Friday, January 29, 2010

iPadding Down to Friday

This week was ridiculous, folks. Laura is here from Combreviations to round it all up:

This week really enforced for us the cycle of life and death, reader types. We lost Howard Zinn as well as JD Salinger, which are two big blows to us all. Papercuts says goodbye to Salinger, Slate brings us a number of critics discussing the relevance of his work today, and you should also check out this history of Salinger reviews. And please, keep your Catcher in the Rye scripts in your pockets for at least a week—to do otherwise would be oh so gauche.

This week brought us the birth of the iPad, which Eric likes and I think is kind of meh and not that exciting. The Bits blog at the NYTimes liveblogged the release, and wished that it supported Flash (but that's Adobe's fault because they are terrible with all mobile devices), had a still or video camera, included phone service (I disagree on that one, I am not Zach from Saved by the Bell), had a removable battery (for when you are going to be away from a charger for more than 10 hours), and had removable storage. Gizmodo also throws a resounding nay in the iPad ring, citing the lack of multitasking (no music while you surf the Internet!), the awkwardness of using it to type, the lack of any HDMI or USB slots, and the inability to install any of your own software. Lifehacker likens it to a Franken-laptop, over which you have no software control.

That said, I think generally speaking the kind of people who want an iPad (and Apples at large) aren't going to be hooking this up their TV or a second monitor, installing intense software, using it to model data in Excel, etc. This is not for uber-techy people who like to customize their experience—Apples are popular because they are easy, user friendly, and almost impossible to mess up by accident (unless you drop it in the tub or something. Note to you: do not shower with computer). Farhad Manjoo at Slate loves the iPad, plus Stephen Fry is behind it, and Jezebel lists 5 reasons to get behind the iPad (among them digital magazines and online comics).

But then, none of us care about the iPad as a concept—we care about how it works with books. Hurrah, books! Shelf Life does a roundup of what the reader needs to know about the iBooks app, some publishing experts weigh in, and eBookNewser has some reactions to the launch. The consensus is that Apple is great for using ePub, a format that is not exclusive to the company, and so it's possible that you could read books you haven't bought through iBooks if they are in the same format. The iBook store is supposed to be set up a lot like the iTunes store, so it should be easy to navigate for those already in the Church of Apple. However, the 10 hour battery life is low compared to other e-readers, and the inability to turn off the backlight will make it feel like reading on a computer (because, essentially, that's what you'd be doing).

Although the iPad rocked our world Wednesday (what do you mean, the State of the Union was on? Is that what we're calling Jobs' reveals now?), we can't forget the rest of the internet in its wake. The Millions did an interview with an e-book pirate that's worth a read, and there are rumors that people who read e-books use them to supplement print books (shock! shock!). And we also shouldn't forget dear old Amazon, which is now releasing its own books.

Layoff lit is taking off, although those writers will not be particularly interested in the age old conundrum: where do you read during your lunch break in the winter? California has unbanned the dirty dictionary, which teaches children about boning, but prisons have banned Dungeons and Dragons for encouraging nerdiness behind bars. Those prisoners clearly never read these books that epitomize teen spirit (but they may have read these classics of steampunk).

That's all for today—see you all next week!


  1. "A People's History of the United States" is one of my favorite books. And who hasn't read "Catcher in the Rye"?

    At least Zinn and Salinger had long lives but they will be missed. RIP, guys.

    Since I've been down with some achy cold-like flu, I think I'll flop back to bed soon and re-read those books in their authors' honor.

  2. It's hard to imagine Salinger gone, he just sued someone in Europe last year for trying to publish a "sequel" to Catcher in the Rye. I'm guessing he's one of the last handful of authors around who shunned the public. Horrible pessimist that I am, all I can think is how soon Catcher will become a movie even though Salinger hated the idea.

  3. I feel the need to correct you about why Flash isn't available on the iPhone/iPad/iTouch. Apple feels the need to control every single application that can be run on these devices. If they don't approve it, it can't be put on (unless you jailbreak the device, of course).

    If Flash were available, people could go to websites and run Flash applications, ones that Apple has not approved. Therefore, Apple refuses to allow Flash for the devices. It's Apple's fault, not Adobe's.

  4. Why I agree that there is the Apple-as-God mentality, the fact remains that, in addition to being a huge battery drain, Adobe hasn't updated its coding to run as smoothly as it could on mobile devices in general, and is the main cause of OS X crashes (if tech insiders are to be believed).

    So while there is potentially some shady dealing going on, and I wouldn't put it past Apple to block out Flash for proprietary reasons, Like Gizmodo says, "The main arguments against Flash running on the iPad are that it's a resource hog and a security risk. Both true!"

    ...At least YouTube uses HTML5, amirite?

  5. @SMSchmiddt: I agree. Especially as a writer I hate the idea of my work not being mine anymore--of it being fashioned in some way separate from my idea and without my knowledge or control. I think it was almost selfish that Salinger wrote stories and didn't publish them, and yet, the very idea that he'd be required to write stories to simply satisfy the public seems like something he would detest.

    Then again, it seems that Salinger did not necessarily shun the world so much as realize that he could not handle the world. After all, he prepared his books to be published upon his death.

    I suppose Salinger was just an old-time writer living in a modern era: apt to be reclusive, live simply, garner little attention especially for a book he deemed not as good as the rest (reminiscent of Anthony Burgess and his Clockwork Orange) as if he lived in the 19th Century. But contemporary culture demands a certain amount of publicity, a desire for attention and ability to cater to the public. I wouldn't say Salinger was revolutionary, or that he was better for shunning this aspect of the writing world, but Salinger realized his own limitations. That's something I can respect.

  6. Great post! Covering the same topics as everyone, but with such better links!! haha :)

    I am an American currently living in Barcelona, and just wanted to weigh in that Apple hasn't negotiated contracts with publishers outside of the US

    At launch, everywhere outside of the US, the iPad will be released featuring the iBook application... with no books available.

  7. Ipad is going nowhere, not in terms of books anyway. Books will cost more, the screen is backlit, and the thing is too big to be convenient. Of course, I'll publish to it, but it won't beat Kindle. So far, nothing has come along that can beat Kindle.

    Gordon Jerome
    A Literary Experience