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Wednesday, 26 February 2014


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Mike,do you have any favorite ipad photobooks to recommend?

[No. As I say, I only own one, Gregory Heisler's "50 Portraits." --Mike]

Now that you read 1491 absolutely read the follow up book 1493, it gives a very sobering view of how the world changed since Columbus discovered people living in the 'New World'.
And the iPad is very good for magazine reading, though it gets a bit bevy towards the end of the day.
Just don't drop it when you nod off.

I recently acquired an iPad Air, having carelessly left my Gen 3 in a local cafe. I like the new shape and lighter weight very much. This time, I got the bright red Smart Cover, thinking that it would be easier to spot the device lying around my house and harder to leave it behind wherever I may take it. As far as I am concerned, the Smart Cover is a work of genius. I cannot understand how anyone could think otherwise.

With regard to reading, I vacillate between my iPad and physical books. I still enjoy the feeling of a book in my hand, but for convenience, especially when traveling, the iPad wins by a mile. I read two magazines on my iPad--"The New Yorker" and "National Graphic". The experience is far superior to reading the print versions, and NG is an absolute wonder on an iPad with a Retina screen. Just try it, and you will believe.

Well, I suppose variable type size is an advantage: it doesn't matter for me, at least not yet.

Against that is that every book now looks the same and, further, that the typography is somewhere between poor and appalling.

This is, in fact, tragic: there is no reason that systems like this should not be typographically acceptable: they're just not, because no-one cares enough I suppose. We are witnessing the death of typography and book design.

[I think that's an overwrought conclusion. A lot of books look quite good on the iPad Air. Ordinary workaday book typography isn't much, and the advent of the e-book could easily have the opposite effect on the bookmaking arts: it could trigger a renaissance as people buy fewer but better books and publishers learn they have to add extra value to get people to buy print books. Like what's happened with vinyl reissues of classic recordings. --Mike]

Mike, the iPad version of The New Yorker is excellent. It looks great, it's easy to navigate and read, and they embed a bunch of multimedia content into each issue.

Do you have any thoughts on the supposed negative effects of using lit screens just before going to sleep?

I agree, Michael, although I'm still using the iPad 3 (first one with a Retina screen.) But the Air is in my sites.

I love reading well designed magazine on the iPad. If you don't know about it, check out Adore Noir, a black and white fine art photography magazine out of Vancouver by the the husband and wife team of Chris and Sandra Kovacs. It's perfectly formatted for the iPad. The photos are lush and the interview with artists are done surprisingly well, not full of "what kind of camera did you use and what f/stop..." nonsense.

Disclaimer: I advertise in the magazine but that I'd write the same review of it even if I didn't. And you can get a free issue at:

I have the new Mini; the retina displays are very nice. I read, watch movies, go to the library and borrow books, post to my blog, all quite comfortably from a soft chair. I like the smaller size, though sometimes it can seem a little cramped, so it was a tough choice between the mini and the air, which is a minuscule 4 ozs. heavier.
I haven't tried magazines yet, though I agree about illustrations in e-books; especially annoying are static ones, that can't be zoomed.

The National Geographic is outstanding on the ipad, the content is well laid out, video content compliments the stories, and of all the magazines I have read on the ipad ( not that many) their implementation seems to take maximum advantage of this format. The photography was my reason for being a subscriber, and the digital magazine is better than I would have ever imagined.

I have the same iPad and am just as pleased as you are with it. While I realize that eye strain is not an issue in your case, for most I would strongly recommend not reading from a tablet in the dark. Most doctors will agree that an additional source of light should be present.

One of the nice things about buying books via Amazon and Kindle is that you can share books with significant others as long as their Kindle or iPad Kindle app is on the same Amazon account. This is how my wife (on her Kindle Paperwhite) and I (on my iPad Mini) often read books simultaneously.

My wife also borrows books from the library on her Kindle, though this concept is very odd to me. It only works because libraries limit the number of ebooks that can be "borrowed" at any one time.

I still prefer paper -- flipping through a book, checking footnotes, skimming for info are all easier with paper -- but you can't beat an ebook reader when you want to carry a lot of books while traveling.

When I bought a Kindle Keyboard, I didn't know if I would ever use it or not. But in the last year I've totally converted all my book reading to the Kindle. Mostly on that original Kindle Keyboard model. I did buy several bargain books of various artist's works off Amazon's site and they are okay for viewing on the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 I have although the artwork is fairly low resolution. Still, it was a chance to see reproductions of a lot of paintings I've never seen before for a low cost. My Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is a little too heavy to be comfortable holding for long reading sessions but it's fine for reading myself to sleep or picking up in the middle of the night to work off a run of insomnia. It's great for web surfing and as a means to access the music I've stored in the Amazon Cloud (I'm beginning to love my Jawbone Big Jambox Bluetooth speaker). My wife uses her smaller Kindle Fire HD for almost all of her reading. She was resistant to the idea of an eReader until I bought her the Kindle. Now she gets so involved in her reading she forgets to charge the battery and has to borrow one of my Kindles.

I draw the line at photography books. I'm a confirmed print guy--I want to see the photo reproduced on paper and reproduced as good as possible. I can't enjoy photographs on screens like I can on paper--either reproduced in a book or as originally printed on fine quality photo paper.

Stifling my natural tendency to question the purchase anything from Apple I'll limit myself to another serious question -
How can you do "surfing the Web when I'm watching TV"? Why bother watching any TV that doen't demand 100% of your concentration?

The "TV in the room" that's switched on but not being watched is one of the most annoying facets of modern life. Maybe that's why the quality of so much TV programming is so risible these days - they realise nobody's actually watching it seriously so there's no need to have any pride in their increasingly vapid creations.

Sorry - OT rant commenting on an OT post, from someone who fondly remembers the golden days of British television (it started to go downhill once there were more than 4 channels). My TV is only on while I'm watching it.

[Our TV here in the U.S. has commercial advertisements, totaling about one minute out of every three or four as a ratio, during which I turn the sound down and sometimes look stuff up on the web. --Mike

P.S. Kudos for straying off-topic. [g]]

My reading habits are different, predominantly often in places with normal to bright light. My wife has an iPad (3?), with Retina display. Wonderful in the dark, almost useless outside or in bright light.

I use a B&N Nook - much the same Paperwhite display as the Kindle. I like the smaller size/weight, like a modest sized book. My wife recently had me get her her own Nook for some of her reading.

As to lack of sharpness/clarity on the Kindle, reviewers say both that and the Nook Glow have inferior text display to the non backlit ones. Something to do with extra layers in the screen or some such.

"I'm continually conscious of both the grayish look of the Paperwhite screen and its unevenness." Both qualities of the backlit version, and not true in normal or bright light, especially the non-backlit versions.

You also don't mention the cost differences. I recently bought a backup Nook for our two on sale for $39, less than 1/10 the cost of the iPad Air. That makes a really big difference in how casually one may treat it, more like a book. If it gets lost or broken, it's no big deal, so I'll take and use it anywhere.

I don't recall about the Kindle, but the iPad has no extra, removable storage. The Nooks have a microSD slot. I keep all my books on a card, so I can easily move them if I need to. Very useful when my first Nook got sick after a couple of years.

BTW, with the wonderful freeware, Calibre, ebooks from all sorts of sources may be cataloged together and used interchangeably between various types of devices. When I buy a Kindle book, I load it into my Calibre library and put it on my Nook to read.

Don't get me wrong, I think the iPad Air is a wonderful device, but I would not buy it primarily for reading books. Besides, I just spent more than that on a camera.* \;~)


* Oh, yeah, I could use the iPad to remote control the camera via WiFI ...

Make sure you use the iPad specific charger - the iPhone chargers at 5 watts and charge iPads slowly - the iPad chargers are 12 watts now and charge them faster - not necessarily fast, but faster

I used to believe the eye strain meme as well. I think it was started by people who used their laptops as readers. They frequently got eyestrain, as did I, but I think the reason is specious. The eyestrain is caused by trying to read text extending vertically from your knees. It is the distance, not the screen. When I finally got an iPad there was no eyestrain as it was held at book reading distance and I put away my oh so slow Sony Reader. I have never been tempted to go back.

I haven't tried any kind of reader yet but it would seem to me that they would be perfect for magazines. Not only do they allow text and pictures, you could incorporate any kind of sound and images as well - audio reports, actual sounds of car exhausts (!), video, animations, graphics of all kinds.

It sounds as if it would be a lot of work but the job of producing a monthly paper magazine would be a big job anyway, I think.

Think of doing it in reverse - produce for the reader first, then extract and adapt for paper.

Then down the track, eliminate paper completely. Just think of the cost saving from not having to have a print run, and no longer having unsold magazines to go wasted.

Distribution? Either on-line or sold in newsagents on a USB thumb drive packaged on an eye catching attractive magazine sized card.

The bind moggles.

PS: you may even be able to eliminate some jobs, throw some more people out of work, tell them their jobs have been automated or downsized. It's all the rage, y'know.

i recommend Mann's follow up book, 1493. Excellent look at the earliest days of globalization, the spread of invasives species, and much more.

I like the iPad also....and I have found in my local library (broward county FL )all the Zinio mags are FREE for downloading if you have a library card...lots of photo mags and ...your choice with back issues...check your online site

Another advantage of the iPad is with library books. On the iPad, I can use the Overdrive app, and search, checkout, download, and read right from the iPad. The Kindle requires using a computer (or an iPad) to check the book out.

Frankly, I only use my computer for work and paying bills. Nearly everything else is done with the iPad Air (32GB 4G). It's an ingenious little device.

I and my family were big Kindle fans, finding the passive screen easy on the eyes. However, we have now experienced 3 instances of failure due to the "electronic ink" becoming permanent on all or part of the screen.

Since moved to a Nook HD - bought on sale for much less than a basic Kindle - which I now much prefer. A big plus is the ability to borrow e-books from a public library using an app.

Agree with everything except that I don't use an iPad. However this is incidental, my GF has an iPad Air is it's great. I just prefer smaller tablets.

But what impresses me the most is that the Kindle app can sync between my real Kindle (by the bed), my Nexus 7 tab (which is my mobile content platform and lives in my camera bag) and my Nexus 4 phone* (which is surprisingly easy to read while commuting).

I can read the same book on all three depending on when and where I find some downtime, and THAT is really cool.

*Note I deliberately chose all Nexus gear to harmonise the use experience between devices, a bit like having lots of Apple devices. So far it's worked out well. I am not a fan of the proprietary skins employed by Samsung and others on their Android devices.

$49what? For what you (and I) do I find the Asus 7hd and the extra $350 in my pocket to be immensely pleasing. Maybe some day the budget will allow iGear, but 2014 is not that year...

Moose: My family has owned two Kindles and three iPads and my wife recently switched from a Kindle Paperwhite to an iPad Mini Retina. Why? The text is so much clearer that she finds it easier to read, and she prefers to hold the iPad in landscape orientation to see two pages at once, something you can't do on a Kindle. But also, she enjoys watching movies while traveling or even on the NYC subways, which you can only do on an iPad. I also use my iPad Mini for most of my Web browsing, email, and of course games.

If it's strictly a book reader you're looking for, it's a closer call -- the price of the iPad is certainly a big drawback, even the Mini is a little heavier than the Kindles, but reading a book on an iPad also a worse experience in bright sun, as Mike mentioned.

lots of free mags from Zinio from your local library I would hope mine does.....about 10 different photo mags alone /free and back issues here at Broward County Library in Florida....just a need that library card...

I find tablets too big for comfortable reading. For precisely that reason they might fare a little better for books with complex page layouts maybe -- but I only read books with simple page layouts :-). (That is, books which are almost entirely a simple flow of text. Nearly all fiction is like that, and many other kinds of books.)

Except for one early book read on an actual computer monitor, and a very few on an original Kindle (nice display in well-lit rooms, but not so good for the normal dimly-lit rooms; and it glitches nastily on each page turn), I've done my reading on smaller devices that I always have with me, first my Palm Pilots, and more recently my smart phones.

The bigger devices, due to size, weight, control placement, or some combination, require both hands to hold. Since I read while eating a lot, and since the cats tend to come for attention when I'm sitting (or lying) and reading, requiring two hands isn't a good thing.

The smaller screens require more frequent page turns, but the button to do so is under a thumb or finger (depending on which hand I'm holding it with; either works) and the response is instant, so that's not a problem.

As a result, ebooks are my preferred delivery mode these days. I store them on my computer and they participate in my backup scheme, so I'm less likely to lose them than my physical books, which are easily destroyed by flood, fire, tornado -- or sometimes by loaning to a friend.

Another feature of the iPad Air I find useful is as a repository for all the user manuals for things I own. Manufacturers usually upload the manuals on their service site in pdf format. I download them onto my iPad and put them into iBooks where I can keep them for future reference. They don't get lost, they don't take up space and they're searchable. Because the iBooks app syncs with iBooks on all my iDevices I also have them where ever I go. So when I'm out with a camera and can't remember how to access a feature I open iBooks on my iPhone and have the manual with me. I have several cameras so It's very handy.

The most complete magazine experience I have had (digital or otherwise) is probably The British Journal of Photography iPad app.In a way difficult to describe it becomes less of a passive, static process and becomes (to sound like a marketing department) really interactive and dynamic, reading the electronic magazine is playful. It is clearly a digital magazine and not an adapted print magazine which is, I think, key.

Yes, the Kindle Paperwhite is a fine thing for reading books which do not include photos. It is, however, worthless (to me) for reading PDFs--- including camera instruction manuals. Yes, it can be done in the same way that one can manually focus a Fuji x100, but it is not something one would choose to do when a tool that will the same job much, much better is available. The iPad. And don't get me started about the "experimental browser" on Kindle. The experiment failed.

Hi Joe,

"Moose: My family has owned two Kindles and three iPads and my wife recently switched from a Kindle Paperwhite to an iPad Mini Retina. Why? The text is so much clearer that she finds it easier to read ..."

I hope I wasn't being didactic, just expressing how my personal experience differed from Mike's.

Although I've used a couple of Kindles for a few minutes each, my experience is pretty limited.

I do or have read extensively on Nook, iPad, iPhone, a 10" Android tablet and an 11.6" netbook+ display.

I have not found any of the other displays to be any sharper/clearer than the Nook Simple Touch - The one without backlight!. The Glow has less clarity.

I am a lucky man, retired with a nice front yard, and read sitting outdoors quite a lot. Anything but a paperwhite display is just junk there. My two favorite reading chairs long predate ereaders, so have carefully selected reading lights and are ideal for a non backlit display (or book!) - as is the kitchen table when eating. {;~)

If I read in bed, my needs would be different, but I don't. The Android tablet or iPad with two page display are fine indoors, but no better for me than the Nook.

The choice of Nook over Kindle was not about display, slightly about price, and mostly about technical issues of source material flexibility. Also, my Nook is 'rooted', giving me access to the Android OS for some control and a better PDF reader than the rather poor native Nook one.

In reply to your "overwrought" comment. I think an absolute bare miniumum requirement for good typography is to be able to set evenly-spaced lines in a reasonable width, where "reasonable width" is the famous 10-12 words. In order to do that you need to be able to hyphenate, and the Kindle app can't do that. That means some combination of uneven spacing, very ragged right margins or lines which are far too long: and indeed that's what you get. The physical Kindle (at least mine, which is a couple of generations old) goes even further: when setting flush right it occasionally just gives up and sets a line with additional space at the right, which looks terrible (the app may do this as well). Mechanical hyphenation is not a completely simple problem, but it is largely a solved problem, especially in American English (British English is harder).

You are correct that many paper books are not that well set: but it is entirely clear that the average standard is lower and that the standard is far more uniform on the Kindle: there are beautifully-set paper books, but there are no beautifully-set Kindle books. The only way to get good typography on the iPad is PDF.

And your argument that there might be fewer but better-typeset physical books is as spurious for books as it is for records. Even I, as someone rather interested in typography, don't generally buy books because of how they look: I buy books because of their content, in the same way that I buy records because of the songs rather than because I'm some sad HiFi geek who only buys 250-gram vinyl recorded on the Cadac desk from Morgan[1] because it "sounds better". I don't care how nice the sound is if the music is some uninteresting crap, or how nice the typography is if it's a bunch of poems by someone in whom I have no interest. Note that's entirely different than, for instance, books of photographs: I *do* buy those for how they look, because how photographs look is the point of photographs, while how books are set is not the point of books, it's just an incidental benefit.

What that means is that (unless e-books improve, and I think there are good economic reasons why they won't, which are the same reasons that the move from physical to online music distribution has not improved the audio quality of the music we listen to but rather the opposite) almost everyone will, almost all the time, be experiencing lower-quality typography. That is still avoidable while books are (almost) always published on paper as well, but it will become unavoidable when that stops. That's a good enough of the death of good typography for me.

[1] I wonder where that is, actually.

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