Native reading experiences on the iPad

Shawn Blanc notes how the best reading experiences on the iPad feel native, digital and don’t try to mimic a physical reading medium:

My iPad’s primary function has always been as my reading device. I read and skim headlines in Reeder, I use Instapaper to catch up on articles I came across during the day, I read ebooks in iBooks, and I read Wiredand The New Yorker in their respective apps.

Ironically, the worst reading experiences are with the apps designed by the “professionals” that are based on the age-old history of reading in print: Apple’s own iBooks, and the Condé Nast apps. The best reading experiences on the iPad are Instapaper and Reeder. In part because they are easy to keep up-to-date, but also because their designs have the least amount of frilly bits, and therefore make reading of the actual text the easiest.

I’ve noticed this too. Instapaper makes for a great reading experience of blog posts, news articles, and especially long-form journalism (and is a must have for all iPad owners). Reeder is also a gem, and my favorite RSS reeder. I also enjoy reading a lot in the Kindle app, and the iBooks app has changed a bit since Blanc origianlly wrote his piece (it now goes full screen and allows you to get lost in the words).

Apps from professional publishers — those who used to define what the reading experience was all about — are often the worst. The iPad isn’t a physical book, newspaper or magazine, and the harder you try to make an app mimic a physical product, the worse that app will be.

I have yet to use a news app that is better than a good news website. These apps silo their stories into individual issues, make them hard to share and comment on, exist within a vacuum without prior or future issues and require you to download discrete issues.

You can’t search for related stories while using an iPad news app. To me, that’s a broken news experience in 2012.

That doesn’t mean news publishers should give up. They just need to let themselves be free. Make a news product that feels right today; forget about the past.

The iPad is THE reading device. I simply can’t put it down. There is so much to read and discover with it.

Embrace that.