Kindling my iPad

This week, I got two new gadgets for “free”: A Kindle (an awesome birthday present from my wife and kids) and what almost seems like a completely new iPad. The latter is, of course, courtesy of iOS 4.2, which I refused to install from the dev previews out of my usual preference for stability.

As many sensible people have already pointed out, it makes absolutely no sense to compare the two - I’m just mentioning them both in the same post out of pure, unfettered coincidence, and the following are my notes on both.

Killing Trees with the MultiPad

Getting the iOS stuff out of the way first, I should say that I find AirPrint to be the biggest letdown ever - there was tremendous buildup, and I happen to be a very happy user of the HP iPrint app, which allows me to (indirectly) print from pretty much any app that I can get a PDF out of on pretty much all the printers I need, whereas AirPrint doesn’t let me print to any of the printers I have available (which is a far greater universe).

The hacks that have recently surfaced to get around what seem to be wholly arbitrary limitations (unless there is some strange, unfathomably serious bug) make me wonder what the heck happened, especially given that printing is not rocket science - the App Store has quite a few iPrint-like apps, and most of them print to just about anything directly, so the inability to print directly from iOS (without a desktop machine as an intermediary) is demonstrably within the realms of possibility.

I’ve been an Apple user too long to blindly hope this will be fixed in 4.3 (regardless of rumors), so I’m moving on - which is easy given that right now I have an apparently faster, nimbler and much more practical iPad that makes it easier to get stuff done and is a better laptop replacement than a week ago.

Multitasking, despite its rather gauche method of app switching (swiping with multiple fingers would be much easier and intuitive than thumbing a button that can be on any side of the device) is a boon, but the revamped inbox and proper Portuguese input are much more important improvements for me, and the iWork updates (especially Keynote, which now finally has a decent presenter display) make it even more useful for meetings and presentations.

Throw in easy access to my desktop using VNC (alas, no Back to My Mac for us yet) and Dropbox, and I have even less need for a laptop (unless I need to code on the move, something that is still not feasible).

Reading, Revamped

On to the Kindle, which was a welcome surprise - and a timely one, for my Sony Reader’s battery has exhibited some weird behavior of late (discharging seemingly at random, and usually running out when I pick it up to finish the previous day’s tome).

I got the Wi-Fi model, which is in line with my abhorrence of the current mobile operator trend for stuffing you with SIM-enabled devices in hope of getting you to fork out for multiple subscriptions. I have a Samsung Wave to use as a pocket router, and both get along fine when needed.

And doing away with USB cables and copying stuff to memory cards is a major feature as far as I’m concerned - I now simply mail stuff to myself (trivial, neat) or grab it off my Calibre server via the browser (slightly finicky, but much more convenient than tethering).

I’ve always found it a bit annoying that the Kindle doesn’t support EPUB (especially now that I’ve finally converted most of my reading material to that format for reading on both the Sony Reader and Stanza). There is also, alas, no equivalent of Sigil for .mobi, but I’m fine with having EPUB as a “master” (and trivially editable) format and converting when necessary using Calibre - getting stuff converted and mailed to my Kindle is a single click operation.

I’m not too crazy about the Kindle fonts as of yet - they are very readable indeed (and stand out beautifully in the revamped screen), but they seem to be an acquired taste.

Despite rendering PDFs somewhat better than the Sony Reader, I find the display too small for reading those (something that is seldom an issue on the iPad, where I can zoom quickly and generally handle them more naturally). I am also curious as to what the Kindle will do when I throw some Simplified Chinese at it, but I haven’t really had that much time yet.

But the overall experience for reading books and Calibre-generated magazines is great. Managing and navigating content is easy (especially when compared to the phonebook-style UI of the PRS-505), and there are all sort of nice touches that make it very pleasant to use.

Finally, and in case you’re hopelessly wired, I must point out that the WebKit browser is good enough to access Google Reader and use the keyboard shortcuts (about the only use I can see for the keyboard other than typing in URLs) to idle away a lazy Sunday morning.