To Read or Not to Read (on Your iPad)

Erik Linask : Convergence Corner
Erik Linask

To Read or Not to Read (on Your iPad)

A recent study by Simba Information suggests that 40 percent of iPad owners do not read e-books on their iPads.  Should we be surprised?  I think not, but Michael Norris, senior analyst and author of the report, says, “A lot of people equate the sale of a new gadget with the creation of a new reader, and it just doesn’t happen.”

That may be true, but the question is why, and there are a number of factors that likely play into the survey results.  On their own, none may be notably relevant but, when combined, they provide ample explanation.

Business:  Many iPad users leverage mobile connectivity to continue their business activities outside their physical offices, whether on daily mass transit commutes, business trips, or at home.  Rather than reading, they choose to remain productive from a business perspective.  After all, it’s much easier to turn on an iPad than power up a laptop while in transit.

Apps:  With the thousands of applications available on the App Store, users have almost limitless distractions, from addictive games like Angry Birds to ESPN Score Central to IM apps and more.  These countless apps provide an opportunity to relax after a hard day at the office with mindless games, check fantasy baseball lineups and scores, chat with friends, and generally blow off steam in an effort to retain some semblance of sanity in today’s pressure-filled work environment.


Multimedia:  As easy as it is to download apps, it’s equally
easy to download the latest movies or episodes of weekly TV programs – not to mention the availability of on-demand video services like Hulu+.  Whether it’s a case of having missed the last episode of The Event, or not having had time to go to the theater to see Iron Man 2, the availability of video on the iPad is a highly enticing option.  There are also the cord-cutters of the world, who have canceled their cable subscriptions and rely purely on Internet-based services for their programming.


News:  We all know
what has happened to physical newspaper circulation in the electronic age.  With access to not only a single preferred news source, but every news outlet globally, iPad users are very likely to seek out multiple angles on stories, extending their time on news sites, whether their interests lie in politics, banking, sports, or local news. 


Cost:  iPads aren’t cheap – a 16GB without 3G connectivity will still run close to $400 after tax and a cover.  On the other hand
, eReaders can be had for just over $100.  Most people aren’t ready to spend hundreds of dollars on a tablet, especially when they may also be looking at upgrading their mobile device to a new smartphone. 


Good old books:   Let’s face it, many avid readers still prefer the feel of paper, despite the added bulk of even a paperback.  Lying on the couch in front of the fireplace reading an eBook just isn’t the same as a good old fashioned hard copy book.  In addition, the price of eBooks, especially new releases and best sellers hasn’t come down enough to drive readers – even those who own iPads – to an electronic format.  And while it may seem crazy, for frequent travelers who are also avid readers, the time between takeoff and when electronic devices are permitted in flight seems an eternity – not to mention wasted time.  There’s also the friend factor – it’s very convenient to share good books with friends, something that is not easily accomplished, and certainly discouraged, with eBooks.

So which are you?  I fall into all of the above.  Though I own an iPad, and have even downloaded one eBook, I have yet to read it, yet I always pack a paperback when I travel.

On a broader scale, though, I fully expect the number of iPad eBook readers to increase, as the initial attraction of the App Store wears off, as eBook prices drop, as iPad adoption continues to grow naturally, and as existing eReaders break down, forcing users to choose between new ones or moving to more advanced mobile devices, and as the eGeneration grows up and purchases new tablets.

Ultimately, whether in hard copy or electronic format – and in that case, whether on iPads, other mobile devices, or PCs – we should be content knowing that we and, even more importantly, our children, are reading.

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