Getting Reading Done

Last month, I got an iPad Mini from my workplace. Apart from my work-related apps, I decided to not install Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, or any social media apps [1]. Instead first, I choose to install only Kindle, iBooks, and Instapaper apps. Not even Flipboard or Zite that usually has short news stories. I made this decision consciously as I wanted to get back to my long-form reading habit. It’s almost impossible to get any done during the daytime either due to work commitments or other distractions on other devices. I’ve tried the ‘will power’ and ‘self control’ thing [2] but judge me all you want, it doesn’t work for me. So I had to get my reading done at night in bed [3] . That was usually when I wasted time on Reddit. Ick! Now I feel so bad about it.

Second, I made a conscious decision to also leave my personal iPad Air downstairs each night. I got only my phone that I need to charge at my bedside. I carried my iPad Mini to bed so I had no choice but to read only books or long-form articles. I got the iPad on April 24 and I’ve tried to read books every night ever since. So how did I fare?

Books Read Post-iPad Mini

Source: If you know my real name or are my Facebook friend, you can read my ratings/reviews on GoodReads.

I surprised myself by completing 8 books; more than I had read in the eight months prior to that. Of course, most were non-fiction but I prefer those nowadays over fiction. I wasn’t tried to speed-read so I was also surprised that I could read just as quickly as before. I’m glad to know that this skill doesn’t diminish over time due to lack of practice. I’m trying to get back into reading fiction. Thankfully Ash reads a lot of fiction and knows my preferences so recommends books that I’ll enjoy. The benefits of this re-discovered albeit forced habit of reading books are the usual and obvious ones. As an added benefit, I can now fall asleep much quicker and often sleep better. I used to be an insomniac but it looks like those days are past me. Ash is a voracious reader too so our Kindle app is always bursting with new books [4]. I’ve started frequenting our public library often too. Luckily, Austin’s public library has a lot more ebooks available that you can directly download to your Kindle app. Two of the above eight books were paper books so it’s not like I’m completely relying on eBooks.

I would heartily recommend following my method. If you don’t have the luxury of owning two iPads, you can always delete the social media off your primary iPad and rely on your phone. Or simply buy the Kindle device. It’s well worth it. Happy reading!

  1. My workplace doesn’t explicitly disallow us from installing or using them on work devices. As long as you get your work done, no one really cares what you do []
  2. I don’t mean the apps that disbar you from accessing sites for a fixed period of time []
  3. Nope, the screen neither troubles me nor affects my sleep. In fact, I fall to asleep quicker and sleep better after reading books. []
  4. She has finally moved past paper books to ebooks simply due to the convenience factor although she uses Kindle device and not the app []

Top Reasons Why Apple Could Trump Amazon in Digital Textbooks

Amazon Digital Books uses its proprietary format called MOBI (also called Kindle format), while Apple uses an open format called ePub

Wait! Apple is open?

[Link to Top Reasons Why Apple Could Trump Amazon in Digital Textbooks]

We Know What and How You Are Reading

Most e-readers, like Amazon’s Kindle, have an antenna that lets users instantly download new books. But the technology also makes it possible for the device to transmit information back to the manufacturer.

“They know how fast you read because you have to click to turn the page,” says Cindy Cohn, legal director at the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation. “It knows if you skip to the end to read how it turns out.”

[Source: Is Your E-Book Reading Up On You?] Whoa! Whoa! Hang on, now does Amazon really transmit this information back to the publisher? I may not have a problem with Amazon doing this but at least let me have the illusion of control over my privacy by checking a box saying I Agree. Considering how Amazon will not even tell you how many Kindles it has sold so far, I doubt they are in the business of making their data collection practices transparent. For the record, I do not skip to the end to read how it turns out so don’t believe Amazon when it tells you I do.

eBooks on the iPad

Guest Post by Ash

A big reason that I bought the iPad was so I could read e-books. A lot of people who are on the fence about getting the iPad and have talked to me about how I like mine, seem to be confused about how to buy, read and store e-books on the iPad. The many iPad reviews on tech blogs also haven’t gone into this much. I hope this post helps iPad owners and iPad fence-sitters learn about using the iPad as an e-reader.

In essence, the iPad reads any and all e-books in the ePub format. The high-resolution, LED-backlit screen makes for crisp text, rich illustrations and vivid colors. There are a number of apps out there that can be used to read eBooks. Here are the most popular.

The iBooks app is developed by Apple and is their much publicized e-book reader. Through the iBooks app, you can buy books from the Apple iBookstore (accessible through the iBooks app on the iPad and through iTunes on your Mac or PC). You can also buy a book from pretty much anywhere else e.g. Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Powell’s ebooks etc and read it in iBooks.

A big plus for the iBooks app is that it reads DRM-free books. So you don’t have to necessarily buy books. You can search and download e-books from sites like esnips, rapidshare, filestube etc. This is great if you want to read pulp fiction, but not necessarily buy and own potboilers. That how I get my bodice-rippers, i.e. romance novels (as an aside, romance fiction is the largest share of the consumer market, 13.5 percent in 2008).

iBooks Store iTunes Books Sync

To add a book you’ve bought online or obtained in some other fashion, follow the steps below:

  1. You buy a book online and save it to your PC or Mac.
  2. If the book is not in an ePub format but in some other ebook format like .lit or even .pdf, convert it to ePub using free converters (like Calibre).
  3. Open iTunes and add it to your library. The book will now show up under the “Books” section of your library.
  4. Connect your iPad to your computer.
  5. When the iPad shows up on your iTunes library,  click on its books section, and select the sync button. The iPad will now sync with your iTunes library and books in your iTunes library will transfer to your iPad library (you have the option to sync all books, or sync selected books). Done!

When you disconnect your iPad, the books you added will now show up inside your iBooks app. The iBooks library can be viewed as a simple sortable list or as books on a bookshelf.

iBooks Library iBooks Book Shelf

You tap the right or left side of the screen to move to the next or previous page. You turn a page slowly by dragging from right to left. You can go to a different part of the book by visiting the table of contents and tapping a chapter.  The portrait view shows a single page of the book, the landscape view shows two pages. You can touch and hold any word to look it up in the built-in dictionary or Wikipedia, or you can search for it throughout the book and on the web. You can use the Bookmarking feature to highlight text and refer to it later. You can also use VoiceOver (the screen reader in iPad) so it can read you the contents of any page.When you’re finished reading, iBooks bookmarks where you left off.

iBooks Table of Contents iBooks Portrait Mode iBooks Landscape Mode

The advantage of book syncing over iTunes is that you can store your entire library of eBooks in the iTunes library on your Mac or PC, and only keep those books you’re currently reading, or want quick access too, on your iPad. The one improvement I’d like to see in this area is syncing over the cloud i.e. syncing your iPad to the iTunes on your computer over wireless internet so you can transfer books to and fro without necessarily connecting the iPad to the computer.

Through the Kindle app, you can purchase eBooks from Amazon, as well as access eBooks that you may have already purchased through Amazon. I cant say much more about this app as I haven’t used it since I don’t have a Kindle Store account.The advantage of the Kindle app over the iPad app is that Amazon appears to have the best prices and the best range of new books vs. the Apple store.

You can change the font color, font size and background color. You tap on either side of the screen, or flick, to turn pages. You can add bookmarks, notes and highlights by tapping and holding a word. You can change the font color, font size and background color. A plus for this app is that Amazon Whispersync automatically syncs your last page read, bookmarks, notes and highlights across all your devices, so you can pick up right where you left off no matter what device you’re reading on.

Wattpad is an eBook community where people upload novels, short stories, fan fiction, poetry, essays and more. They’re either material written by the uploaders themselves or material downloaded/obtained from elsewhere. The Wattpad app lets you search their material by genre, keyword or wattcode (a unique code assigned to each of their files which is useful if you’ve found the file on the Wattpad website and want to access it on the iPad). Once you’ve found the book on the Wattpad app, you can read it and/or save it to your Wattpad library.

As with all other eReader apps, you can change the font type, font size, font color & background color. You also have an orientation lock, which prevents it from switching between landscape and portrait if you tilt it slightly. You tap the right or left side of the screen to move to the next or previous page. While reading the book, you can turn on auto-scrolling where Wattpad automatically scrolls through the text, from top to bottom. You can adjust the speed of this automatic scrolling. I don’t like this app much because the text is all formatted the same, which makes the material feel less like a book.

Wattpad Search Wattpad Library Wattpad

Stanza is another great app for reading eBooks on the iPhone and iPod Touch. However, they haven’t come out with a iPad app yet. I’ll update this post with my take once the app is released.

Barnes & Nobles has announced that they are designing a new B&N eReader for iPad. Again, I’ll update this post with my take once the app is released.

Coming soon – Apple’s E-Book Reader?

After rocking the music and the phone industry with the iPod and iPhone, is Steve Jobs training his eyes on the e-book reader market? His offhand dismissal of Amazon’s Kindle at the recent Macworld only sought to reinforce the rumor. Be ready, bibliophiles.

Update: Apple did launch its e-book reader but not as a single-use device (see Updates)

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