spacing hack


solo piano 20101012

I bought an ipad yesterday.

And to be frank, part of me is embarrassed to admit it. For two reasons.

  1. I had decided months ago that I was going to wait for v2. But I ended up getting worked up into a frenzy and decided that I really needed (cough.. wanted) one now. I'm quite fearful that Apple is going to release the ipad 2 shortly and I'll be burned because I decided I HAD TO HAVE IT NOW.
  2. It wasn't the fiscally responsible thing to do. It's somewhat sad to admit that the internet purchases I've been procrastinating on returning were so great that I could nearly pay for an ipad outright. Combine that with the store credit from buying a Nook with gift cards and returning it, and I definitely can pay for the ipad outright. The problem? The returns haven't been credited yet and more importantly, I feel that the ipad money should be going somewhere more important.

So why'd I have to have it now? PDFs.

I'm lucky in that I've gotten to play with a few ebook readers for free because the local college lends them out. The latest ebook reader that I've played with is the Sony Reader Daily Edition. Except for the screen issues (detailed later), this ebook reader was turning out to be perfect for PDFs. The 7" screen made PDFs easily readable when read in landscape mode.

Daily use made it clear that it was a less than ideal device.

First, let me make it clear. The screen sucks. I had already heard that the touch versions of the Sony readers had problems because of the extra layer for the touch. And I can confirm this. The text is not very dark, and you have to be in specific lighting conditions in order to read clearly (for me, sitting near a lamp would do the trick).

But since I had no intentions of buying it myself (and instead just seeing how often I could borrow it), I still thought it was a good ebook reader. But here's where the daily use came in to play.

Though a 7" screen in landscape mode was perfect for the book I started with, it was inadequate for the second book I tried. I'm not a trained designer, but I'm pretty sure the problem with the second book was the line height - which affects the white space between each line of text. I'm guessing this publisher was trying to save money by crunching the text together (fewer overall pages).

So basically, while the first book had been perfectly readable, the 7" screen in landscape was not big enough for this crushed line height text.

Next was the page turning.

The Sony Reader Daily Edition scrolls down a randomish amount each time you turn the "page". To try to describe it better, let's say you have a PDF document where the entire page is 100 lines. In landscape mode, the reader is only showing you a portion of that 100 line document. Let's say the first "page" shows you 40 lines. Well, if you page down, you'd expect that line 41 would now be the very top of the page (or at least I would). But instead, it would back up a little bit and like line 35 would be the top of the page. Meaning that if you weren't paying full attention, you'd start re-reading a portion that you had already read.

Now I said "randomish" because it actually did seem to be a predictable amount. You could start to guess approximately where on the next "page" you'd need to look in order to continue reading. But it wasn't foolproof and I basically had to stop at the end of a paragraph and memorize the visual look of the end of that paragraph and the beginning of the next one, so that when I turned the page, I could visually identify where I was supposed to start reading again.

It was annoying.

Granted, a Kindle DX would solve those problems for me (much better screen quality and a screen large enough that I could fit the entire PDF page on one screen), but this is basically the conclusion I've come to from playing with several ebook readers (2 Sonys and a briefly owned Nook):

Ebook readers are great for linear content. They suck for everything else.

So what do I mean by linear content? Novels and any non-fiction that's designed to be read straight through.

I love e-ink but right now it's still too slow with page refreshes, so anything that requires a lot of back and forth page turning is going to be a problem.

As an example, one of the problems I ran into was when I was reading a Ruby on Rails book on the Sony. There were several instances where there was a big piece of example code and then a discussion of what the code did. So I'd end up having to flip back and forth between the discussion and the actual code. This was exacerbated by the fact that something that was on the previous real page in the book, might be like 5 or 6 "page ups" on the Sony (meaning 10-12 page ups and page downs to go back and forth... ugh).

Obviously, this would be less of a problem on a Kindle DX since more would fit on one page. But the Kindle DX is expensive. It's what, $130 shy of stepping up to an ipad where you'd be able to do so much more than ebooks.

I still do hope to get an ebook reader one of these years. Save for the Sony touch models, I've been very impressed with the e-ink screens I've seen - it basically looks like paper to me. And I have no idea how comfortable it's going to be to read on an ipad.

So onto the ipad.

The biggest qualm I have about it so far is the weight. It's heavy. I've already had a couple of occasions where I could feel wrist fatigue.

Since I've had it for less than a day at this point, I'm not sure how big of an issue this is going to be. Sadly, the must-have-it-now reason for buying it (ebook reading), is the thing I've done the least. I figure this is where the weight issue could be make or break. I'll be finding out.

The keyboard layout is different from the iphone. What was funny to me is how many keys I instinctively knew the location of on the iphone, but was totally taken aback because I didn't consciously know the location of them - a point that was made clear when I tried to use the ipad, which is laid out more like a real keyboard.

For instance, the backspace key. If you had asked me a week ago to tell you where the backspace key on an iphone was without looking at an iphone for reference I couldn't have done it. Yet, when I was on the iphone, I kept hunting for it in the lower right hand corner. It's not there. On an ipad, it's approximately in the same location where it is on a real keyboard (upper right).

Other problem keys for me were the period and the general "Go" button. Period is where it would be on a real keyboard and Go is the equivalent location of return/enter on a real keyboard.

As expected, I still suck at typing on the virtual keyboard, despite the ipad's larger size. I think it's probably the fact that I rest my fingers on keys rather than hovering above. On an ipad, this means that you're constantly unintentionally triggering keypresses.

One thing I've been super impressed with is the battery. Granted, some of this could be the fact that it was getting recharged a bit every time that I sync'd it to the computer, but it at least feels like it's lasted a lot longer than my iphone would have.

And I guess that's all I have for a first-day impression. Overall, I'm pretty happy, but the ebook reading experience might be what tips me on whether I decide to find out if it truly was a 14-day no-restocking-fee return policy. (Side note: if you buy from Best Buy, half of them say 14 days, the other half say 30. And this was at the same store. I'm just planning on it being 14 for paranoia's sake.)

So my big hope? That I'll use the ipad as an excuse to learn how to build an iphone/ipad accessible web app for ear training.

After the rails rumble of course. Which was the reason I needed to be able to easily read PDFs and documentation now.

Still so much to learn.