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 http://craigmod.com/journal/ipad_and_books/
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?