About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

me and my iPad

I got meself an iPad three weeks ago this evening.

I am quite happy with it so far.

First and most important for me is its utility as a tool for reading, and it's quite winning for that. With reading, as with many other things, one of the things I like about the iPad is that it gives you a lot of different ways to do something. So for reading, option #1 might be to just open up an e-mail with a manucript and read the manuscript within Mail. Option #2 might be to open the file in Pages, Apple's word processing app for the iPad. Option #3 might be to put the manuscript on using shared wireless network with Stanza, which is what I'd been using on my iPod Touch, and which is owned by Amazon. Option #4 might be Apple's own iBook store. And then you've got the Kindle app for the iPad and the Nook app and the Borders app. Or you've got other word proccessing apps like Documents 2 Go. I've read one novel and reviewed a contract which I had opened in Pages, and I've read another long novel in Stanza. Both are fully customizable reading environments that allow me flexibility on my font, my font size, and other important elements of the reading experience. I like the page-turning on Stanza because it's actual page-turning and now scrolling down in the document. I like that Pages can import a file direct from my e-mail while Stanza requires multiple intermediate steps on a computer sharing the same wireless network. Pages offers better support for the iPad OS cut-and-paste. In both instances, it takes only a few seconds to go from the program I'm reading in to the native Notes program on the iPad to take notes for a client. Those seconds can add up if I'm taking a lot of notes, but once upon a time I'd have to put down a manuscript, grab my note sheet, grab my pen, it's not like that was instantaneous either. And there's still the ability to then e-mail the notes directly from within the note right to the client who's supposed to be getting. Which I could do with the Touch, not with any eReader. It's safe to say that manuscript reading is hands-down better on the iPad than anything else I've ever used, including paper manuscripts, though it's not so much better as to be a complete game-changer over some of the eReaders and the like.

Haven't used the iBook store for an actual purchased book. The interface for the store has rightly been faulted for lacking a lot of the browsing tools that Amazon has. You either find something that's being marketed to you via the bestseller lists or something, or you'll buy exactly what you went to the store wanting to buy. You won't encounter a lot via serendipity. But looking at some sample chapters of Mistborn or the Winnie the Pooh that came with, the reading experience when you do get a book is about as good as you can ask for. I haven't sampled all of the different device-related apps, but I can't see much for them to improve upon other than for allowing you to access your device-specific books on this device.

Second, newspapers. I've been desperate for a second read to the NY Times since the other local papers, Newsday especially, went ever further south in the mid-00s. When I had the Kindle, I liked the idea of having a wireless subscription to the Washington Post, but the miserableness of the reading experience was one of the factors that ultimately allowed me to give up the Kindle without much angst. Then I went to reading it on the web site and buying hard copy when I was in Manhattan. More recently the Post introduced an iPhone app that offered an abridged selection of full articles (like, all the op ed pieces but none of the editorials) in a buggy but attractive and intuitive manner. Now, with the iPad, I'm able to take full advantage of a replica subscription powered by NewspaperDirect. This costs me $100 per year after a seven-day trial and is also available on monthly and quarterly subscriptions, and it is wonderful. I'm given a reduced image replica page of the actual newspaper to look at. I can click on that page and read it blown-up with all the ability to pan and scan and pinch and un-pinch with my fingers. Below the reduced image there's a list of articles on that page, so I can click a particular article if I don't want to peruse the entire page. There's also an ability to click the article in the replica page. I can scroll through the pages. I can scroll through the articles. I can click to a table of contents. I can click to a 30-day archive. I can click to share. As with reading manuscripts, the iPad is offering me the best way to consume content that I've ever had -- or maybe for newspapers tied with the best because I do still find reading actual newspapers to be pleasant.

There are a few faults with the replica subscription. If you blow up the page, you have to go back to the page with the reduced image to hit the button to go to the next page. It would save a lot of time if I could go from page to page within the full page image. If you read an article in the sports section that was given a shout-out on the front page, the article is "married" to the front page image, and you then have to to back to go forward because when you click that article you're taken back to the front. Same thing if there's an article that's given a shout-out on the front page of a section. Yes, you get used to this, but it takes some getting used to and some attention to not think you're going from page C1 to C2 and find that you've actually gone from A1 to A2. And because the touch screen isn't perfectly responsive, you'll blow up to the full replica page, try and scroll down or across, and find out your movement has registered as a tap instead of a scroll. Which then brings you back to the reduced page image, and then you have to tap back. That is a minor annoyance and time sink. On the other hand, have you even been outdoors reading a newspaper on a windy day and you try to turn the pages? Wrangle the pages, more like. While there are negatives to this experience, in its entirety it's as close to holding a dead tree as I've ever gotten.

And of course, I can also go the Post website on my iPad, or to the mobile version of the Post website, or use the Post app, though it hasn't been updated for the iPad and is thus one of those that you can fuzzily expand to a larger version of the iPhone version. As with reading books, I can use the iPad to read my newspaper in a number of different ways.

When people belittle the iPad for being a bigger version of the iPhone, they totally don't get it. Yes, all of the core built-in system features like Mail, Safari, the Address Book, looking at photos, using Google Maps,II' all of these are now bigger. But it's a lot more than just that they're bigger. Its vastly easier to check e-mail on the iPad screen than on the iPhone/Touch screen. You can look at actual web sites on the iPad instead of the mobile versions of same. You can do nifty things for looking at photos like the "origami" slideshow that just wouldn't work on the smaller screen. Pretty much anything I want to do on the iPad in terms of those core functions, I can do not just in bigger ways but in a myriad of better ways. In some instances, though, bigger isn't better. Good photos look sweet on the iPad, bad photos look worse, so I'll have to maintain separate photo albums in some instances to sync with different devices.

I've used the iPad for entirely trivial things. Numbers is a powerful spreadsheet app, I used it to make scorepads for Scrabble and for Hearts, now if we play a heated family game of Hearts, it can be e-mailed to the rest of the family just like that and clutter their inboxes.

There are so many things that I can do with the iPad that I kind of feel like it's a sports car being driven around Manhattan on rush hour. Until I really app it up...

As I get more and more of these gadgets, certain things I've been doing one way I now need to start doing another. This morning I spent some time tidying up my Address Book, and now I need to add to it substantially. It used to be that it was just as quick to have client contact info in a word-processing file which could be searched just as quickly as any file, now I need to really start using things like the Address Book/Contacts.

As Apple is in the habit of doing, the iPad doesn't work with OS 10.4. It's actually more compatible with older versions of Windows machines than it is with Apple machines. I've gotten a new Mac for my apartment, but until I get a new Mac for my office or upgrade its OS, there are some things that I have to sync with the iPod Touch and then sync at home to sync with the iPad.

The battery life of the iPad is excellent, but unfortunately the recharge time is slow slow slow. It can take an hour, maybe a little more than that, for me to recharge my iPod Touch in an outlet, it can take me three or hour hours to recharge the iPad.

Would I recommend the iPad? In an instant.

1 comment:

Jessica Strider said...

I must say I love the iPad. It has some problems, but for the most part, it's a great device. It's good for PDFs too (I have a cookbook on mine that's a joy to look through).

Beware the apps though. My husband keeps adding new ones... We won't have any space left on ours soon.