Reading the iPad

Just a few thoughts, after five or six weeks of happy togetherness with my new iPad …

It is no wonder that we love our books: in reading them, we cradle them close to our heart.1

Yes. And we similarly cradle an iPad. Even the Apple cover, with which we lovingly protect it, is designed to make the iPad’s hard shell seem softer and warmer in the hand — more like a book in fact. And the experience of reading on the iPad is as good as the tactile feel. Even those PDFs of articles you’ve downloaded from JSTOR, or scanned older books acquired one way or another, are at least as readable as your crumpled print-outs; and proper ebooks or modern PDFs of academic books are a delight. It was no surprise to me, then, that a recent study suggests that people find the experience of reading on an iPad (or indeed a Kindle) comparable with reading a printed book, and both much to be preferred to reading on a computer screen.

And that’s not to mention the ease of reading e.g. Anna Karenina in bed, rather than that handsome but massive hardback of the wonderful newish Pevear and Volokhonsky translation (about which more another time).

So — as someone who spends a lot of the day reading on screen — I haven’t had a moment’s regret about getting an iPad. On the contrary, I get more pleased as the days go by. Of course, it isn’t a laptop substitute for when e.g. you want to do extended writing in LaTeX (though I can imagine that soon enough we’ll even be able to do at least modest amounts even of that, adding a paragraph or two to a paper-in-progress: imagine the next version of DropBox has a built-in text editor, you can send source files to be compiled to some server which sends the result back to DropBox, and you can flip between source and PDF …). But for reading papers in the almost-awesome Papers2, or reading books in PDF form, for internet trawling, keeping tabs on your emails, jotting down a few notes in Evernote (automatically synced to your computer), updating appointments and other low-key writing tasks — and even maintaining a blog! — the iPad is fantastic. I find myself taking the it around more and more instead of a laptop.

Of course, those of you who prefer hair shirts to cashmere can buy a cheap-as-cheaps netbook, become Linux geeks, and feel superior: but I’d rather have the aesthetics and delights of the iPad, thank you very much.

1. I steal this thought from

2. Why oh why is the long promised Papers v.2 so alarmingly delayed? We just want (a) Papers to be aware of PDF books as well as articles, and perhaps (b) to allow a bit of highlighting/annotating of PDFs. Is that too much to ask?

9 thoughts on “Reading the iPad”

  1. Ooh, and I missed the linux digs.

    I can think of lots of reasons why you might prefer a mac, but aesthetics? Really? GNOME and KDE are both better looking than OS X. Hell, Windows 7 is better looking than OS X. Just one person’s opinion, I know, but if you don’t like the way it looks, you can make linux look however you want. Try that with your Apple products.

    And the geeks thing isn’t called for. Linux is just as easy to use any anything these days.

  2. Hmm, my first comment seems to have gone missing. Maybe it was the links. Anyway, there are lots of web-based LaTeX editors to try on your iPad. I’d be curious if anyone of them worked. LaTeXLab for Google Docs, ScribTeX, Verbosus, MonkeyTeX. (Google ’em… I fear the links will prevent the comment.)

  3. I’ve read about five books and many papers on mine so far. It beats carrying around the stack of 100+ journal articles I might be referencing in an upcoming paper. I do dedicated reading days where I leave the laptop at home.

    I prefer to edit latex on my real computer. I have used iSSH to shell home and check on something in a tex source file though. Of couse I am a Linux geek that feels no need to feel superior. Use what works for you. I really like the iPad as a portable reading device and it helps me check on blogs more often.

  4. SSH is a great idea Lewis, and something that could easily transfer over to allow you to do serious work on portable devices.

    I think I saw that you can use the iPad as graphical VNC client too, so you could remotely take control of your desktop, assuming you had a static IP and VNC host capabilities (and don’t mind keeping it on and connected all the time). But for LaTeX editing, that’s probably overkill (and would require a lot of scrolling around) — ssh + vim/emacs or similar would be more than sufficient.

  5. Sounds like it’s working well for you. I have been getting on OK with a Sony Reader I got in the States about two years ago. It too has a form factor which does a good job of evoking a book. The only drawback is it struggles with some older JSTOR PDFs which are scanned text, and the DRM went awry a few months back when I upgraded to Mac OS Leopard. Swings and roundabouts! If I knew I could trust the DRM not to lock books I pay for, I’d probably buy very few paper books – especially since living on a narrowboat means my library must be as compact as possible. But at the moment, I’m holding off investing lots in books which may not be readable after an OS upgrade or hardware change.

  6. I’m not sure if this is the kind of thing you were hoping for, but there are a few online \LaTeX compilers, so you can compile your files while you work and see the output without needing a native compiler. By far the most resource rich online \TeX editor and compiler is over at ScribTeX is an absolute godsend for on-the-go compiling for Netbooks, since loading a distro onto a netbook can put some heavy strain on a netbook’s processor.

    If you don’t want something as complicated, another very nice online \TeX editor and compiler is over at Keep in mind, however, that this one is run by a Flash applet, so it probably won’t run on the iPad. They have an HTML version, though, which might. Possibly worth a try.

    Finally, if you’re not interested in necessarily editing because of iPad’s Flash or HTML limitations, there are two resources that are ONLY compilers. One is at and the other is at The second will allow you to paste \TeX in, then will compile it into either PostScript, PDF, or DVI. The first one is much more robust, but will only allow you to compile into PDF (which might not be a problem for most). The advantage of Baywifi’s \LaTeX compiler is that it allows you to include Images, Styles, and Classes with the document, allowing for the use of things which might not come on a standard distro (like fitch.sty). Both of these compiler should run fine on the iPad, though I have not tried any of them.

    Good luck. =]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top