Can the iPad work for me as a viable device for reading certain kinds of books? What are the characteristics of such books?
I sat out the first wave of iPad shipments in order to get an early birthday present of an iPad with both WiFi and 3G. I travel for business a lot, and I wanted to have 3G support so I could have more ubiquitous connectivity. I received the device late in the afternoon this last Friday. Earlier that day I had gotten a root canal, so it was a good excuse to think about something else.
Friday evening and Saturday morning were spent installing and organizing apps for the iPad. When I first registered the device in iTunes, it copied down all my iPhone apps. I then went through and deleted the ones I didn’t want or need on the bigger iPad, and then looked for newer editions of my favorite apps that took advantage of the larger screen. I splurged for a few new apps like Pages, Keynote, Scrabble, Pinball, and Plants vs. Zombies.
Oddly enough, some of the iPhone apps like Calculator and Weather do not come with the iPad, though there are several good substitutes. For the latter I went with WeatherBug. I also downloaded the Apple iBooks and the Amazon Kindle e-book reader apps.
I have never been much impressed the Kindle device itself, and whatever it is going to turn into, it is now a mono-function piece of hardware. I don’t like DRM for books, much less music, but at least Amazon allows you to read Kindle content on an actual Kindle device, plus iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, Mac, and Windows. The iBooks app only works on the iPad and has significantly fewer books in its catalog than does Amazon.
I very much like real books, but there are some kinds that would serve me better in electronic form. Characteristics of these are:
- Very heavy books that I would read while I was traveling but can’t afford the extra poundage in my backpack.
- Books whose content is likely to become obsolete or at least somewhat out of date within two or three years.
- Books that are most useful while I am away from the house.
- Books that I would normally buy in paperback form for a one-time read that come out earlier in electronic form.
With these points in mind, I’ve now bought or obtained the following books as part of an experiment. Will I read them? Will they be useful in their electronic forms? Will I later have reason to to want the paper version? Were they worth the money in electronic form?
My plan was to get one of several different kinds of books and try to answer these questions. It’s too soon to tell how the experiment will turn out.
- Blackout by Connie Willis. This is a science fiction book that was not available in paperback when I book the e-book. In the last year I read two other books by Willis as part of my plan to work through the Hugo and Nebula award winning novels.
- The Power of Pull by John Seely Brown, Lang Davison, and John Hagel III. This is a new business book by well regarded authors. I’m not a big fan of business books and they usually get packed up and put in the attic to make room for other books. Maybe I’ll read this one if I don’t need to lug it around. (I can give no greater endorsement yet since I’m only in the Introduction.)
- Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X, Third edition by Aaron Hillegass. Very heavy book, likely to be replaced within a few years. I’ll need this if I ever get around to writing an iPad app.
- German Demystified by Ed Swick. I took a year of German in college in the mid-70s and I only remember a bit of it when I travel to Germany on business. Maybe having it with me will encourage me to work through it, and at least I’ll have the material with me when I go abroad.
- Music Theory for Guitarists: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask by Tom Kolb. I already own this book in paper, but it is in a large format and a bit heavy, so I’ll see if the e-book version works. It’s excellent in all forms. (Also see my Guitar Reading List.)
- Pride and Prejudice Enriched E-book by Jane Austen, because evidently everyone needs to have an e-book version of this classic. This has some extra formatting and is not just a text dump of a book that is out of copyright. It cost about $3.
- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This is out of copyright and was free. There are thousands of free older books out there, many courtesy of Project Gutenberg. Note that quite a few have not been well reformatted for e-books, so do check them out first to ensure that they have tables of contents with links and so forth.