The Apple Tablet

I am not immune from all the hoopla and media frenzy about the latest Apple product. And as I am sure you know by now, the new Apple Tablet, now known as the iPad has been duly announced and will be available for sale at the end of March.

Questions concerning the nature of reading on the iPad loom large in my thinking. Some have now been answered. It is known that the screen will be 9.7 in, midway between the 3.5 in screen of the iPhone and the 15 in MacBook Pro but larger than the 6 inch Kindle screen and the same as the larger Kindle DX.

However, the lighting on the color iPad screen will be bright and sharp unlike the dull gray of the Kindle. And like the iPhone, the screen is said to be very responsive to scrolling, tapping and flipping into a horizontal view.

Aside from everything else it can do (see Apple.com) what will reading a book, magazine or newspaper be like on the iPad? This is the central question I have about the device.

We know now that there will be an iBookstore where you can purchase books for the iPad from five publishers that have signed up to date-- Hachette, Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan. And I am sure it won’t be long until other publishers sign on too.

We are told that the publishers will be able to charge $12.99 to $14.99 for most general fiction and nonfiction books, which is more than most, but not all, Kindle books, although a good deal less than the printed book.

As David Pogue noted in his initial impression of the iPad: "The iPad as an e-book reader is a no-brainer. It’s just infinitely better-looking and more responsive than the Kindle, not to mention it has color and doesn’t require external illumination."

Will you be able to highlight or mark passages? And will it be possible to save them so they can be subsequently downloaded to your computer? All of this is possible with the Kindle, but as I earlier noted, the procedure is cumbersome and time consuming, requiring several less-than-simple steps. And the same questions apply to making notes on the pages of the materials to-be-read on the iPad.

Apple has several accessories for the iPad that appeal to me. One is a cover that both protects the screen and opens in a way that makes it “feel” like you are opening a book and holding each side with your hands.

And by flipping the screen in a horizontal position, the iPad creates two separate pages on the screen in the same way you view side-by-side pages of a printed book. Very cool and very unlike the Kindle.

But what books are you able to download from the iBookstore and will they also be downloadable to a Mac computer or iPhone? That is also of critical importance to me. However, to date almost all the books I want to read are not available in an e-book format.

I am also intrigued by the IPad dock that places the screen at a slightly tilted vertical angle, like a laptop screen, while at the same time making it possible to charge the device once its connected to an electrical outlet or your computer.

I am been cautioned that this marvelous new gadget is just another toy, that I should stick with the old-fashioned book and not fall sway to the latest digital fad. And I will probably take this advice.

Nonetheless, we still have a great deal to learn about the new Apple Tablet especially from the first-hand reviews of those who have an opportunity to actually test it, which apparently no one outside of Apple have been able to do yet, and we learn more about the books sold at the iBookstore and what limits will be placed on the devices that can download them.