Reading eBooks on my iPad2: My experience

About a year ago, I purchased the nook so that I could read eBooks since my iPad was almost entirely dominated by my children’s use. Last fall, my loving husband bought an iPad2 for my birthday so that I could have my own iPad to use. I share this one with my daughter, but she doesn’t use it nearly as much as my son uses my original iPad.

This year, I decided to give reading books on the iPad a try.

My first eBook was, naturally, the Biography of Steve Jobs written by Walter Isaacson. I purchased it via Apple’s iBooks store more out of loyalty than any other technical or monetary reason. I have the nook and kindle apps for my iPad, so I could have easily purchased it via Barnes and Nobel or Amazon respectively.

I enjoyed the experience of reading on the iPad2 more than I thought I would. Initially, I though that the lighted screen might be a strain on my eyes. While I still prefer the eink technology for eBook reading, I did enjoy the ability to read in the dark while getting my children to bed that reading on the iPad2 gave me.

Aside from the backlighting, the first thing I noticed was the speed contrast between my Wi-Fi + 3G nook and the iPad2 iBooks book. There was no comparison. The iPad2 page turning was responsive. The nook’s page turning was slow.  The iPad2’s iBooks layout was more book like, the nook’s was less so. Given that my nook is a generation old now with the introduction of the nook simple touch, I would hope that the new hardware might provide a little snapper response. I’ve only had the chance to check out the nook simple touch at Target in demo mode, so I cannot speak to it’s function.

Not all book reading apps on the iPad are as nice. I have tried out three other apps to read books checked out from the library (article with instructions coming).

First I tried Overdrive, an application recommended by my local library. For some, but not all, eBook (epub and pdf format) titled in my local library’s eBook catalog, I can check the book out from and read it within the Overdrive application itself. While the ability to do this within the app, and without having to go to an additional Browser or my Macbook in order to get the content onto my iPad was nice, the interface left a lot to be desired when compared to the iBooks reading experience. Gone were the paper-like page turning graphics. Instead of a page turn, the page simple changes to the pervious or the next page depending on which side you’d tapped on. It works and it’s fast but there’s something less graceful and less book-like and more computer-like to this experience.  What I did like was the ability to set type size as well as page color between white to ecru, both of which made reading easier on my eyes.

The next app I tried for reading library eBooks was Bluefire. From the app, it appears that there is a way you check out books out from within BlueFire through some of their affiliates, but since I don’t see my library listed there, I have not tried that method. How I got the content onto my iPad2 here was to check out the book via my Safari browser, download the DRM key to my Macbook. Use Adobe Digital Editions to verify the DRM and download the file. Upload that file via iTunes to the BlueFire app with my iPad2 mounted. Once in the BlueFire reader, you can also set night mode (white text on black background) and text size, as well as fit to page width in the settings. The page turning here is a slide to the left or slide to the right motion, not a page flip. It reminds me of the old microfiche readers our library at work used to have.

To read pdfs, my go-to application is GoodReader. I could write a blog post on GoodReader alone (perhaps I will). The GoodReader app is available as a free and a paid version. I liked it enough that I paid for the full version of both the iPhone and iPad versions. There are a variety of ways of getting pdfs into GoodReader to read on your iPad2. I’ve used most of them. You can use iTunes and upload to your iPad or iPhone at sync, you can link to a dropbox account, your MobileMe iDisk (for as long as that will be around), or download pdfs directly from the web. The application is easy, quick and intuitive. It’s hands down the best pdf reader on iOS.

Overall, reading on the iPad2 has been a really good experience. I don’t find the iPad2’s form factor too big and bulky to use as a ereader. In fact, the Isaacson book is heavier than my iPad2 even in it’s Protenzo case.  Now that I’ve figured out how to check out library books both directly to the iPad and via an iTunes sync, my nook might just be relegated to sitting unused on my nightstand.

Your experience might vary, but the iPad2 has become an everything device for me.



Setting up the Apple TV: Part 3, Apple’s Remote app

Apple's Remote app icon from Apple's site.Continuing the series (part 1, installation, and part 2, Airplay) on setting up our new Apple TV at home, this post will sum up my thoughts of an app I had known about but since I didn’t own an Apple TV when it was released, had completely forgotten about. Apple has a tiny app (free) in the app store called Apple Remote, and it does just what it’s name implies. It turns your iOS device (iPhone, and, I presume, iPad, and iPod touch) into a remote to control your Apple TV.

Using the Apple Remote app came out of a fit of laziness. I was sitting on the couch with my daughter, and the Apple TV’s actual remote control (a beautiful and slender silver stick with a click wheel similar to the original iPods) was sitting across the room next to the TV. It was then that I remembered that Apple had an app called Remote and I immediately downloaded it to my iPhone4.

Upon first tapping the app, with the iPhone already on our local wi-fi network, it immediately found the home sharing that I’d set up via iTunes on my MacBook, and also subscribed to by our Apple TV. Once I’d logged into the home sharing, taping the screen turned on (or, more correctly, woke from sleep) the Apple TV. After it woke up, I saw the Apple TV navigation titles on the screen that are controllable by the left/right/up/down clicks on the silver remote’s click wheel. The controls on the Remote app are super simple. You swipe left right, up or down, to move a cursor on the screen in that large black open area in the center of the iOS device’s screen. The “Tap to Navigate” directional arrows on the image to the left are exactly what you’d see. Once you have moved the curser over what you want to choose, you simply tap on the iPhone’s screen. Tapping does the select.

I was, again, surprised at how easy it was to work. So easy, in fact, that my six year old daughter immediately took the iPhone from me and went about to scrolling through the list of movies we were streaming from my computer via Home Sharing (details coming soon) to pick out the movie she wanted to see (Ella Enchanted for those interested).

I know I am an Apple fan girl from way back, but it’s easy to see why when the things that Apple makes just work. I understand the hacker culture’s need to be able to jailbreak and tear apart the tech that they buy, but I also totally appreciate the culture of insanely great products that just work instilled into Apple’s design philosophy by Steve Jobs. The Apple TV and associated Apple remote all are two bits of technology that I know my Mom and Step Dad would be able to master is short order.

Whether or not Apple has the best TV ever in development for 2012, I am still happy we took the plunge with this huge Panasonic TV with the second gen Apple TV.


The End of 2011: Saying Goodbye to Steve Jobs

I have been thinking on whether or not I’d share with you my feelings on the loss of Steve Jobs. As a huge Mac and Apple fan since forever (and a vocal one to be sure), I felt it was my duty to chime in with something. It is fitting that I learned of Steve Jobs passing, via twitter, on my iPhone 4, a device I wouldn’t have and love if it were not for the tenacious determination and genius of Mr. Steve Jobs.

I have been a long time Mac fanatic, and cannot even begin to express how my life, both as a professional and personally, has been impacted by the tools and vision brought to the world by Apple. I don’t think I’d have become half the rocket scientist I am now, if I hadn’t been lucky enough to join a group here at NASA that was heavily focused on using Macs to think different. It is no small coincidence that the man who is now my husband was also the one who led the charge in that branch to move entirely to Macs. Our kids are as comfortable using iOS devices as I was using a pen and paper when I was growing up. We have more functioning Macs and Apple devices in our house then we have people in our family.

Thank you Apple and thank you Steve Jobs, for giving me the tools to become better than I thought I could be. Not to mention, giving my children a future where technology is something intuitive.

You will be missed, but never forgotten.