Some notes on the iPad

This morning I went to the local Apple store and picked up my iPad. I have been dying for a way to bring my PDF library with me for some time. My work revolves around reading and since I commute and travel it's difficult not to have texts with me. In fourteen years of teaching, I've never had a proper office with a bookshelf and my current office, at Columbia's Studio-X, doesn't have room for more than a few books. A tablet full of PDFs struck me as a good replacement for the books in my library that don't have high-resolution imagery. Moreover, putting PDFs on a tablet for use in during class discussions strikes me as a better way to go paperless in the classroom. I forget photocopies from time to time and a tablet is more like a sheet of paper than a laptop is. I can put it down and it's no longer a physical artifact between my students and myself.

My initial impression is that this will be a tremendous success for me. I have hundreds of books in Papers on my Macs and can read them in Skim on either computer or in the Papers application on the iPad. It's frustrating not having highlighting yet, but this will come either via Papers or a competitor.

To be sure, I have mixed feelings. I don't like the closed nature of the App Store and I am wary of adding yet another product from the Apple ecosystem into my workflow. Still, just as the Kindle spurred the iPad, the iPad will, I hope, spur competitors. And I doubt that calling this the decade in which computing becomes pervasive will be much of a mistake. Computing is already pervasive.

It was enlightening to stand in line and discuss the different usage scenarios with the other purchasers. One individual is an artist who wants to use it as a sketchpad (I'm afraid that I would not buy Moleskine stock after today…my Moleskine is likely to be a victim), another is a photographer who wants to bring his portfolio with him, a third works with autistic children and uses the iPod Touch with them, a fourth thought he would use it for medical applications. I also see the tablet as an ideal device for the aging baby-boomer set whole will use it to browse the Web, make purchases, read magazines, do the New York Times crosswords, see pictures of the grandkids, and watch Netflix on it.

To some degree, it will spur new, media-rich publications. At the same time, these are difficult to make and even more difficult to capitalize. This decade will be devastating to media in this regard—and the last decade was already bad. Recently, I was at a lecture where someone suggested that his students weren't familiar with CDs, that they used iTunes to purchase their music. Actually, he was grossly mistaken. Young people today simply don't purchase music, they Torrent it or download it from Rapidshare. There are already large numbers of texts— academic and commercial—available for free from pirate sites. It's a losing battle to fight this. I'm sure that some sites will be shut down, but others will open up. Moreover book piracy is immensely attractive to individuals doing research or teaching in foreign countries. A colleague from the developing world mentioned that she would use my writing in her courses because so little material on contemporary architecture was on the Web. Today she would have a choice of hundreds of books, all available to download freely, if illegally. Foreign governments will tacitly look the other way. Why should the US, the EU, and Japan have the knowledge? My children's generation will find books purchasing as foreign as music purchasing is for the millenials.

Having easily searchable text will transform scholarship. Reading scholarly books cover to cover may become as odd as listening to albums cover to cover. My colleague at AUDC, Robert Sumrell suggests that complete availability and the ease of search will undo the need to read books at all. To some extent, I suppose it will. Moreover, the staggering amount of knowledge that will be at your fingertips may well act as a disincentive to create. The music industry hasn't just collapsed because nobody is purchasing music: there haven't been any new movements since hip-hop, alternative, and electronica. In part, this may be because technology now makes it possible to produce any sounds you can conceive of so technology is actually not a driver for music anymore and in part, this may be because local scenes just don't develop the way they used to now that music spreads across the world in minutes. When everything is known, Baudrillard would suggest, we have no need for anything anymore. This is a polemic of course, but I think it makes some sense too.

There's a lot of noise now about how media-rich magazines will be solve the problem of monetizing content for the press. But who will pay for all that media and all that design? Magazines are already strapped. I am not convinced that this will work, at least not for the majority of publications. 

All that said (and I thought I'd mention that all this was written on an iPad that I am using a bluetooth keyboard with), I can't deny that the iPad makes me feel like it's 2010, just as using a DVD for the first time in bed on my laptop in 2001 (and yes, it WAS 2001: A Space Odyssey) made me feel like it was 2001. Welcome to the future, now let's see how we survive it.  

Location:N Fullerton Ave,Montclair,United States

Comments

Browsing vs. Creation Devices

In our "conversation" on Twitter the other day I mentioned that I was tired of Windows crashes yet I couldn't get away from it due to certain software (mainly Autodesk products) that aren't available for Mac. I'm not enthralled enough with Apple products to dive in headfirst and purchase a Mac laptop, yet you (and others) have made a good case for the iPad as a content consumption device. I'm almost convinced to get an iPad for web browsing, reading PDFs and light emailing and then keep my Windows laptop for doing 3d work in Revit/Rhino/Autocad etc. There are so many PDF documents I would be more likely to finally read if I had a device like this with long battery life and a smaller form factor than a full-sized computer. I also think the iPad will be fantastic as a note-taking device that will replace the extremely disorganized scraps of paper and half-used notebooks I have spread out around my various workspaces. I shouldn't get too excited yet, as the iPad unfortunately hasn't gone on sale yet in the UK.

pre-outlined pdf's

as you know i'm a big fan of pdf reading, ipad or no ipad. whereas before [last year] i would patiently bookmark the book while i read, downloadable pdfs now often already include direct bookmarks of the different chapters [see, for example, kant here]. very convenient, although i think we'll still be reading for a while. but does make research and note taking much more efficient.

more interesting that the ipad [and other gizmos], i think, is the availability of scholarship to broader areas of the globe, something that is changing exponentially, and more and more limited by personal interest than by choice. we're still not where we should be, but even in the first world, with several hefty libraries within my reach it is currently easier to googlebook something if i need to find the source of a quote or need to look at something at 4am.

i'm curious if this will change the content or methodology of scholarship, but for now it has already changed the research process. perhaps it makes us wish for what we cannot have [what is still not on the web], and research travel will become more important. we will begin fetishizing the images of particularly good 'finds'/primary sources [although most academia does that already]. or perhaps some will get lost in a recurring concatenation of references, unable to get off the infinite google loop.

Pingback

[...] This morning I went to the local Apple store and picked up my iPad . I have been dying for a way to bring my PDF library with me for some time. My work revolves around reading and since I commute and travel it’s difficult not to have …Click Here [...]

I've been doing lots of

I've been doing lots of thinking on the file system, and what I've realized is that not only is the concept of the spatial, windowed, hierarchical file-system essentially obsolete, but even the idea of the discrete file itself is obsolete.

After all, who is this person who decided the boundaries of this file? Who is the person who labeled this version of the story as definitive? Who is this person who assumes that their content is worth 8 hours of my time, instead of the 35 minutes I might want to put into it? Who is this person who has the audacity to label beginnings and endings, chapters and paragraphs? Why is this comment I've written not stored on my machine as a "file"?

So, what is the destiny of the word "author" in these times? Read/Write Culture, Atemporality, Bitorrent - all of these forces apply to our own digital assets as well as the assets of major media companies. Once you start to see software as media, you start to see everyone as a sort of author. I see this much more clearly now than I ever have in the past, though I've been hearing it for years. Ultimately, the divisions between creation and consumption will shift and those old terms will lose their meaning, as people who've grown up with the tools of "creation" realize their potential.

Paradoxically, however, this first real step past the old file-system - the iPad - is a step into total control; is submission to AT&T, the App Store, limited file management, object-oriented programming, and DRM.

That's what scares me, release through imprisonment.

wait but can you take notes in it?

so wait, can you take notes on an ipad? if you're in a classroom or conference room, you could lay it flat on the table. but then everybody would see your screen [not good].

if you are in a lecture room, to use your 10 fingers [like a pro typist like me does] you have to place on your lap, so it might not be as comfortable to see the screen. so not really for note-taking?

[i haven't played with it yet, i'm just wondering]

Hi Ana Maria! Yes, I take

Hi Ana Maria!

Yes, I take notes on it all the time. It seems much less annoying to do that then to use a laptop. For one, it doesn't automatically suggest that I am surfing the Web. Second, it makes much less noise than a keyboard. I sat next to the Dean in a lecture the other day and didn't feel like a putz using it tot ake notes. For his part, he ordered some for the school.

As for how I use it, I prefer to hold it with both hands and to use my thumbs to type. This is much faster than you might expect, I would say about 40 words per minute (this message really hasn't taken any time to type at all). It's certainly a lot easier and faster than an iPhone. It's also much better than a notebook so, alas, my Moleskines are staying behind and I don't pull out my pen anymore.

I don't find the landscape mode conducive to touch typing but maybe I am just not used to it (for one, I use Dvorak rather than Qwerty to touch type and there is no option for this on the iPad...remember that I did a dissertation and had to come up with delaying tactics like learning a new keyboard). It works but it is not faster than thumb typing. If I turn the brightness of the screen down, I don't think it would be too bad to put on a table in a seminar.

Evan, I think you are absolutely right although wasn't it the Newton that did away with the file? If I recall it used a sort of data soup. That said, I don't think this is Apple's intent yet.

Hi Ana Maria! Yes, I take

Hi Ana Maria!

Yes, I take notes on it all the time. It seems much less annoying to do that then to use a laptop. For one, it doesn't automatically suggest that I am surfing the Web. Second, it makes much less noise than a keyboard. I sat next to the Dean in a lecture the other day and didn't feel like a putz using it tot ake notes. For his part, he ordered some for the school.

As for how I use it, I prefer to hold it with both hands and to use my thumbs to type. This is much faster than you might expect, I would say about 40 words per minute (this message really hasn't taken any time to type at all). It's certainly a lot easier and faster than an iPhone. It's also much better than a notebook so, alas, my Moleskines are staying behind and I don't pull out my pen anymore.

I don't find the landscape mode conducive to touch typing but maybe I am just not used to it (for one, I use Dvorak rather than Qwerty to touch type and there is no option for this on the iPad...remember that I did a dissertation and had to come up with delaying tactics like learning a new keyboard). It works but it is not faster than thumb typing. If I turn the brightness of the screen down, I don't think it would be too bad to put on a table in a seminar.

Evan, I think you are absolutely right although wasn't it the Newton that did away with the file? If I recall it used a sort of data soup. That said, I don't think this is Apple's intent yet.

Global reading

Oh yes,

I completely agree about the global availability of research. Pirate site plus Google Books now give me a better online library than SCI-Arc had. Maybe not for architecture, but for theory sure.

For what its worth, I also find reading on the iPad significantly faster than on my laptop or in a book. Right now I am using iAnnotate, which could be better but gives me highlighting. Papers is better in many ways but the oak of annotation is a killer.

And yes, I wrote both of these notes on the iPad.

I wish there was an option for using the screen in e-ink mode (this may be technically impossible) so it wouldn't be such a bright light on my face in the subway.

hmmm

i'll race you with my notebook. thumb typing, humf! probably it's that i was trained in an actual typewriter and can blind type but i'm skeptical of anything that doesn't allow 10 fingers.