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Books on the iPad: Enriching the Reading Experience - iPad in Canada Blog - Canada's #1 iPad Resource iPad in Canada Blog – Canada's #1 iPad Resource

Books on the iPad: Enriching the Reading Experience

by on September 17th, 2010

I read a lot of books, both fiction (mysteries, science fiction, modern fiction, humorous fiction) and non-fiction (science and technology, history, politics, culture, religion). I still read a lot of them in print format, but more and more, I’m reading them on the iPad, in iBooks, Kindle and Kobo, depending on which app has available the particular book I’m interested in, in stock.

I’ve noticed that the iPad has changed my reading habits. When I’m reading a print book, if I find something intriguing or something I don’t understand, I’ll generally let it go. With the iPad, it’s different. I’m constantly jumping out of the reading app, to go to Google Earth or Maps, a dictionary, a search engine, or even Youtube, in order to find out more information. Or I’ll highlight text (if the reading app has that feature) or bookmark pages — which I’d never dream of doing with a print book, especially since I get most of my books from the library.

Which leaves me wondering — when will Amazon, Apple and Chapters build the capability into their reading apps to allow authors and publishers to provide links to more information?

For example, I recently read One Minute to Midnight, a book about the Cuban missile crisis by Michael Dobbs. I found myself constantly jumping out of the Kindle app to go to Google Earth to look at places mentioned in the book where missiles were located or U2 planes shot down. I also went to Youtube to look for a video of John F. Kennedy’s address to the American people where he announced that Soviet missiles had been located in Cuba. I also Googled the names of key participants in the events of that week back in 1962.

It made the experience much more enriching than just reading the text would have been. But it also made it much more inconvenient, as I had to leave Kindle, launch the other app, search for the information, then close the other app and relaunch Kindle. The flow was interrupted. But think of how much more enriching it would have been if I could have selected a link and gone instantly to a Google Earth view or a Youtube video.

Even fiction could benefit from features like this. I’m currently reading a thriller set in Barcelona, called The Gaudi Key by Esteban Martin and Andreu Carranza. The novel has a lot of references to streets in that Spanish city, the village where the architect Antoni Gaudi was born and also references to some of Gaudi’s famous works, such as the Sagrada Familia. Again, I find myself constantly going to Google Maps to orient myself in the maze of Barcelona streets or to the web to look for more information on places mentioned in the book. Subtle links embedded in the book itself would make the reading experience even more immersive.

But wouldn’t adding hyperlinks, videos and other non-textual media to an electronic book ruin the immersive experience of reading? I don’t think so. Authors and their publishers have been inserting maps, illustrations and (more recently) photographs into their books — whether novels or non-fiction — for centuries. The iPad simply increases the types of media that can be added to a book. For example, in One Minute to Midnight, the reference to Kennedy’s television address could have had a subtle link to a video of his address or a summary of the recollections of a Soviet submarine commander could have been linked to both a longer transcript of the author’s interview with the commander and to the audio recording of that interview. The reader is still free to ignore those elements, if she chooses, just as she can currently skip over the maps or photos in a print book.

Just as print books evolved in length, format and features as paper replaced vellum, bound books replaced scrolls and the printing press replaced the quill; so books will continue to change to take advantage of the affordances offered by new technology, such as the iPad. I for one am looking forward to an enriched reading experience.

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Posted under: iBookStore, Uncategorized