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iPad as a techno-dummy writer’s tool

January 19, 2011

Sorry I haven’t posted since December, but I’ve been setting up my iPad, an unexpected Christmas present.  I want to establish it as a tool that makes it easier, cheaper and faster to write, read and research anything anywhere anytime – so I can get more words down.  Which is what it’s all about.  Hence the techie nature of this post.  (It’s not just an excuse for me to rave on about my new toy tool, okay?)

It blogs.

Outside with iPad typing

iPad as laptop

So here I am writing this post outside in the fresh air, on iPad in the WordPress app, using my foldable wi-fi keyboard to type.  It took me about a minute – no kidding – to download the app, hook it up to this WordPress blog of mine and start typing a post.  Believe me, I am one big techno-dummy, and it’s that easy.

 

 

 

It writes novels.

The other writing app I’ve downloaded and started using is My Writing Spot, a ‘distraction-free’ word processing platform.  It was recommended in a review post of same that compared the app to DocsToGo, Apple Pages and other popular writing apps.  As well as synching between iPad and computer, My Writing Spot backs-up directly to the net, which makes it nice and secure for my precious novel.  How much did it cost me?  Zilch.  (However, I’ll probably sling its small-business maker some support one day if I keep using it.)

It reads.

Reading on iPad outside

iPad as book holder

But iPad is for ebooks, right?  Indeed.  And so far I’ve downloaded some 20 full-sized books onto it, including all volumes of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, which I was halfway through reading in paper form.  I’m looking forward to getting stuck into this monster-long novel as an ebook so that I can search it electronically rather than flip back fruitlessly through all those pages.  (‘Didn’t Odette wear that same red dress when she met the Baron at the party back in … was it Volume 2 of Swann’s Way???’)  My downloads include dictionary.com, which has a massive thesaurus as well as dictionary.  I’ll probably get around to buying the online Australian Macquarie Dictionary soon too.

I can dim the brightness, read in bed without turning on a light, and switch to white print on a black page.  Good for saving power as well as my eyes.

It speed reads.

Current research says that it’s slower (by an average of 6.2%) to read on iPad than paper.  Now I sure don’t want to take longer than I need to get through all that Proust, do I?  No worries.  I’ve also downloaded a special ereader for speed readers called QuickReader, which gives me access to about 1 million books.  I’ve practiced and studied speed reading for a few years now, but this app looks like it makes it easier than other programs I’ve tried.  And the reviews say it’s brilliant.

It distracts researches.

iPhone and iPod apps fit on iPad, and many are now being redesigned to take advantage of iPad’s big screen.  So, of course, iPad can also be used to search the net, use email, listen to music, watch YouTube and movies, sort your photos, read newspapers, catch up on that vital Facebook stuff … and on and on.  Oh, and when I want to record any of my researches, there’s the basic Notes app for notetaking.  I love this app because of its simplicity, although others more techie than me swear by EverNote.

It’s portable and can be used anytime, anywhere.

iPad in a shoulder bag

The Hermione bag

Small

In this shoulder bag here, I am toting nearly 20 novels, including the complete Remembrance of Things Past, a dictionary, a thesaurus, photo albums, a computer and keyboard, my phone, camera, keys, wallet, and – yes – I still have room for my favourite pen and a small notepad made out of honest-to-goodness paper.  (The latter is in case of battery failure and for scribbling down sundry information to give to friends who don’t do technology.) I feel like Hermione Granger with her magic unfillable handbag.

Light

My iPad and foldable keyboard together weigh about the same as my little laptop, which is still not little enough to fit in my shoulder bag.

Foldable wi-fi keyboard

The keyboard folded up

Also, in the past if I’ve taken my laptop out to write somewhere without power for more than a couple of hours, I’ve had to lug along an extra battery.  Or, if going somewhere with power, a power pack.  Add all that to the weight of the laptop.  Which brings me to…

Powerful

iPad’s battery lasts 10-15 hours before it needs charging.  It uses a standard iPod charger.  It can be charged in the car.  Say no more.

It’s comparatively cheap.

Given that I ‘need’ a computer and a mobile phone, this is an efficient set-up.  iPad costs $1,000, the case (protective and essential for typing with the wi-fi keyboard) costs $48, and I already owned the keyboard, which originally cost about $150.  Okay, so that’s a bit more expensive than my laptop, which is worth about $1,000.  But – and this is important – I no longer need my iPhone which I’m now going to sell.  It cost $700.  I’m going to use an old Nokia that’s been floating around the home office instead, because I only need it for those applications which require something pocket-sized.  And those things are: phone, MP3 player, camera.  The Nokia’s camera is better than the one in my iPhone 3 anyway.  (The photos here have been taken with the Nokia.  Does the job, not wonderful.)

New set-up                  Old set-up

iPad $1000                  Sony Vaio laptop $1000

Case $48

Keyboard $150

Nokia phone $150       iPhone $700

Total $1,348                Total $1,700

That said, I don’t think you’d replace your computer with an iPad altogether, and I’m certainly not ditching my laptop.  It’s now my desktop and back-up machine.  You do need a computer with iTunes to configure iPad in the first place, although after you’ve done that you could download all your ebooks and apps via wireless internet.  Speaking of which…

The grand total I have spent on ALL (repeat, ALL) my apps and ebooks so far is $29.  That was $5 for a book I haven’t been able to find anywhere in paper form, $5 for QuickReader, the highly recommended speed reading app, and $19 for Metroview, a GPS navigation app that seems to work just as well as the much more expensive TomTom.

Yes, almost all those ebooks I’ve downloaded are in the public domain – mine for free at the tap of a button.  When I get over the wonder of the freebees, I’ll no doubt start paying for some, but the cost of ebooks at Amazon and other major retailers is about $10-$15 and often less.

So what’s the catch?

Apart from all the distraction from writing offered by iPad (note how long it is since I last posted), there is one catch that is ABOMINABLE, APPALLING, AWFUL and BEASTLY.  (I used the online thesaurus to come up with similes for HORRIBLE.)  Then there is another catch that is MACHIAVELLIAN, ARTFUL, CORRUPT and CRAFTY (synonyms for SNEAKY).

1. iTunes stuff-ups

For no apparent reason, iTunes has decided to wipe my computer’s library of ebooks, music and apps.  When I went to sync iPad to the computer last night, iTunes informed me that it was about to erase all the stuff on iPad in favour of my now completely empty back-up library.  Just in time, I withdrew my finger from the sync button.  Being a techno-dummy, I didn’t panic but relegated the problem to my techie husband.  After three hours, we could find no solution or cause and I’m yet to back-up.

This – has – happened – before!  Both my children periodically lose all their music from their iPods because iTunes has synched them with an empty library.  Our online searches last night showed that many, many, many other people have suffered the same fate at iTunes’ unclean hands.  I’m in a position of having to contact Apple to get this sorted out when I would rather write hate mail.  (If you Google ‘I hate iTunes’, you’ll see that this is a common feeling.)

2. The evil Apple empire

I am now prey to the empire.  This is by way of being a meta-catch.

Let me give you an example of the evilness I mean.  iPad doesn’t have a camera despite that it would obviously be incredibly useful for, for instance, video conferencing.  Did Steve Jobs just forget?  As if.  iPad is in fact camera-ready, and reasonable rumours abound that a camera is planned for the next generation machine.  Now why would Apple hold off for the first gen?  To get us to upgrade to version two, of course, and to raise the price of the damn thing.  Even if I resist upgrading, I’ll be a slave by then – either angry and envious or forking out the money.

So this Christmas present might be just the writing kick I need or the start of my decline into a nerdish hell.  I’ll let you know.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. Tricia Bertram permalink
    January 19, 2011 9:18 am

    Fran as I read this post I thought I want one, no I don’t I wont be able to do all the “stuff” then I want one, and the folding keyboard, wow. Maybe one day I will buy you lunch and we will go Ipad shopping. My friend Ineke is a photographer and she has one with hundreds of photos of her last 3 month around the world trip. I never realised you could write on the little darlings.
    I think I DO want one.

  2. January 20, 2011 1:24 am

    Hi Tricia. It’s a great photo album, that’s for sure. However, as my post implies, I’d now wait for version 2, which will probably have a camera.

  3. Simone Wake permalink
    January 23, 2011 12:50 am

    Sounds great Fran! I have just minified my computer setup to a netbook so that all I can do is write my novel. I have removed all the distractions and given myself 7 hours of battery life, with a USB to back it all up. Oh, and I bought a new thermos mug and lunchbox so I don’t accidently sit around in a cafe sipping lattes all day. Like you say, it’s all about the words so let’s see how we go.

    Simone

    • January 23, 2011 6:53 am

      Good luck, Simone. How is that novel progressing? I wouldn’t mind seeing a draft some time.

  4. January 24, 2011 4:38 pm

    Fran, had to read a writer’s experience with ipad. I don’t think I’m ready for ipad. Being resistent to technology is my weakness, but I don’t get too far from my kitchen most days anyway!

    • February 4, 2011 12:07 am

      No worries, Jean. However, have you thought of the convenience to cooks of reading e-recipes (eg your lovely chicken and dumplings!) on their iPad in the kitchen? I’ve stopped printing out or writing down recipes from my computer because I can just download them instead. Now, what I really need is a spill-resistant cover for iPad.

      • August 4, 2011 9:29 pm

        You already have a cover, Fran. It is known as the ziplock bag. I use one on my ipod touch all the time when I’m cooking and using the ipod to hold the recipe for me.

        • August 5, 2011 12:12 am

          Yes, I like this idea, Wendy. Anyway, a ziplock experiment would be cheap to try. Now, what would be good in a wet environment? I like to read in the bath, and what about the beach? Any ideas?

  5. February 4, 2011 1:26 am

    Yes, Fran, I hope all you wonderful techies will read my recipes on their iPads in the kitchen! Spread the word! (I may get more enthusiastic about technology eventually …)

  6. March 8, 2011 9:26 am

    Awesome post! With the intro of iPad2, I have been thinking about my next computer set up being an iPad2 because I’m transitioning to writing more and I love the portability. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Note: LOL, I was a little intense there but this blog was everything I was looking for.

    • March 9, 2011 1:07 am

      Glad to be of service, Jason. And I too very much look forward to checking out iPad2.

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