Month 2 of iPad2: A review of books and apps; a chronicle of experiences

Monday, May 23, 2011

I'm well into my second month of cohabiting with the iPad2, and I'm frankly still getting used to the creature. Still learning how to navigate and sync. Still trying to discover how to make it work for me.

Some reporting, then, from the field.

I have found the iBooks (I bought Bossypants and a guidebook to Croatia) to offer a more alluring read than the Kindle books, thanks to the preview capability, the extras, the ease of navigation, and the more generous simulation of actual-book reading. And yet, I have leaned more heavily toward Kindle books because the titles I have wanted—In Zanesville, A Visit From The Goon Squad, Please Look After Mom, When We Danced on Water—have been either more readily or more cost-effectively Kindle available. During these past six weeks I have continued to go into bookstores and to buy books proper, continued to hold proper paper-and-spine books such as Cleopatra, Caleb's Crossing, Sweet Dreams, and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius on my lap. I don't think I will ever willingly give up on my old book-buying habit.

I have also made use of the PDF Reader to read both my own adult novel-in-progress (I wanted to approximate the feel of the read before the book was sent out to editors for review) and Dana Spiotta's magnificent Stone Arabia. I'm clearly not a skilled PDF Reader user. I am not thrilled with, and could never look past, the floating nature of those pages, the inability to truly mark the text, the sense that I was reading a mere facsimile. I'm buying Spiotta's book when it comes out in July because I want to own it, have it on my shelves, pick it up with ease, flip to a favorite page. And certainly I am hoping that my own adult novel will move past the PDF Reader stage.

On the other hand, I have loved—loved—reading The New York Times on the iPad2. I still retrieve the weekend edition from the end of my driveway, still settle in with the paper version of the magazine. But I find the overall newspaper to be easier to handle on the iPad2—more alluring, more easily reviewed, more packed with the bright lights of videos and links.  I don't annoy my husband with the crinkle and snap of the paper while he sits on the other end of the couch watching his monster river fish and World War II shows, and I am more connected to the news than I was, and that, alone, is worth the price of this machine. The New Yorker still arrives via the old mangled mailbox each Tuesday. I'm not quite sure that I want to go digital with that particular publication just yet.

Since I am soon bound for London and Berlin, I've also bought some travel apps and played with these.  I'll be honest: I'm still going out to buy a travel guide or two. Call me old-fashioned. I like to dog ear my instructions to foreign places. The Berlin app, for the record, was far superior to the London app.

Last night I spent about four hours searching for new apps—reviewed several but remained unconvinced and finally went on over to to get the kind of reading I was hungry for. In the midst of it all, I studied those increasingly famous Kindle Singles, feeling just a little amazed that Susan Orleans earned an entire NYT article for a piece called "Animalish" that appears to be the length of a single New Yorker magazine story. What, I wondered, would happen if all magazine stories got NYT reviewed?  And while I absolutely adore Tim Gunn, I was surprised to discover that his Kindle Single "memoir" is but 15 pages long. Maybe I'll buy it anyway, to help mitigate the long flight to those foreign places.

I'm headed to the BEA on Wednesday and I think I'll likely be carrying a regular old book in my bag—perhaps a classic like Mary Karr's Liars' Club. I hope to come home with a regular old galley or two as well. I'm on the hunt for Michael Ondaatje's forthcoming The Cat's Table and I'll be stopping by the Grove Atlantic/Black Cat and Graywolf booths to see what these two fantastic imprints are up to. 

All in all, I guess I'm saying, I am making my way. I'd love to hear from others on this journey.


Melissa Sarno said...

Thank you for sharing this experience. I'm really intrigued by it. People keep asking me why I don't have an e-reader and I don't know how to answer them.
I'm having a very different experience with the IPad2, fooling around with it at my job and immersing myself in apps/games/books for preschoolers. I am trying to figure out how it can be used to play and learn in a new way and what this means for the future of toys and play in general. Which sounds WAY more intense than it is. I'm basically playing Elmo Monster Maker and reading picture books. WAHOOO!

KFP said...

I don't have an IPad yet so I can't comment on that directly, but I can say I continue to love books proper--always have, like you I can't imagine that I won't always will-- and also my Kindle. I do have an iPhone and whatever I am reading on my Kindle syncs to my iPhone--it can go to the exact page I left off reading on my Kindle back at home, therefore if I am stuck in line or something I can whip out my phone which I always carry and read some more of what book I am currently reading. Love that feature.

Every now and then one of my son's borrows my Kindle and downloads books he needs for a semester--saves lots of money. So I am a fan of that, also.

I will miss reading your blog when you are in London and Berlin (if you will not be blogging then). Have a great time at the BEA.

Beth Kephart said...

I love hearing these tales of experimentation, syncing, no-time wasting. I've not carried my iPad into the world yet — I've ordered a carrying case but it hasn't arrived.

So between now and then I still take odd things with me out into the world and read them when I am stuck.

And KFP, I imagine I will blog from foreign places, or maybe not. I'm not so sure yet. But thank you for being so kind in your sentiments... :)


Lilian Nattel said...

How do you find reading on the kindle compared to the ipad in terms of ease of reading and battery?

Mari said...

I don't have an iPad, but on my iPhone I prefer the Kindle App to iBooks. I do like the kid books on iBooks, though since they are in color.

Sarah Laurence said...

It was helpful to hear your experience. I love my Kindle, especially for skimming and reading on the go, but I still prefer real books, other than the cost.

I bought a 800 page Lonely Planet travel guide for Italy on my Kindle which will be good for travel but is a pain to navigate at home when I'm looking for hotels. It bothered me that I couldn't get a Michelain guide on Kindle.

My husband is getting an ipad2 for work and travel with book reading being secondary.

Have fun at BEA and in Europe! I've been watching the volcanic ash anxiously even though we aren't leaving for weeks.

Becca said...

I'm still feeling my way as well, having just started using mine in May.I will always prefer "real" books, although I like reading newspapers and magazines online here. I'm playing around with some note taking apps now.

It's a journey!

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