Over on The Unofficial Apple Weblog, writer–and reader–Michael Grothaus compares reading a novel both in its traditional, printed format with reading it on the iPad. For his experiment he read alternating chapters of the same novel in paperback and in the iPad’s iBooks application. He also read each format in the kinds of situations in which one normally reads: at home, during his commute (on London’s tube), and at a park or cafe.
Grothaus’s treatment seems balanced and fair overall. However, as some commenters point out, if you’re a reader of new novels, you’re more often reading a hardcover book than a paperback, and that’s a significant difference when comparing the printed book and the iPad in terms of weight and of ease and comfort in handling.
I’d like to see someone carry out this same experiment using one of the other dedicated ereaders (e.g., Amazon’s Kindle, Sony’s Ereader, or B & N’s nook) in place of the iPad. A comparison between the various forms of reading and the act of listening to an audiobook, particularly while commuting or driving, could also be informative. I won’t have time to try out any of these things for myself until I finish my dissertation, but if someone else carries out the experiment, I’d love to hear about it.