(“Are you sure that ‘iPad’ is feminine?” Err …. Now you mention it, no. But let’s not fuss about that, eh?)
Ok, I really didn’t intend to buy an iPad. Let alone buy one on the first day of availability in the UK. Honest. But there they were in the Apple store as I was passing, the early queues had subsided, and I got a chance to play with one undisturbed for three quarters of an hour … So I fell, and here I am.
A wild extravagance? Well, not that wild. I’m always a bit surprised, in fact, by the rather stingy attitude towards techie expenditure of some academic colleagues. We often spend five, six, seven hours a day on a computer; why settle for anything but the best available for what we need to do? After all, these things have, relatively speaking, become amazingly cheap. Discount a new bit of kit over three years, and then work out the number of decent coffees a week the same expenditure will buy … even your fanciest laptop comes out as one espresso (not even a doppio) a day. Surely worth splashing out if it makes a coffee’s worth of difference!
And the iPad does make a difference, for less then three coffees a week. Take all the on-the-sofa uses you make of a laptop (idle and not so idle surfing, reading the news, catching up on BBC iPlayer, answering emails, etc. etc.): the iPad is just much nicer to use for all those, and it works as an iPod at the same time. But I don’t need to tell you that, as you’ve seen the reviews.
But here’s a big additional selling point for academics that’s worth highlighting here; it simply transforms the business of reading papers and books (whether PDFs or proper e-publications), much more than I was expecting.
Like a lot of readers here, no doubt, I’ve a heap of downloaded philosophy and logic papers (organized on a Mac using the terrific Papers), and I’ve quite a few books in PDF form too. But even with a beautiful Mac screen, the experience of reading on a laptop somehow isn’t that engaging, as you gaze over the keyboard across the desk (or indeed, across your lap): I still prefer to read the physical paper copies, given the chance. But it is all a lot more upclose and personal with the iPad, as you sit back in your favourite chair and hold the iPad propped on a knee or in the crook of your arm just as you would a hardback. The screen is just fantastic; you can orientate it as you want; the navigation by touching the screen is as natural as turning the pages of a physical book. It beats reading on a laptop or a fixed screen hands down. Oh, and you can sync your Mac with Papers on the iPad.
But this doesn’t really begin to convey the quality of the difference. Lots of early reviewers said, roughly, you just have to experience the iPad to “get it”, and I was very ready to scoff. However, they are right about that; though — I’d claim — the point applies particularly to the iPad as a device for reading papers and books. For in that role it is amazing, and I’m just delighted with it. Try it.