When I read a book now, I use the iPad, Apple’s brilliant tablet computer, because any good hardware needs good software, and Apple offers both. The computer company boasts a beautiful integration of music, movies, apps, and books to be accessed through Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS.
That operating system runs the iBookstore, which allows e-reader publishers to create their own apps, giving iPad users a bigger pool of books to choose from than Amazon’s Kindle e-reader, which only allows Amazon books to be downloaded. Although slightly less restrictive than the Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s original Nook e-reader allows only book downloads from its store and rentals from some public libraries.
If your sole purpose for owning an iPad is to have a device for reading e-books, especially by the pool this summer while on vacation, then the backlit iPad, which emits a nice glow, is harder to see in sunlight than established e-readers.
Still, if you want more from your e-reader than just words, then a tablet computer is your best bet, and more are available every day. Besides the iPad, there is the Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy, BlackBerry PlayBook, Asus Eee Pad, and I bet a few more have debuted since I began writing the article. The research firm Gartner has forecast global sales of tablet devices to quadruple from 17 to 294 million units by 2015.
The new Nook Color joined the club when it debuted looking less like a single-purpose e-reader and more like a tablet computer. The device offers web surfing (and email), more than 140 apps, and streaming music. Tech geeks on the web call it “the poor man’s iPad” because it’s more affordable but not nearly as dynamic. The iPad should remain atop the list of most popular tablets since it is a wonderful multimedia gadget beyond e-readers.