I’ve spent the last three days playing with my iPad. While there are many very savvy and very insightful reviews of the device out there, this probably isn’t one of them. It’s more of a log of my experience trying the device and the things I noticed as I set it up (Oh my God the Setting Up and the Waiting for the Setting Up) and tried to read on it, and my thoughts after a few days of doing so. My apologies in advance for the length of this review, but I think it communicates a lot about a device when you understand the setup and adjustment that someone goes through as they try it.
Saturday 3 April: It arrived!
5:15pm: There’s a box on my porch!
5:40pm: snacks are distributed, iPod is unboxed, iMaxi is tried (cannot operate one handed – heh – so is truly for novelty or travel).
5:45pm: Great. I have to upgrade iTunes and Apple and a bunch of other crap.
6:00pm: Still updating.
6:30pm: Still updating.
6:45pm: Still updating. Dear Lord.
6:50pm: OH MY GOD WITH THE UPDATING.
Hint #1: Update all this crap long before you’ve got schpilkis to get on with the iPad usage.
7:00pm: DONE. Wait. Have to reboot. *headdesk*
7:03pm: “What does that word mean, Mommy?” “Nothing! Nothing at all.”
7:05pm: Hooking it up finally!
7:06pm: Good Lord, it has to sync. That’ll be awhile.
7:22pm: Finally finally! Ready to rock!
Hint #2: I have a sticker on the back of my Kindle because the metal gets slick when my hands are damp. The iPad is similar: if my hands are at all damp, it’s slippery. Also, the bevel on the side and the width in the middle vs. the taper toward the edges makes it difficult for me to hold with one hand – and this may be because I have very small hands.
Yes, my hands are small. I know. But they’re not yours. They are my own.
7:28pm: Let’s look at some apps, starting with the Most Important One.
Ask the Hoff: in 2x or 1x it looks fine. Hofftastic, not so much, but fine. I asked the Hoff if an iPad version of the app would be forthcoming. He didn’t answer – because it couldn’t detect the shaking. WOE. I have no ASK THE HOFF?!
Seriously, that’s a reason to send it back. Or sell it on eBay. If I can’t Ask the Hoff, I’m not sure what I’ll do.
7:35pm: Why exactly is pink camouflage one of the wallpaper options?!
7:36pm: Some of the provided wallpaper photos are surprisingly full of digital noise. Yecch.
8:30pm: I’ve updated all my apps to include the iPad version. So exciting.
Oh, ho! I get a free two-week trial of Netflix – woo! I am watching a movie … no wait changed my mind, season one of Buffy in less than 2 minutes. That sound you hear is my Kindle sitting next to me, sad that I’m not reading. (dun dun dunnnnn).
8:40pm: Here’s an example of Hey Look a Chicken Monkey Brain enabled by the iPad. I’m watching Buffy, Season 1 Episode 1, and there’s this guy, and I think it’s Carmine Giovinazzo from CSI:New York. So I pause, download the IMDB app, and look him up. Turns out I’m right.
Man, multifunction devices (without true multitasking – like, if I could look that up while minimizing the tv show to a smaller window, that’d rock) are going to put a dent in my reading. (dun dun dunnnnnn)
Note #3: I’m willing to bet that future editions come with a camera function, because there’s a tiny pinhole camera in the top bar that you can see when a very bright light is focused on the face of the iPad. There’s something up there anyway. Bet it’s a camera, or a camera to be in the model that comes out after mine that’s better in about 3 or 4 months.
I found some instructions on how to sync my Google calendars to the iPad here.
But I think it’s time I tried to read something, right? Enough with the playing and the questioning the wisdom and reason of pink camouflage. (REALLY. WHY?!)
Kindle for iPad: It’s gorgeous. Even the animation going from day to night with the boy with the oddly long forearms is beautiful.
I’ll try reading Wild Ride, which I have in paper and on the Kindle b/w edition (aka Llyfr, which is Welsh for “book”).
Oooh: you can change from black on white, white on black, and black on sepia. Nice. But the text size changes depicted in the selection bar are not the actual size of the text on the screen.
This is the Kindle iPad App’s black on sepia, with the middle text size enabled. Still not big enough for me. (That’s what she said).
Here it is with white on black with largest text size enabled, which is visually more comfortable but still not ideal – still not big enough. The size of the text I select in the menu does not match the size of the text of the book itself. And the text in the book is not big enough for my optical comfort, dang it – though this could just be the file I’m reading and the settings “provided” by the publisher.
No, alas, in other books from other publishers, the text options are very minimal.
The notetaking is good. And so far, white on black cranked up as high as the text size will allow is not horrible, though holding the thing is uncomfortable to say the least. I’d rather read with the iPad propped up on a blanket on my lap than hold it in my hands.
10:21pm: I just spent the last 30 minutes reading Karina Bliss on the iPad, and it’s not the greatest thing for me. Nowhere near as comfortable as the Kindle, and I keep having to refocus my eyes like I can’t quite get every letter sharp and clear. With the e-Ink I never have to do that. I realize the e-Ink isn’t for everyone, but for me, it’s ridiculously comfortable to read with, and the iPad screen, even turned to white-on-black, which is usually pretty good for me, isn’t doing it. My eyeballs hurt already.
With the e-Ink, I can sink into the reading without being aware of what I’m reading on or how I’m reading. With the iPad and the screen and the text layout I’m using, I’m aware of it because I’m still struggling against it.
I’m really bummed about that, and the fact that the text just isn’t freaking large enough. More customization options shouldn’t be so difficult to create, right? Let’s move on to iBooks.
iBooks: The font adjustment is MUCH better, omg. I can crank Winnie the Pooh up to Ginormogundous size. I don’t much need the page turning animation – it’s gloss and aesthetics when I just want to read a book, silly people.
But alas, I cannot switch to white-on-black. I have no use for Sepia aside from “That’s kind of neat.” But white on black is not going to work for me.
Also, why do designers think I need a literal picture of my bookshelf to understand that I’m looking at my selection of books? Borders has it, the iBookstore has it… I don’t get it. Seems so unnecessary and prevents me from organizing books the way I’d like to. I don’t need that and I don’t need my digital books to look like paper books animated. I am well aware of the difference between text on paper and text on a screen made of eInk or LCD and it’s almost condescending to make my digital books look like animated books as if I cannot tell or appreciate or read peaceably without the “look” (and not the “feel”) of paper.
With the Kindle app and the iBook app, I think about all the time spent making the page turning so spiffy and wish there had been more time spent on allowing me a greater range of text sizes and brightness/contrast options. I don’t care that it looks like a book. I’m able to recognize the difference. I do want more customized options, but not based on animated book pages turning just the way I want.
I’m a reader. I want the book. The text in the format and legibility I desire. I don’t give a flying crap it if looks like a book turning pages. I’m not after the delivery method. I’m after the text.
And OH my GOSH the expensive. The store prices are ridiculous! I’m much happier converting the books that I have to ePub using Calibre, then moving them over via iTunes to the iPad. (Note: you have to drag them over to the “Library” area in iTunes, NOT the iPad itself when it’s plugged in. That’ll crash iTunes in a big damn hurry – thanks to Liza Daly for the tip on that one.)
In the bookstore, the selection is not so hot, and the prices are not either. To see more about the store, the prices, and the odd metadata, check out Jane’s review of the iPad. Note: one of us is an attorney, trained to synthesize large amounts of information into smaller, palatable length of argument. I am not that one.
The Stanza upgrade for the iPad should be amazing, if there is one. This may be where Amazon’s ownership shows up – the Kindle app for iPad is spiffy* and I wonder why they’d want another product that they own to compete in the new format. But who knows? I absolutely cannot ever predict what Amazon is going to do next.
*Interesting note: take a look at the screen for the Kindle for iPad. The animation of the little dude shows him reading a screen that’s lit up. Either that’s an iPad, or it’s a larger backlit color screen Kindle. I’m thinking both.
Sunday 4 April: The iPad is risen, no word yet on resurrection of the book industry.
I took the iPad to bed with me (rrrowr) and turned off the screen rotate so I could read in bed. I’m focused now on finding things to prop the iPad up onto, so that it’s at an angle for me. The weight and the curved back and bevel edge are not comfortable to hold in the least. I wonder if cases will come with a strap to keep it on your hand for you.
Plus, the ipad keeps forgetting the network passcode which is really annoying. I’ve had this problem before with my MacBook but I don’t think it was fixed by me or by Hubby. I think an OS upgrade made it stop. So I guess that’s what I’ll wait for here. There will be one – and an iTunes upgrade too I’m sure.
I’ve been typing on the keyboard in landscape mode for a few minutes here. It’s slower going than on a keyboard with, you know, keys. The return key is very easy to tap accidentally but the bigger oddity for me is that the apostrophe is on a submenu.
The iMaxi case is – surprise – a total novelty and not practical due to how tight the pocket is for the iPad. Plus there’s plenty of padding for the front but not so much for the back so I feel like it is unprotected. I’ll have to go get a more protective case with a stand.
It charges in an AC outlet really slowly. Despite having the required OS, USB ports and MacBook Pro specs it won’t charge in a USB. I just had it plugged in for over an hour and it went from 78% to 94%. poky charge it has one.
I also use Google Docs a LOT and I cannot manage a spreadsheet on the iPad very well.
On the plus side I did buy two albums for the boys while we were outside so we could listen to music while they played. That took all of 2 minutes tops and the speaker is pretty good for listening outside. Right now I’m back to typing on the MacBook Pro while listening to music on the iPad. It’s a really expensive MP3 player right now.
I have used it to update the site, and I’ve sent email, so I think it’ll be a very useful and portable device for web use, reading, watching tv and movies, and not for heavy word processing or spreadsheet usage. Given what I do when I’m online, this device would mark the divide between entertainment and relaxing and working – which might be very useful for me given that the minute I pick up my laptop, there’s 14 million hours of work to do when I really meant to do something fun.
As a media player, it’s, in my opinion, pretty cool. I’m not a big tv and movie watcher, really, and I have no idea if having the iPad will mean I watch more movies or television shows. Maybe in bed? Who knows? I know other folks who watch tv on their iPhones but that screen is way too small for me to focus on comfortably.
As for reading, I really, and I mean REALLY liking the big ol’ screen. I like that the reading visual surface is large, and I like a touch screen to turn the pages. But I’m still not 100% sold on either piece of software for reading.
The Kindle app allows me to have white text on a black screen, but gives me a miserable selection of font sizes. It’s really not big enough for my comfort. I can take notes on books I’m reading – which is awesome and a feature I adore having – but I have a harder time doing the actual reading.
The iBook app gives me a wider variety of sizes and fonts, but I can only have black on white, which tires my eyes out very quickly. I can bookmark and highlight text, but I can’t make notes or annotate as to why I’m bookmarking something.
And of course I’m still without easy file organization in both pieces of software. I’m resigned to keeping a Google to-do list to organize my books by date due, date of release, and genre. Sad, isn’t it?
So I remain where I started: without the ideal digital reading option while between two options that come close. I can keep my fingers crossed for a better upgraded version of Stanza, or I can hope that Apple upgrades the text and customization settings for the iBook app, even though I’m not likely to buy anything from that store given the prices and poor selection.
Nothing yet has beaten the ease of loading the Kindle or using the Stanza interface.
Monday 5 April : It’s heavy. And it’s not my brother.
I switched bags so I could carry the iPad into work with me. I commute about an hour and ten minutes in and out of Manhattan every day, and to do so I drive to a park and ride, get on a bus, then walk to the subway and take the subway a few stops. I’m reading most of that time (except when I’m driving, obviously).
Not only is the iPad heavy in a purse when you’re walking, but there’s no way for me to use it one-handed on the subway. With the Kindle, for example, or a Sony Reader, I can hold on to the subway pole with one hand, pull the reader out of my purse, switch it on, and start reading. No problem.
With the iPad, that’s not possible. Obviously I’m not saying that it needs to be designed for the demands of the average subway commuter, but as a digital reading device, that’s not optimal. Or even good. Plus the weight and the bevel/curve of the back make it difficult to hold with one hand, and I’d be terrified of dropping it on the floor of the subway car or on the lap of another commuter.
This is something I’d take with me when I travel, especially given the battery life, and would use at home instead of my laptop if I wanted to read and be online without having the larger, heavier (and hotter) laptop.
I’m not sure where this device fits in my life, but I do like having it. What remains to be seen is whether the functions of the device will dictate what I do with it, or whether I’ll think of uses for it that a netbook or laptop didn’t satisfy. Jane Litte mentioned using it in the kitchen, which would make a lot of sense given the screen size, brightness, and battery life. It would be great for recipes – if I can keep the cats from knocking it over and keep water and splatter from getting near it.
I asked for questions via Twitter so I’ll answer those, and if you have questions, feel free to ask in the comments. I’ll do my best to answer them.
Jane asked if I was able to figure out which book I was reading when reopening iBooks. Yup – unless I’m missing something, the title of the book was at the top (Her Best Friend, by Sarah Mayberry, which is rather freaking awesome).
But Jane pointed out something that IS missing, and dear LORD is that annoying. When you return to the “bookshelf” or “library” of iBooks, there is no way of knowing which books are in progress, which ones you’ve read, and which ones you’ve not started yet. There’s no way to rank or rate them, either, as she noted. That’s relying way too much on my memory to recall what I’ve read and what I haven’t. Perhaps the expectation is that I’ll delete what I’ve already read? Clearly not – I like having as many books as possible with me, read and to-be-read.
With the Kindle app, the same is true: I can’t tell what’s been read and what hasn’t, or where I am in the book. With the Kindle itself, there’s a line of dots that indicate where I am in the book. With the Kindle iPhone app, there is no progress indication. I don’t use the Kindle app enough that I’d noticed that before, but on the iPad, it’s a rather big omission. Crapicles.
See? No indication of progress, which makes me see the Kindle iPhone and iPad apps as accessories to the Kindle itself, which does show you the progress of your reading.
GrandMama2B asked how heavy it was to lug around, whether I needed a docking station and how I kept it in place while using.
It’s not pleasant to lug around. I’m thinking this will be something that hangs out at home, while I bring the iPhone and the Kindle with me. Too heavy in my bag, especially since I do a lot of walking. I don’t have a docking station so I don’t think I need one.
As for keeping it in place while using, that’s a bigger question to answer. What I want most in a device that I’m using for reading is the ability to sink into my reading without being too aware of how I’m reading or what I’m using to do that reading. I’ve been keeping half my brain on observing and noting what I’m doing, and I have absolutely noticed that I’m appropriating things to hold the iPad in place while I use it. For example: this morning on the bus I used the handle of my bag to hold it still and to take some of the weight off my hand. Last night I used the iMaxi case rolled up behind it, then a blanket when that proved too slippery. I tried to take it to bed with me again and tried using the cat but she didn’t like being an iPad stand at all so she left.
The back of it, with the metal casing, is slippy, so it can be tricky to keep it still enough for your own peace of mind. Some fabrics or pillows I tried just made the slippy worse.
BookReaderTimes asked if I needed a contract with AT&T for the iPad. Nope. I bought the Wifi version, and aside from some annoyances keeping it connected to my wireless network, I prefer that option.
In other words, I wouldn’t sign another contract with AT&T if it came with a lifetime guarantee that AT&T would send a representative over to clean my catbox and take out the trash. AT&T sucks out loud so hard I cannot wait until July when I can switch providers and move on with my life with a different cell phone. They suck so hard in the NY Metro area, I cannot even begin to tell you. I don’t even have 3G service turned on 99% of the time because the 3G bandwidth is so over-saturated my phone doesn’t ring. Calls go straight to voicemail and then I get a notification some 10-15 minutes later. So, no, you do not need a contract with AT&T to have an iPad.
Wow, sorry about that. I have a bit of AT&T rage to work through.
SuzanneMBest asked if I’d had problems with books I’d purchased from other vendors that weren’t iBooks, Amazon or B&N.
Well, no, but I strip the DRM like it’s ladies night at the DRM strip club, and beer is half price. So, not really. Dropping ePubs into the iTunes library then syncing is working for me, though I’m not enamored of the iBooks library feature enough to use it regularly. I’m not going to use it after I finish the book I’m reading now.
DrkCherry: Is it worth what it costs?
Oh, boy. I honestly cannot answer that question. If I had a few hundred dollars and could by an iPad or a small netbook, I don’t know what I’d choose for you, because it depends on what you want to use your computer for.
Me personally: I run a business on my laptop. I need more than what the iPad offers to do that. But if I were after a digital reader that does other stuff, like an iPod Touch on steroids, is this the device I’d choose? I honestly do not know.
I’ve never said to myself, “Gee, I need to watch more tv shows and watch more movies,” but the iPad does make it easier for me to consume more entertainment OTHER than books. Is that what I want? Not really.
Add to that the fact that the books made for the iPad via the iBookstore are more expensive, and the fact that the Kindle standalone reader offers more features (by a hair) than the Kindle App for iPhone and iPad, and I don’t see the iPad being my go-to reading device, nice as it is. I’m going to finish the book I’m reading now, but I don’t think I’ll put another book on there. I’ll stick with my existing system of Kindle II Matzoh Edition, and a Google To-Do list for organization.
Note: This article by Rich Adin says a lot about the iBookstore’s shortcomings and whether this is a strategic miss by publishers in attempting to battle Amazon’s dominance.
So back to the original question: is it worth what it costs? No idea. Depends on what you want. Do you want a device that will allow you to watch tv and movies via Netflix, use Twitter, send email, and maybe read something? Sure. Do you need a portable media tablet? Sure. The iPad is kind of amazing for that.
Do you want a dedicated digital book reader? Then this is not the best option. And I still don’t know what the best option is, to be honest. I don’t think it’s here yet. And I await it’s arrival.