Online, on iPad or hard copy – how do you read?

If somebody asked me what my greatest passion in life was, I’d say ‘reading’ without any hesitation. Give me a spare few minutes and I’ll have a book in my hand, typically a novel rather than non-fiction, as I do like to escape. I also enjoy flicking through magazines but don’t get the same ‘read many times over’ value I get out of books.

As we head towards Web 3.0, I find I’m ingesting my reading now in different ways, and each has its own pleasures.

Rather than buy hard copy magazines on a regular basis (apart from UK Country Living… my guilty pleasure) I read mags online, usually in the form of a website but occasionally on my iPad. It’s a different reading experience reading a website; I find my attention span is shorter because there might be something more interesting to click on. Like many web users I’m either hooked in the first para or two or I’m off in new directions.

iPadTake the best of printed and online worlds and you can read a magazine on the iPad which offers you a superior interactive experience, if it’s done right. National Geographic, for example, is pretty good at this. As yet I haven’t really deeply explored the world of magazine apps from a reader’s perspective, as I’m a cheapskate and there aren’t many free ones which appeal to me, but I’ve sampled National Geographic’s offering.

The key phrase in the para above was ‘if it’s done right’. When magazine and newspaper apps launched for the iPad many of them simply jumped in not to get left behind, with the result that their iPad app wasn’t much more than a glorified PDF. Apps are capable of far more interactivity than a PDF with a couple of links. Put it this way: if I’m going to fork out $8+ for a magazine in app form it had better offer me a more fulfilling experience than the paper copy for the same money. I expect videos, links, pages which expand with more information at the touch of a link, photo galleries, and some real interactivity. (One advantage with magazines in app form is that one can zoom in on the pictures!)

Back to your plain vanilla online mags – ie, a website which has specific sections and is updated at regular intervals, and centres around a particular interest, hobby or ism. Most of these now feature regular blog articles, so are updated on a daily or almost daily basis, falling in between a news site and a magazine site in terms of  new material being posted. These are the sites I’ll flick through first thing in the morning or, depending on how busy my day is, while dinner is cooking. I’ll typically view them on my laptop in the morning and the iPad in the evening.

Hard copy magazines are my tea break joy. As I’ve said I only buy one regularly, and I’ll make it last and dip into it for several days until I’ve read it cover to cover. I archive my old copies rather than chuck them out or pass them on, as I get design ideas from some of the properties featured in them. (One day I really must go through the four year old pile and clip or scan the stuff I’m interested in and give the older ones to charity.) There is something truly satisfying about reading a paper copy, and while I revel in the vast amount of information available on the net it’s not the same as picking up a real, old-fashioned magazine.

The same goes for books. I have book reader software on the iPad and iPhone, and went through a mad phase of reading books electronically when I got the iPad last year. I’ve downloaded dozens of free ones I have yet to read. Having electronic editions of books is a boon when I’m on public transport – I can read on the iPhone while I listen to music on the iPhone, and don’t have to weigh my bag down with paperbacks. It’s also great for travelling for the same reason. The books I have on my iPad are ‘plain vanilla’ with no interactivity in them; basically electronic versions of classics and mysteries.

As a reading experience e-books for me are about convenience. I wouldn’t read an e-book in bed, as I do with hard copy books. If I fall asleep and drop a paperback it’s no big deal. If I fall asleep and drop an iPad or iPhone it could be expensive.

E-books do have advantages in that the electronic version is typically at least half the price of a new release hard copy, and of course they don’t overload our already overflowing bookshelves (currently five big ones plus more books at my mother’s house). I’m slowly warming to them. After all, a good novel is about the story, not the medium you read it in.

What about you? Paper or screen? What works for you and what do you prefer and why?


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