A one-handed read
July 13, 2012 4:56 AM   Subscribe

Can you read books on an iPad one-handed? How about while nursing a baby?

Mrs. Buffaload would like an e-reader of some kind for her birthday. At first she wanted an iPad because they do so much more than hold books...but now she's concerned that she won't be able to use it while nursing ("Won't I need two hands to turn the pages?") So now she thinks she would prefer a Kindle Fire.

Her requirements: 1) eReader
2) Light emailing and Facebooking

So she'd like the extra functionality of an iPad, but not if she couldn't easily use it as an e-Reader one-handed.

What do you think? What's your experience?

posted by Buffaload to Computers & Internet (46 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I read one-handed with my iPad all the time. You can turn pages by tapping the margins, and I find it no problem to do that with my thumb while my palm and fingers are cradling the device. My only concern would be the weight. I have zero problems with it, but I am a relatively strong dude, and I know a lot of people who have issues with its heft while reading. If she is nursing, she can presumably rest it and/or her hand on something to somewhat alleviate that problem.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:03 AM on July 13, 2012

Ipad with Kindle software worked quite well for my wife when in hospital; you can use it one handedly as long as you can put it down somewhere. It becomes a bit awkward if you have to hold and use it with one hand..
posted by MartinWisse at 5:04 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

iPads are a little heavy, but are more suited to one-hand operation than a paper book. It just takes a little gesture to turn the page.

If you're near a table or something, many of the cases turn into an easel of sorts, and then you can tilt the thing up and just touch the screen to operate it.
posted by randomkeystrike at 5:10 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have an iPad and am nursing an infant. I CAN read one handed, but it is indeed a little heavy, and I find I use my iPhone more for that reason. I mostly use it to surf, though; less the kindle app, though I do have it, and it has all functionality. But I must say that nursing had made me fall in looove with my phone.
posted by kestrel251 at 5:15 AM on July 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

The trouble with the iPad is that it is large and heavy. So if you are holding it by the corner and the balance gets out of control, it hurts when it whacks you on the nose. Or on the baby.

If I had a kid, I'd buy the cheapest eInk Kindle, and use that. Babies make all kinds of messes, flail about, and generally destroy stuff. Better to pick the cheapest usable e-reader.
posted by b1tr0t at 5:16 AM on July 13, 2012 [9 favorites]

My iPad is fine for reading one-handed but my Kobo vox is definitely easier and lighter. I have had no problem nursing while using the iPad. Sorry, I do not have direct experience with a kindle. The camera on the iPad 3 is great for taking photos of the baby up close and posting right to Facebook.
posted by saucysault at 5:19 AM on July 13, 2012

I was coming in to also suggest an older Kindle, not a Fire. It is crap for Facebook, but phones do that so well now. It is so much lighter, easier to manipulate with one hand, and less of a tragedy if dropped or thrown up on than an iPad.
posted by tomboko at 5:19 AM on July 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

I find it very comfortable to read one-handed with an iPad, but I do rest it on something. If I'm reading in a chair, I usually rest the bottom edge on my thigh and hold it upright at an angle; if I'm lying down I rest the bottom edge on my chest.

On preview, kestrel251 makes a good suggestion. I prefer reading on my iPad because I like the larger screen, but many of my friends prefer to read on their iPhones because they're so easy to hold.

Another option could be a seven inch tablet like the Nexus 7.
posted by Georgina at 5:21 AM on July 13, 2012

Thirding the cheapest Kindle, for all the reasons b1tr0t and tomboko mentioned above. My cheapo kindle ($80 I think?) is light as a feather and super easy to hold aloft one handed. I've also dropped it a million times and the lil guy is tough.
posted by Gonestarfishing at 5:22 AM on July 13, 2012

I have an iPad, Kindle Fire, and older generation Kindle Keyboard. For reading, 90% of the time I use the Kindle Keyboard. It's lighter, I can use it one-handed, has great battery life, and easier on the eyes. Plus a Kindle reader is considerably cheaper.

When needing a color screen, I tend to use the Kindle Fire. It is much heavier than my Kindle Keyboard. I find the iPad too large for reading.
posted by bCat at 5:23 AM on July 13, 2012

You know, I should have worded my answer more strongly. I never do use my iPad one handed while breastfeeding. I only use the iPad when I can rest it on my legs or something. (Disclaimer: Mine is first gen, so a bit heavier.). Otherwise I use the phone -- like right now. Baby Kestrel says "hi".
posted by kestrel251 at 5:26 AM on July 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

I have a case for my iPad that props it up, if I want to use it while nursing, so usually I will prop it on the chair of a couch or something and can use one hand to move to the next page.

I also have a kindle and like others have mentioned, it's much more lightweight and is easier to hold with one hand.

Right now I'm using my iPhone, though, while nursing. By far it is the easiest device for me to use one-handed. Baby sutel also says hi!
posted by sutel at 5:33 AM on July 13, 2012

Yep, iPhone for nursing. My Kindle sits sadly neglected.
posted by snickerdoodle at 5:44 AM on July 13, 2012

Kindle keyboard or smartphone for nursing reading. My husband has a Kindle fire and it's heavier and a bit awkward for me to turn the pages one-handed while nursing. The Kindle keyboard is dead easy for one-handed reading, and so light. If I want to surf, I surf on my phone where it's easy to hold in one hand and tap anywhere on the screen with that hand's thumb.

There's a pretty big contingent of nursing mothers here who read mefi mostly on their phones while nursing because it loads fast and is well-suited to short bursts of reading activity!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:48 AM on July 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

I would also second an iPod/iPhone for reading one handed (also excellent for light emailing and facebook) - I read one handed on my ipod on public transit all the time, much more easily than I could with my kobo (same size/weight as a kindle, lighter than an ipad). If she already has an iPod/iPhone, she could get an iPad for other times and there are reading program's which will sync your books between the device.
posted by jb at 5:50 AM on July 13, 2012

Smartphones are the best for nursing. I don't find the Kindle app that bad on mine. (I have a pretty big screen though.)
posted by k8t at 6:13 AM on July 13, 2012

Add me to the group of mom's reading mefi while nursing, darlin toddler says hi!). My iPad is too big to use while nursing and by 7 months way to distracting for the baby he was all like woah, gotta nom!

I used a BlackBerry Playbook which is similar in size to a Fire when I nursed with a pillow and could balance it next to his little body. Now I am using my smart phone cause its easy to hold and use and keep out of his little hands.

I do love my iPad but it was pretty uncomfortable for nursing and I have giant hands too (I am build like a WNBA player).
posted by saradarlin at 6:17 AM on July 13, 2012

Hi Moms and kids! My lovely wife would refuse to read on a smart phone on principle. I think she's part-Amish. But she was tempted by the Gee-Whiz quotient of the iPad, and the convenience of an eReader. She would veto a phone as too small, I'm pretty sure.
posted by Buffaload at 6:21 AM on July 13, 2012

The new Google Nexus 7 looks good, though it's not out for another week or so, so I am only going by the reviews. It's smaller than an ipad and bigger than a smartphone. It's an android based so I don't know if that's a problem but you can get apps for Facebook and kindle/nook for it, and watch shows on it.

Otherwise I'd go a cheap nook or kindle ereader, I have the nook touch and read with it one handed all the time, it has buttons on the side so you don't have to use a free hand to turn pages just gently squeeze the edge.
posted by wwax at 6:26 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wore out the battery on my iPod Touch while nursing. I completed all levels of Angry Birds, got to level 112 on Bejeweled and read all the questions ever posted by anonymous.

I used both hands on the iPod touch, resting on top of my Brest Friend and playing games behind his head.
posted by hmo at 6:26 AM on July 13, 2012

I have an iPad 2 and a Kindle 3. I read on the iPad in bed, or otherwise in dim light, but I much prefer reading on my Kindle. Reading on the iPad one-handed can get very tiring, and make my wrist sore. The Kindle, however, weighs next to nothing, and turning pages with the buttons on the side of the Kindle 3 is much easier and more reliable than using the swipe gesture on the iPad (and I'm guessing the touch-based Kindles.)
posted by The Deej at 6:33 AM on July 13, 2012

Get an old-school Kindle. The actual screen-reading is vastly better than on a Fire, Nexus or iPad. They are both light and one-hand friendly. They provide a lovely reading experience. Amazon replaces them free with zero hassle if they are dropped/broken in the first year. They are cheap to replace after that.

Also, I swear I am not a crunchy organic hand sanitiser save-the-children smothering.com freak, but there is evidence that the artificial blue lighting cast by laptops, iPads, etc fucks up sleep. I'm not sure I'd want to consistently cast that on an infant I'm nursing to sleep for fear of fucking up sleep cycles and triggers for the future. I am also aware that as new parents, you already have enough shit to be paranoid about and you should probably ignore me and my insane theory.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:57 AM on July 13, 2012

She would veto a phone as too small. I felt this way for a very long time. I had an iPhone for at least two years before I started e-reading on it. But the utter portability is fantastic, and after I read my first book on it, I realized that it hadn't significantly changed my reading experience at all. Even though I have an iPad, I still read on my iPhone exclusively.
posted by kimdog at 7:00 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

turning pages with the buttons on the side of the Kindle 3 is much easier and more reliable than using the swipe gesture on the iPad

This is getting a bit off-topic, maybe, but I just want to point out that you can turn pages in every iPad reading app that I know of by simply tapping the left and right margin areas -- no swipe needed. I usually set them so that both margins turn to the next page, as it makes it easier to switch from right to left hand while reading one-handed.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:00 AM on July 13, 2012

Another iPhone-while nursing person. Yes, it is small -- but that's a feature, not a bug! The big iPad screen quickly became an irresistible target for the baby. Books have pages that can be torn and chewed on, also irresistible. The iPhone is also attractive, of course, but because it's so small I can usually find someplace to hold it out of his view.

The first couple of months are a different story. Then I'd think any kindle would work, but I'd still think the iPad is a bit heavy. But books work fine then, too! I went through so many from the library, wouldn't have been able to afford to buy them all as ebooks.

A final note: much nursing is done in a darkens room -- one wants an illuminated reader.
posted by wyzewoman at 7:02 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

As a dad I wasn't nursing, but I held my newborn last summer in my arms and rocked him to sleep in a chair and was able to read an ebook on an iPad. It did feel a bit on the heavy side one handed though, but for short periods of time it worked fine.
posted by dgran at 7:03 AM on July 13, 2012

I have no experience of nursing but I do have experience of having to stand on crowded public transport. You can definitely read a Kindle one-handed - I read extremely quickly and all I need to do is click the page down button every few seconds. It's also a lot easier on the eyes which will be beneficial if she is lacking in sleep.
posted by mippy at 7:03 AM on July 13, 2012

Oh, forgot to add: baby wyze also says hi!
posted by wyzewoman at 7:04 AM on July 13, 2012

e-Ink Kindle. I love mine. It weighs nothing, its battery life is insane (weeks between charges), it can be used totally one-handed. And it's cheap and durable.
posted by julthumbscrew at 7:05 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have a rooted Kindle Fire which is fab (slightly less shiny hardware wise compared to the iPad and Nexus 7, but fully functional for games+reading+browsing, and also sometimes comes in refurbished flavor for 140$). The thing is, I still always prop my Fire up when I'm reading. It may be on my lap or my pillow or whatever, or I may be holding it but with my arm propped up, but it's almost never held up like a classic book posture.

I would probably still go with the Fire, but with a flexible mount in a convenient spot.

I also used to read on my Nexus One, which is approximately the same size as an iPhone, and found the screen to be smallish. I still read a lot, but it was definitely less fluid than on a larger screen.
posted by anaelith at 7:11 AM on July 13, 2012

I would find an iPad unwieldy while nursing. And as the kid gets older, he's going to start grabbing it and such. I've used an iPhone, but if that will be too small, I'd suggest a small kindle over the iPad.
posted by chiababe at 7:34 AM on July 13, 2012

I had trouble with the iPad while nursing, but if I had longer legs I would probably have been able to properly prop it.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 7:45 AM on July 13, 2012

I would wait a week and go for the new Google Nexus tablet. If the baby is still in utero for a while and you're planning ahead, I might wait for the rumored mini iPad. Otherwise, I'd check out the highest end Nook tablet unless she's really tied into the Amazon marketplace.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:46 AM on July 13, 2012

It is worth reemphasizing that you don't have to make a final decision on this. If you're going to be using mainly Amazon for ebooks you can read them, from exactly where you left off, from the Kindle app on an iPad, from a Kindle, or from the Kindle app on an iPhone or Android phone. The Kindle syncing really works well, so long as you have internet access. I read the iPad one-handed with the bottom propped up by my chest or a pillow often, but sometimes I also use my phone. I would try the iPad, if it seems uncomfortable return it and get a Kindle instead. After all, you won't lose your books. That's one of the nice things about ebooks (Amazon's budding retail monopoly/wholesale monopsony aside).
posted by Wretch729 at 8:16 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

She would veto a phone as too small, I'm pretty sure.

I would have too, until my Palm Z22 (smaller than an iPod) came with a free ereader app and a couple of books. I hooked by the end if the first book. If you or she already have an appropriate ipod/smart phone, you can try it out for free.

It depends also on what you are reading. I find novels and memoirs/journalism easy to read on a very small screen, because they are linear. But I find academic material hard to read, as I tend to want to look back a lot more, check out footnotes, etc.
posted by jb at 8:40 AM on July 13, 2012

I am another nursing mom who pretty much exclusively uses my iPhone while nursing. This is despite the fact that I have vision problems and would have considered the iPhone WAAAYYYYY too small before -- in fact I was thinking I would never use it when I got it and now I use it constantly (and squint).

Just a word of warning about the Kindle Fire: I have one and almost never use it because the keyboard is clunkier than the iPhone/iPad, and despite its larger size, I find the font on Facebook to be EVEN SMALLER than on my iPhone. Books work great on it though. But I really should have gotten an e-ink Kindle/Nook, since that's pretty much all I use it for and the battery life of the Fire is less than one day vs. the e-ink versions' one month.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:42 AM on July 13, 2012

I don't have a nursing baby (or any baby a'tall), but I Nth reading books on the iPhone. I started using my iPhone to read because I have rheumatoid arthritis and books became too heavy for my hands, as did the iPad and my Nook. Being able to read on the iPhone has been a lifesaver for me and I've used it to read a jillion books in the last six months. I know the idea of reading on such a small screen seems horrible, but it's a really great solution.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 9:54 AM on July 13, 2012

See if your wife can actually try reading an ebook on an iphone before she dismisses it - it's a different experience from the ipad/Kindle because it doesn't try to replicate the page size of a paperback. She might be imagining a full page shrunk down. Instead, in an app like Stanza, you're basically paging through a dozen screens for the equivalent of one page of printed text, but because it's held one-handed with your thumb tapping gently as you read, the text (in a nice large legible font) feels like it flows in an endless stream.
posted by viggorlijah at 10:01 AM on July 13, 2012

iPad is too heavy and large to comfortably read one handed. Go with a Kindle.

I also think the Kindle app on the iPhone is surprisingly readable.
posted by J. Wilson at 10:28 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I read a lot less Metafilter since weaning. But Baby K8t in the past said hi.
posted by k8t at 11:18 AM on July 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding Nexus 7, definitely over the Kindle Fire - it's around $200. I use the Kindle app on my 10-inch Android tablet (about iPad size), which is great for reading but a little big in my opinion. The 7-inch ones would be perfect. (Mine hasn't arrived yet)
posted by chundo at 12:24 PM on July 13, 2012

yep, iPhone while nursing is so very awesome. If she has a bit of the Amish in her then I'd go with an old school Kindle that has an illuminated screen (not sure if that exists). I didn't think I'd like to read on a phone but I really have grown to love it - the white text on black background is awesome for not making too much light in the room and you can make the text as big as you want.
posted by dawkins_7 at 1:54 PM on July 13, 2012

Instapaper has an endless tilt scroll (on the paid app) that lets you read without even touching the screen, and works on iPhone or iPad.

You can turn the brightness way down for reading in a darkened room, select your own text size and font, and choose white text on black if you like. I use it with gutenberg.org texts as well as long form articles online (including long Metafilter threads).
posted by Sallyfur at 2:08 AM on July 14, 2012

Why not an iPod Touch, if she's averse to the iPhone but wants a smaller thing to hold? I LOVE my smartphone for reading on, and found it way better than my iPad when I was in those early weeks of nursing my son (in the middle of the night, when I didn't want to turn a light on and wake my partner).
posted by linettasky at 12:48 PM on July 15, 2012

I have found both 10- and 7-inch tablets too unwieldy for nursing. And switching between devices means the one I want is always in another room or not charged.

Nthing smartphone. And I never would have read a book on my phone prebaby. I like the Google Books app (especially the night view).
posted by purpleclover at 8:55 AM on July 16, 2012

My Mum loves her Kobo Touch. She has arthritis and finds it easier to hold than a paper book. You can use Calibre to side load ePubs into it. Calibre even converts other file formats.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:25 PM on July 24, 2012

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