A First Look at eReaders for the iPad: Kobo and iBooks

Yes, I am among the gushing new iPad owners. My hope is that this smaller device will take the place of the MacBook I usually schlep around from meeting to coffee shop to meeting during the day. I was going to hold off until the next generation of iPads before purchasing one, but after seeing Shaunna Mireau‘s when we were at the CALL conference, I knew I couldn’t wait that long.

Aside from work applications, I am hoping this reduces the weight of books in my knapsack. As a prolific reader, I typically carry one or more books with me in addition to the MacBook. I have held off buying one of the other ereaders until I could try this out.

As a first test, I am trying out the Kobo app for the iPad. Kobo, the brand linked to Chapters Indigo in Canada but also available in other countries, has applications available across platforms as well as their own ereader called Kobo. Here is what my Kobo bookshelf looks like after the purchase of just one book:

Kobo bookshelf

They have included a few sample public domain titles for me. Here is what one version of the screen looks like, with the print set fairly small:

Kobo reading screen

Above is a page from The Disappeared by Kim Echlin, the book I am currently reading for my book club and purchased to read on the Kobo. Cost was $11.89 Cdn compared to the $13.68 if I had purchased it in paper copy from Indigo.ca. Not a huge savings. This is the rotated, wide view. I can also turn the iPad around to make it more vertical like a traditional book page. I can make the text larger, and make the screen brighter. To turn the pages, I touch the screen with my finger. I have an option of how the page turning appears and have gone with something that looks the closest to a page turning. There is also a fun option called “night reading” that inverts the view to white text on a black background, presumably to allow you to read without disturbing someone else with a bright screen.

One competing app promoted by Apple is iBooks. It comes with A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh to help show off the app’s ability to show text and illustrations. I went into the Store where they also have a number of public domain titles and downloaded a copy of Jane Austen’s Emma. They unfortunately didn’t have The Disappeared available. My bookshelf so far looks rather empty:

To compare the look of the reading pages, here is a sample from Emma:

Page of Emma on iBooks

They have laid it out to look like a traditional book (albeit with fewer words per page). When I go to turn the page, I swipe my finger across the screen and the animation looks like the page turning, more so than with the Kobo app. With this application, there is also the ability to adjust brightness and size of text. I notice a search function available on iBooks which I have not discovered with the Kobo.

I do not notice any note-taking or annotation functionality other than the ability to set bookmarks within books.

I notice when I purchased the book from iBooks, it appears in iTunes on my computer under “Books” (once I synch up my iPad). I did not see where the book I purchased from Kobo was stored on my iPad; however, when I sign into the website it is still held in my Library on the Kobo site from which I could download again. Since I didn’t purchase a book from iBooks, I’m not sure how that application handles this.

These both feel more book-like than computer-like because, like Shaunna, I also invested in the incase “book jacket” which has a leather feel. The one thing I like about this more than a book is that this cover acts like a stand. When I read, I can sit the book upright on the table in front of me and not have to strain my arms holding the book up or strain my neck looking down as I read.

I’m hoping my wrists and neck will thank me later. We’ll see how my eyes do after some extended reading!


  1. Wendy Reynolds

    Connie, one of the comments that we got here when we tested the Kindle and the Sony reader was that the page refresh when you turned a page was a little slow. Others found the “flash” effect (page disappears and then reappears) when you turned a page was bothersome. How does the iPad do?

  2. Both are fast in turning pages so far, and I didn’t notice any flash effect, Wendy. Sounds like that is something in favor of the iPad!

  3. Connie, you say that you hope to replace your laptop in terms of schlepping your ipad with you. Have you tried using a cordless keyboard or mouse, so you an type faster? Also, have you tried any applications such as MS PowerPoint or Mac Pages?

  4. I still love my iPad after nearly 3 whole weeks of it sharing my space. I stood in an interminable bank line today and read parts of two books – one through iBooks and another through the Kindle app. The third eReader app I am trying out is called Free Books and it only offers public domain material.
    I like them all.
    My dear spouse likes that the iPad eReaders are back lite so I can turn out the lights and still read. After 20 years together he should be used to sleeping with the light on…

  5. Lesley — I purchased the wireless (bluetooth) keyboard since I do like touch typing and the iPad keyboard is still not quite suited to touch typing. I haven’t used it much yet, but the first thing I notice is that except for straight text, it does require a combination of keyboarding and touching the screen. There isn’t a cursor on the screen so I don’t believe a mouse is usable. I could be wrong. I haven’t personally used a mouse in a couple of years since I use the MacBook touch pad. It is taking getting used to this new arrangement! I also find the wireless keyboard needs to be turned off in the iPad settings rather than just turn off the keyboard itself when I want to use the screen keyboard, which is a small inconvenience.

    I downloaded the Mac Pages application for word processor which cost about $10. I haven’t used it yet, but it is supposed to have scaled down functionality. The question is, once I create a document, what can I do with it? The iPad does not have a USB port. To transfer to my MacBook for filing and backing up, I can either email it to myself as a Word or PDF document, or I can transfer via iTunes. At least, until I find an app that allows me to transfer via wifi. I wish when I plug my iPad into my computer that I could just transfer files easily over. I have found the same problem with the iPhone.

    Shaunna: glad to hear you are still liking it! kindle is also on my list for testing. It would be nice to find one ereader app to stick with, but it seems it might depend on titles availability.

  6. I will certainly be buying an iPad. I think I’m just going to wait a month or so and make sure they get all the kinks worked out. Based on your initial comment that you were going to wait until the next generation, I’m guessing you know what I mean.

    My wife, in contrast, has no certainty that she wants one. On a recent trip, she played with a colleague’s iPad and she wasn’t impressed. In particular, she found it heavy.

    Can you comment on the weight? Would you be comfortable, for example, holding it like a book for a couple hours?

  7. Having it rest on a table in front of me works very well, having it propped up in my lap is okay (I was trying this method out while reading on the subway today) but holding it up would get heavy. I would say it is the weight of a substantial hardcover book when it has the “book jacket” cover on it. I’ve been known to carry those around, but not ideal.

    I suspect that if your only need is for an ereader, this would be heavy for that purpose in comparison to the others ereaders. For me, I am carrying it around anyway so it makes sense to use it as an ereader rather than carrying yet another device.