OK, maybe that title is a little harsh.

Perhaps a better title would be “When someone tells you they love their iPad because it functions as an eBook reader, you should be a little suspect of their claims, because they’re starting to sound like a fan-boy, simply parroting the ad-copy dreamed up in Cupertino, and have probably never actually tried to read a book on the device.”

Somehow, that seemed a bit wordy.

I’ve read a lot of iPad reviews that herald the iPad as the greatest thing since the invention of the internet. “OMG, it can play movies, it can check email, it can be a book reader, it even changes the oil in my car and picks my kids up from school! I kid you not!”

The iPad is certainly a fun little toy, but lets be honest here – it’s a device for casual internet surfing and watching movies. For that, it beats the Kindle hands-down. No contest. The iPad may have an “eBook reader” built-in, but so does the computer you’re sitting in front of right now. It’s called “displaying text on the screen,” and it’s nothing new. For actually reading books, the iPad sucks.

Here’s why.

  • First, the screen is a backlit LCD, which causes eyestrain in most people. Sure, you can read a few pages of a book no problem, but read more than a dozen pages and you’ll start feeling a little bit queasy. Contrast this with a dedicated eBook reader like the Amazon Kindle or Nook – each of those uses an “e-Ink” display screen that is pretty much just like reading off of paper.
  • Glare – The iPad comes with a sleek glass screen that is highly reflective. So unless you like staring at your own reflection more than you enjoy comprehending the content of your book, the iPad isn’t ideal.
  • Weight – I like reading in bed, and the iPad is just too heavy.
  • Ergonomics – How are people who claim that they read books on their iPad holding this thing? Please tell me, because I can’t figure it out.
  • Battery life – Maybe not a big deal if you don’t mind plugging the thing in every 6 hours or so, but if you’re doing any extended reading, the Kindle’s week or two long battery life is nice.

For these reasons, I seriously doubt the veracity of any report that holds the iPad up as an excellent eBook reader. When someone says that the iPad is great because it contains a book reader, it’s like saying that you prefer not to have a home stereo system because your car already has one built-in.

To paraphrase Jeff Bezos, “Reading is important. It deserves a dedicated device.”

I’m not saying that the iPad sucks. On the contrary, I think it’s pretty cool. I can see where it’d be useful for travel, as long as you don’t have to type too much. And I can see how it’d be useful for sitting on the couch and browsing Facebook, or even watching a movie on a plane. But it’s no replacement for a dedicated eBook reader, and anyone who says that it is probably doesn’t read all that much.