Tag Archives: media

Save the trees

11 Feb

First published on MyBroadband | 11 February, 2010

Over the past three months I have read seven books, maybe it’s eight but seven of those I read were not books in the conventional sense.

Three of them I read on the Amazon Kindle I was sent to review and four were audio books, which I downloaded from Audible.

That led me to think, the book I am reading at the moment, the second part of Neal Stephenson’s Baroque cycle ‘The Confusion’ is sitting on my bedside table with me only one sixth of the way through it.

The problem is that every time I pick it up I have to strain my eyes to read the rather small print. Now this may be a sign that I am getting old, but I honestly think that the print in that particular volume is too small to be comfortably read.

At over 800 pages, however, I am not sure how they could have fitted all the words into the space without reducing the font to the size it is.

The problem is that I am getting through a remarkable amount of books by listening to them in the car. Great books narrated by people who actually know how to speak English. Although I have to say that the chap narrating the book I am listening to at the moment ‘Dies the Fire’ by SM Sterling really needs a lesson on how to pronounce the words rations (rayshuns) and Edinburgh (Edenbura). The narrator of the latest Jasper Forde book, ‘Shades of Grey’ on the other hand was a real master. So I am getting through a fair quota of literature and just because I am listening to them instead of reading them directly doesn’t diminish my experience.

I would argue that my experience of the book is actually enhanced by listening to it. It may take a bit longer than my usual speed reading to get to the end, but many of the subtle nuances that I would normally gloss over in my haste to get to the next page I actually pick up while listening to an audio book. That and I hear it is frowned upon to read novels in traffic, especially when you have a tendency to get lost in a book like I do.

When it comes to reading on an ebook reader such as the Kindle I found that I was reading even faster than normal. Now, I am not sure if that was because of the number of words on the page or the novelty of the device or not having to hold the book open but I flew through the books I read on the Kindle.

The key to ebooks is two-fold, the ability to download books immediately from a library more massive than the largest Exclusive Books and to be able adjust the reading experience to what you find most comfortable.

I am particularly interested to see how the iPad fares as an ebook reader because the non-backlit screen of the Kindle and its ilk is particularly appealing to me. I get the feeling that the iPad is going to fail as an ebook reader simply because it will place too much strain on the eyes of the reader in low light conditions.

I hope that at some point in the future someone will come up with a screen that not only meets Apple’s demanding standards for display clarity as well as being able to switch into a non-backlit mode for reading the great, or not so great, works of literature.

Just for the record I don’t care who makes this device as long as it is easy to use and has access to a great ebook store. I have a funny feeling that it is more likely to run Android than any other OS and that will be great news for all of us.

Apple iPad, great for some

28 Jan

First published on MyBroadband | 28 January, 2010

Last night at 8pm SA Standard Time about a billion geeks and I gathered around whatever Internet connected device we could lay our hands on and listened or watched someone else listen and then type up the launch of the mythical Apple Tablet, or the iPad as we must now learn to call it.

At the end of the presentation something strange happened, or rather didn’t happen. The world didn’t end, there was no heavenly host signing hallelujah and there was no shining light with a big voice proclaiming the second coming.

OK so maybe I exaggerate slightly, but in reality that was the only way that the lofty expectations of many of the Apple faithful were going to be satisfied.

To be brutally honest what we got was a large iPod touch with an option for 3G connectivity. Those people that thought they were going to get something that could run a full version of Mac OSX were so optimistic in their expectations they probably really believe that they are going to win the lottery this weekend.

The screen is 10-inches in size and that is exponentially larger than that on the iPhone or iPod touch and it is full multi-touch enabled. You can run any app from the app store, but only one a time, which when you consider that the iPad has a decent processor and a much larger battery you would have thought that Apple would have figured out how to allow multi-tasking. The only explanation I can come up with is that because it is running the iPhone OS it is bound by the same restrictions that irritate so many iPhone/iPod touch users.

I can probably think of a hundred other things that I would love to have on this kind of device, including using it for video calls.

This said the one thing that we should all be used to from Apple by now is that much of what makes the company successful is what the company leaves out of its devices, not what it puts into them. So there is no camera and it isn’t a phone, although I am sure that you could use Skype on it (lack of multitasking not withstanding).

What it is, in my opinion, is the best general-purpose portable content consumption device created to date. The TV will always be better for video, the Kindle is probably a better ebook reader, the iPod will always be better for music and the PC will always be better for surfing the Internet. The iPad, however, combines a set of this functionality into a single portable device that could probably meet the needs of most people that consume their media in digital format.

Granted you are locked into Apple’s little closed world and for many people this is simply unacceptable. I hope those people of this persuasion reading this article will have made it this far down and will keep the flames down to char-grill level instead of the usual incinerate.

What I will say is what I say to all my friends that ask me about the Apple vs Windows divide or the iPhone vs Nokia vs Android debate. Every person has a way of interacting with technology. Some people naturally drift towards Windows because it fits the way their minds work and some people drift towards Apple for the same reason.

The iPad is another one of those devices, if it fits the way you consume media then this could very well be an indispensible addition to you digital life. If not, then I apologise for the onslaught of hype that this has unleashed. Maybe you can think of it as a warm up for the madness of the World Cup in June.