I always knew that the PlayBook would be a handy portable video player, and I anticipated using it for that when relaxing during the PlayBook Roaming experiment. What I didn't fully realise until I started planning for the trip was how useful it would be as an ebook reader.
Obviously, any portable device can be used for reading ebooks, but some suit the task better than others. While I have used mobile phones in the past as a reading device, there's no doubt it's something of a compromised experience. Since you can only fit a handful of words on the screen, you're constantly flicking through pages. On international flights, there's also the battery life issue to consider: if you run down the battery on your phone through a marathon reading session, you'll have no juice left for when you land and you want to update Twitter.
Reading on the PlayBook solves both those problems. The screen is a much more natural size for reading, similar to a standard book when you use it in portrait mode. This is also a context where the seven-inch form factor is an advantage, as it's more comfortable to hold than a larger 10-inch device. I didn't actually manage to run down the PlayBook battery during any of my longer on-plane reading sessions, but if I had, it wouldn't particularly have mattered — I'd still have the phone for connectivity when I landed. As an activity that's not in any way dependent on connectivity, reading ebooks has also proved a useful strategy on the London Underground, which doesn't have any connectivity in most of the central London area.
As it happens, ebooks aren't purely a leisure activity for me on this trip either. I'm in the middle of research for a non-fiction book project, which requires reading through a bunch of material. Putting some of that onto the PlayBook means I'm not travelling with a heavy and bulky load of books. I can also take notes from what I'm reading directly onto the same device, and then sync those easily with my other existing notes and drafts for the project.
I wouldn't have been able to do absolutely all my research on the PlayBook, since not every title I'm interested in is available through Kobo, which is the main ebook provider on the platform. But that would have been true for virtually any ebook provider: neither Kindle nor iBookstore has all the works I need either. But that doesn't stop it being a very useful facility for the titles I can access on the device, and I did locate a couple of relevant books I hadn't been aware of through the Kobo store.
Bonus PlayBook hint for the day: If you're using the PlayBook as a video viewer in a hotel room, you won't necessarily want to hold it up while watching. A trick we've suggested in the past for mobile phone video viewing — using a plate stand so you can rest the device on a bedside table — also works very well with the PlayBook.