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Entries in Print (2)

The printed book is doomed

The Telegraph's Shane Richmond puts forth a convincing argument for why the printed book is doomed. Here's a snippet to whet your appetite, but be sure to read the entire article.

"My daughter’s generation will probably have ebook textbooks. They will never experience dog-eared, vandalised, outdated school books, shared one-between-two. They will enjoy books that are enhanced with video, interactive graphics and picture galleries. And they will see these things are the norm. Printed books will be strange relics from their parents’ generation."

We have to say that despite our love of printed books and magazines, everything that we have seen over the last 16 months leads us to agree with Shane's conclusion.

Print still has the upper hand in a few key areas, but as we proposed recently in an article about the possibility of an iPad Pro and ealier in a post about the merits of an iPad with a Retina class display, even those key strengths may soon arrive on the iPad platform.

iPad with Retina Display: Why it would be a game changer

iPad-2-Retina-Display-OSX.jpg

Remember the first time you saw the iPhone 4's Retina Display with its 326 PPI pixel density? Though not everyone agrees, for us the difference between it and the previous iPhone display was like night and day. Put the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 side by side, turn the brightness up to full and compare the quality. The 3GS looks like a small LCD backlit display and the 4 looks like a smooth piece of film hovering just under the surface of the glass. Photographs look better than they do in print and text is readable at almost any size. Going back the iPad display with its 132 PPI pixel density takes some getting used to.

Recent rumours point to the possibility of Apple endowing the next iPad with a Retina class display (Retina Display being the term Apple use for a screen with no visible pixel steps when viewed at normal viewing distance). We've been saying for quite some time that when Apple increase the resolution of the iPad display that it will increase it by twice the linear resolution of the current iPad display, in other words 2048 x 1536 pixels. What we had not foreseen was that Apple might introduce such a display so soon.

Would an iPad with a Retina Display really be that much better? Yes. In fact, we think it could be a game changer. Here's why.

Better than a laptop display, better than print

The clarity of the current iPad IPS display is roughly comparable to a quality laptop or netbook display. Watching a movie, looking at family photos, browsing the web, all these activities look almost identical on an iPad or a good laptop. Of course the iPad experience is greatly enhanced by its unique user interface and industrial design, but in essence, it looks the same.

Print still has the edge over the iPad display in terms of pure resolution. The fine text in a printed magazine or book is reproduced at a remarkable 2400 dots per inch, massively higher than the 132 dots per inch of the iPad display. The pixel antialiasing that iOS employs smooths out this roughness, but still, the gap in resolution between computer displays like the current iPad and ink printed on paper is vast.

Bumping the iPad display up to Retina Display quality will make all laptop and netbook displays appear like they have been constructed from Lego blocks. Using a laptop again, even one as nice as a MacBook Air, will seem like a huge step backwards in screen quality. Full HD movies (1080p) will look sharper than on any other display available. Photos will be almost indistinguishable from high quality prints. Viewing web pages, especially in portrait mode, will be the best web experience available.

An iPad with a Retina Display would be a much closer match for printed material. A 260 PPI display with pixel antialiasing will render even small intricate fonts in all their glory.

iPad-2-Retina-Display-iOS.jpg

The iPad with Retina Display will have a 2048 x 1536 resolution

Just as Apple doubled the vertical and horizontal resolution of the iPhone display, so must the iPad display be doubled. There are quite a number of technical reasons for this, not least of which is the need for existing iPad apps to run smoothly on the new display. It worked for the iPhone and it will work for the iPad.

As you can see in the comparison diagrams above, an iPad with a 3.15 mega pixel display would be in a class all of its own; notice how it would take a staggering 20 iPhone 3GS displays to match it in resolution. The benefits would be significant, but there is one massive technical challenge that may prevent such a display from making it to the iPad this year.

Check back later in the week for speculation on this challenge how Apple may have risen to it.