, and the like. It's a great utility if you're already invested in a virtual library of Kindle books. If you haven't seen it by now, there's also the Marvel comic book reader. The iPad's usefulness as a book and print media reader is still evolving, but the primary players are still News.

Media - News

The iPad has become something of a messiah for mainstream print media hoping to finally offer a brave new business model for media consumption. Basically all the major press has their own dedicated newsreader or news-zine application, and this is simultaneously great, and destructive for the platform. On one hand, the iPad is a unique way to consume media tailored to a common device form factor - it's no coincidence that the thing is roughly the size of a magazine. On the other, each of the experiences media venues offer is radically different. One thing is for certain, it's unclear what users will ultimately prefer - tailored experiences delivered through venue-specific applications, or simply getting the same content online.

Of course, there are strings attached in the form of subscriptions. There are two ends of the spectrum here - one offers free media, the other is a subscription or issue based model for all your reading habits. Applications like NPR, Bloomberg, BBC News, NYT, Reuters, USA Today and the Associated Press all offer AD-subsidized or essentially free media consumption. There's the occasional inline or application launch advertisement, but most of it is relatively unobtrusive.

Click to Enlarge

Wall Street Journal, Time, GQ and others instead only offer in-application subscription or purchase. Will people consume media and tolerate the occasional AD, or is subscription the only way to monetize the iPad? The subscription model battle that some media venues are hoping will save their publications will likely be fought partly on the iPad and other converged distribution platforms.

Utility, Entertainment and Social Media

At least thus far, it seems as though a lot of applications have taken a nod from Apple's Mail application design - a quarter width tab at left with information, and a dominant panel for more focus at right. It's obvious that developers used to working on the relatively cramped layout of the iPhone still haven't found the optimal use layout for the iPad's larger screen, but this two panel approach nearly mitigates lack of multitasking for some use scenarios.

The best of example of which is side by side Twitter with web browsing. If any of you are like me, you likely browse with a Twitter client open on one side of the screen and a browser on the other - offering you a glance at what's going on alongside the program in which to view it. This is exactly what TweetBrowser offers, and I think it's the kind of new use scenario that will distinguish the iPad from its smartphone brethren. In time, we'll likely see more efficient use of screen real-estate in other applications, which TweetBrowser does already.

TweetBrowser - Best of all, it's free

Another awesome use of the newfound real-estate is in TweetDeck for iPad. Landscape mode offers a view of all your default tabs and searches, while portrait mode lets uses the vacant space at top to display tweets in detail view, or a browser for links. 

USB/Accessory Charging & A Super Head Unit? Nope Gaming on the iPad
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • vol7ron - Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - link

    There's been rumors the iPhone 4g will be talked about tomorrow by Apple. Do you have any insight into this?

  • Griswold - Thursday, April 8, 2010 - link
  • vol7ron - Thursday, April 8, 2010 - link

    I don't understand the point of this link?
    Perhaps you want to look at:

    Data Network Technology and iPhone technology are not synonymous.
  • A5 - Thursday, April 8, 2010 - link

    Unless AT&T has suddenly deployed a 4G network (or they're going to Sprint), then this new phone isn't going to be called the iPhone 4G. Also, the stuff they're announcing tomorrow are the features of iPhone OS 4.0, not new iPhone hardware.
  • vol7ron - Thursday, April 8, 2010 - link

    I'd rather not hear about the hardware at this point, but it'd be nice to say that Apple would up the clock on the 3GS (what I have). Hearing about the OS 4.0 is nice.

    I thought the "G" has nothing to do do with the wireless technology network. While they both stand for "generation", Apple's iPhone/OS pair will still be called the iPhone 4G, regardless if it runs on 3G Network or CDMA technology, or if the OS is upgraded afterwards; if this is confusing, think about the iPhone 2G - it runs on the 3G network and can be upgraded to OS 3.0, but it is still a iPhone 2G due to the initial hardware/OS release.


    The developer meeting was actually quite nice. There were a few surprises, but nothing huge - just a bunch of much-needed updates :) There will more-than-likely be a few more OS4.0 goodies come June with the official iPhone 4G release.
  • Internet User - Thursday, April 8, 2010 - link

    That's incorrect. The naming conventions that Apple typically uses were thrown out the window. The first generation iPhone runs on the 2G EDGE network. The 3G (second gen) and 3GS (third gen) both run on the 3G network. We don't know what the fourth iteration will be called. It won't run on a 4G network, but it will be the 4G iPhone.
  • vol7ron - Friday, April 9, 2010 - link

    Perhaps you are right, but I thought I remember hearing Jobs talk about the naming that went into the iPhone.

    Technically, I think that what happened supports your argument, but we've all seen companies change their logical naming patterns. The first iPhone, as with any first generation, was called the "iPhone", with no suffixed 1G or 2G. It wasn't until the 3G came out (on OS 2.0), where there was question about its name. I think what was talked about was that the beta versions were considered 1G; the first retail release was considered 2G; and the second was 3G.

    The 3GS is where it really breaks that argument, because the 3GS was released with 3.0, so technically it would be called the iPhone 4G. Instead they stuck with the "3G" and added the "S", which they said stands for "speed". However, those "2G" phones that were upgraded to OS 3.0, still work with the 3G network, but are still considered "iPhone" (w/o the suffix, but still unofficially: iPhone 2G).

    In either case, I'm willing to say that I'm wrong, since a lot of it is vague memory. That, and the fact that this article is about the iPad and not the iPhone :) I was just a little curious about OS 4.0, but I was offered an exclusive direct link on the developers briefing, so I found everything out anyhow.

  • nilepez - Thursday, April 8, 2010 - link

    I don't know about AT&T, but Verizon began testing LTE last year and is deploying LTE in some markets this year. Until Apple announces they're partnering with Verizon (or Sprint) or we see FCC submissions, I'll assume it's vaporware....and frankly, I'm not switching from my Sero plan for a phone.
  • vol7ron - Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - link

    Page 2: Since this isn't the 1980s, the iPad only has three four physical buttons on the device.

    I might be reading it wrong but the "three four" seemed out of place. Maybe that was supposed to be a "three or four", or perhaps you were going to come back to it?

  • vol7ron - Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - link

    Page 5: "Tap it twice while you're playing music and playback controls appear, Also when..."
    Perhaps there should be a period where the comma is and a comma after "Also"?

    BTW, not purposefully checking for errors, just looking out for ya.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now