Living with the iPad

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How the iPad changed my reading habits

The iPad is a curious device—not quite an iPod, not quite a laptop. I typically bring it to work with me during the day, and keep it on my nightstand at home at other times.

And although I use it for many different purposes—checking e-mail, ordering from Amazon, catching up on Twitter, controlling one of the Macs in the other room—what I’ve really noticed is how the iPad has changed how and what I read.

Magazines

I typically have magazines strewn about the house in various states of being read—especially The New Yorker, which comes 47 times a year—with bind-in cards or random scraps of paper used as bookmarks. And when I’m done with them, they often wait their turn to be tossed in with the recycling.

Zinio has been around for a while now, providing digital subscriptions to magazines that you can read on a Mac, PC, or iPhone/iPod touch. I never really found it very enjoyable to read a magazine on my computer or the small screen of my iPhone. But with the iPad and a universal version of the app, it’s a whole different story.

(Disclosure: the digital version of Macworld is a Zinio publication as well.)

Rolling Stone in Zinio

With the Zinio app on an iPad, I have a large screen on which to enjoy digital replicas of magazines. Unlike with printed magazines, however, I can pinch out to zoom into section to make it easier to read. The app keeps my place without the need for paper bookmarks. There are hyperlinks that take me directly to the jumped portion of an article without making me flip to the back to pages that often have no page numbers on them. I can read in bed without a light after my wife goes to sleep. I can download new issues as soon as they’re available and carry around as many magazines as my iPad can hold. And there’s nothing to recycle.

Thanks to Zinio, I’ve re-subscribed to Rolling Stone—a magazine I haven’t read for years. When my current print subscription to Outside Magazine is up after one more issue, I plan to switch to the Zinio version. And I look forward to Conde Nast bringing The New Yorker to the iPad (although I recently renewed my print subscription for another three years).

To be fair, the Zinio app and experience are far from perfect. Subscription pricing is all over the map and seems to change on a whim—I checked the Outside Zinio page three times over the course of several weeks, and a one-year subscription went from $16 to $20 before finally settling to $24 in that time. Also, there are no multi-year subscription options. Although Outside currently offers me one year of print for $30, I can opt for two years for $40 or three years for $50, dropping the price per issue if I’ll commit for longer. With Zinio, that’s not an option. I don’t mind paying the same price for Zinio as for a printed magazine, but it shouldn’t cost more.

Also, as with other types of digital publications, I can’t hand an issue off to a friend or family member when I’m done with. And there’s no way to loan or share these types of purchases with other Zinio members.

Books

Before the iPad, I had never read an entire book on a portable device. I’d read bits and pieces using the Kindle app on my iPhone (including a 25 cent version of Alice in Wonderland) but I don’t own Kindle hardware.

Hitch-22 in iBooks

I tested out the iBookstore by purchasing Samantha Bee’s I Know I Am, But What Are You?. After adjusting the font, type size, and brightness to my liking (and turning on the Sepia background option) I enjoyed breezing through the book, without worrying about remembering my place. The iPad is heavier than other e-book-only devices, but I haven’t found it oppressively so.

A nice thing about the iPad (or Kindle or Nook or other e-reader) is the ability to download and carry multiple books with you for a vacation, say, rather than schlep around lots of heavy tomes. Or buy a new book from your hotel room without having to care about finding the nearest bookstore (and worry about its selection).

Having finished that first book, I’ve now moved on to Christopher Hitchens’ Hitch-22: A Memoir.

Comic books

I must admit that I haven’t read a comic book since I was a teenager (although I still have a few boxes of nicely preserved issues in the basement). Or at least I hadn’t until I started playing around with the Marvel app on the iPad.

Ultimate Spider-Man in the Marvel app

Thanks to Marvel’s selection of free comic book issues (which change on a regular basis) I’ve given the iPad a opportunity to show me what it can do with another type of reading material. (This “the first taste is free” mentality seems to be an important marketing tool for the shifting comic book business, as our editor in chief, Jason Snell, discovered at Comic-Con recently.)

Although I’ve yet to plunk down my credit card to buy any comics, I’ve found the reading experience to be mostly a nice one. Text can be a little small and hard to read without zooming in—especially on double pages displayed while reading in portrait orientation. It’s not quite the same tactile experience as I remember from my comic-reading days, and digital distribution means an end to collecting in the classic sense. But in general, the graphics look great and are very colorful, and it’s nice to have yet another reading option on the iPad.

So how has the iPad changed the way you read?

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