Category Archives: Reading

iPad 3 is a Wise Investment for Knowledge Professionals

Click twice to view at full resolution – This is the Home Screen of my new iPad

Updated Oct 26 2012: I just preordered an iPad mini to compliment my iPad 3. And now there is an iPad 4 which replaces the 3. Retina is awesome but I’m expecting the iPad mini arriving November 2 to be good enough for 75% of my use (it is quite a bit better than iPad 2 which isn’t half bad) and very enjoyable being half the weight and thinner than iPhone 5. You decide!

I got the iPad 3 on day one on preorder — the Verizon 64gb model. The 2048 x 1536 pixel retina display is a game changer. A booster rocket from which there is no return. Reviewers had trouble explaining their reactions but calling the retina display transformative nails it.

Based on the information I had, I decided to double-down on iPad and get the best available model. I have not regretted it for a moment.

The Retina display on iPad 3 is a Game Changer

Since the iPad IS a screen, the quadrupling of pixels adds value like no other upgrade could. It’s not a feature like a camera that you might not use. It’s a window to see through. The new screen makes content more real and immediate. You feel like you can reach through the glass.

All apps look a lot better even the ones not upgraded. And the upgrades are rolling in every day. The best, most popular apps are now optimized for this display.

Apple’s retina-ready text engine yields immediate benefits. My favorite text-heavy apps like iBooks, Reeder, iA Writer, Instapaper, Tweetbot and Terminology dazzled on day 1. The new iPhoto app, already a great pleasure in iPad 2, is a joy with photos gaining much greater clarity and color saturation.

One reason I am so happy about all this is that a better iPad means better apps immediately. And, this fuels app purchases fueling the R&D efforts of the most talented app developers.

Ever since the iPhone 4 came out and showed us what’s available with a vastly higher Rez screen, I’ve been waiting for the iPad to follow suit. Now we get a big, easy to operate screen and high resolution in one package.

Who Should Buy a new iPad?

I’m speaking to Knowledge Professionals here and serious students not yet in the work force. Everyone. If you strive to be a professional knowledge worker, then knowledge is your game and your eyes are one of your key assets. Your eyes will thank you. More important is what your level of engagement and sheer pleasure will be in your reading and operation of this device.

When it comes to knowledge, you get what you give. Something becomes interesting, when an interested mind shows up. That interest is nourished by great content and is enhanced by this incredible display — plus all the other wonders of the iPad like a clean, consistent user interface and unparalleled responsiveness to touch.

If you were only playing games and not a game designer, I might hesitate. But, you are a reader, writer, speaker, thinker, designer and possibly artist. Don’t skimp on your axe. Tools matter. This investment is a good one.

My Old iPad 1 or 2 is Working Really Well for Me

If you own an iPad 1, the increased speed and responsiveness is very noticeable. If you own an iPad 2, surely there is someone who would like it. The screen alone is enough. You are a professional or have aspirations to be. This is an investment. Re-read the previous paragraphs, go to an Apple store and bring your iPad with you for comparison purposes. Economize on something else that doesn’t have as much importance for your future. Buying a bargain-priced used iPad 2 is a half measure, but if that’s your best shot right now, go for it.

The Camera and LTE

The Camera. The much better camera should not be completely disregarded even though this update is all about the screen. If you don’t have an iPhone 4 or recent point-and-shoot camera, your iPad 3 might be the best camera you have with you. In any case, the iPad has a much longer battery life than an iPhone or other smart phone. Photography eats batteries alive, you may need the juice the iPad supplies for photography. Once taken, use the new iPhoto app to make the most of the photo in a few moments or longer if you have the time. Use the iPad to send that photo where you want it.

The LTE. It will cost you $129 to have the option to turn on cellular access when wi-fi is not available. I turned on $20 worth (1gb) of data for my first 30 days assuming I will only use LTE or 4G or 3G as a quick fix in the car or in that occasional spot when stranded without wi-fi and needing a connection. So far that’s how it is going in fact I’ve only used 100 mb or 10% in the first few days. Getting LTE in the Mill Valley Safeway parking lot while waiting for my partner to buy a grocery or 2 was a thrill. You’ll like the option to load a page fast on LTE now and then when the *free* wifi is slower than molasses.

Is iPad 3 a Knockout Blow to Competitors?

I expect unprecedented sales for iPad as a result of the retina screen alone. If you thought the masses were lining up behind iPad making it hard for other tablet-makers to compete, get ready for a big uptick. At the same time I fully expect the most hardy tablet makers like Samsung, Amazon, HTC and a few others to raise their games to try to compete. I wish Palm were still in and hope RIM keeps at it. Microsoft, with its installed base globally on PCs, has a shot with its coming Windows 8 tablet. But, it could take a while and who knows what Apple will do for an encore?

News Reading on iPad — Work Flow for Knowledge Professionals

We live in a world of apps and are beginning to move beyond the web browser. There’s a work flow to finding news of interest, skimming or reading it and filing it away in your reading stack or for reference some time in the future. Here’s a way to do it all on your iPad with great pleasure and efficiency. [Post Updated April 30, 2012]

1. Scanning for Interesting Stories, Cherry picking a few short stories to read now, dispatching some for later.

The first step is to go out and see if there are some important, interesting or exciting new stories just out. Actually, if you have an iPad and a good app or two, this doesn’t even require getting out of bed. Go to your easy chair if you must and get a cup of tea or coffee. Now, what has happened since the last time you checked?

I wrote about keeping current in January and covered the apps I think you should know about. You will want to use multiple apps to get the discovery, diversity, ability to focus on your interests and some input from social (what have they found today?). I recommend you try: Tweetbot for iPad, Zite, and River of News – each has a great user experience, customizability and allows you to dispatch what you’ve found for later use.

The Flow for my 3 Favorite Apps:

  • Tweetbot displays your full twitter stream by default but easily allows you to select a particular list. When big stories break, I consult one of my tech-oriented lists first. Otherwise, I start with my full twitter stream. Tweets are short but usually enough to decide whether to read now by tapping the link or to send to Instapaper by tapping and holding the link and selecting Read Later. Tweetbot let’s you read now in luxury with a choice of beautiful Readability themes built-in.
  • Zite opens to top stories with summaries with feature images. Stories are organized in sections. I usually read top stories first and then consult the sections I’m most interested in at the moment. Tap to read a story. Tap to send to your Instapaper (or now Pocket) reading stack, or Evernote for later reference. Thumbs up or down the article, tags, author and publication to further train Zite’s AI for next time.
  • River of News. Scroll through the stories in your RSS subscriptions in Google Reader. As you go, each post is marked as read. I like that feature. Double-tap to send to Instapaper, triple-tap to email full text, tap star to star, swipe to navigate. Efficient! Three other excellent RSS readers are Reeder $5, Mr. Reader $4 and Perfect Reader $2 on sale). Reeder has a companion iPhone app for $3 which makes it arguably better than River of News if you have both devices – synergy is good.

2. Reading in Instapaper

"Instapaper 4.1 Articles View"
Instapaper 4.1

You’ve stacked your current reading, especially long articles in Instapaper because this is where reading is optimal with different themes, fonts, brightness controls, adjustable line height, margins and auto-scrolling. Equal to the best eReaders except for annotation: no notes or highlights allowed.

On March 16, iPad 3 launch day, Instapaper added 6 great new typefaces. Elena is the new default and I love it. If you prefer sans serif, try Proxima Nova. These fresher, better faces are to die for on iPad 3 and eye-pleasing on any iPad.

Instapaper rules for saved for later article reading. Pocket is #2 (more graphical). Other amenities include file folders, archive, sharing to Twitter, email full text and more. If you want to annotate or have read enough to file for future reference, you can dispatch the article to Evernote.

3. Reading & Annotating in Evernote

Always with you. Reading is not at the level of Instapaper, but you get an even better always with you capability with Evernote. It is free on Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle and more. Instapaper doesn’t have a desktop app so you have to use a web browser to get there and the experience suffers as a result. There’s a high-end Evernote service that you can add for more storage and some other amenities.

Note Taking / Annotation. You can write a full article in Evernote and have that power including bullets, numbered lists, variable headings and more. This ability to write and annotate is a big advantage of Evernote. The trade-off is that it takes longer to get the full-text of an article into Evernote than it does to file to a folder in Instapaper. I save the really good stuff to Evernote so I can engage with it.

Annotation. Even more often than writing notes in Evernote, I will highlight key passages. I can also color text and style it as I can in writing my own notes.

This work flow is almost too easy and enjoyable to call it a work flow.  It works especially well on the iPad whose big screen and multitouch is wonderful for skimming, reading and annotation. I now know what this is like on an iPad 3 and it is really stunning.

Why Knowledge Professionals Should Try iBooks Author Now

Independent Knowledge Professionals benefit greatly from writing eBooks. Writing a book puts you on the map as an expert in one stroke. Since you are a knowledge professional, you can also augment your income by selling knowledge products, especially eBooks. A small eBook purchase can be the starting point for a future full-service client. You’ll be writing non-fiction books, the kind that benefit most from graphics, charts and other engaging elements that old-style eBooks don’t provide.

I Thought iBooks Author Was for Textbooks. Not really. Actually, Apple says it is for lots of other kinds of books too. They are just leading with text books right now. Think reports, of the jaw-dropping variety. If you give one of these eBook reports away, you don’t even have to talk to Apple or give them a percentage.  You can post a link to your website or send it in an email.

Ebook Prep Sucks — Until Now. We’ve been stuck with arcane and limited tools to create eBooks. This patchwork quilt of marginal tools has been perfect for eBook prep specialists, but a nightmare for independent knowledge professionals who can’t spend all their spare time fiddling with unwieldy tech. Writing is hard and time-consuming as it is.

Apple’s new iBooks Author solves these problems. It is easy to use and lets you add tables, graphics and widgets to your eBooks. There is a catch in that the eBooks made by iBooks Author require an iPad for display. I’ll explain why that limitation isn’t something that should stop you.

System Requirements for iBooks Author. First the bad news, you need an iPad to display your eBook while it is in progress and you need a Macintosh running OSX Lion. If you already have an iPad and are running Lion, you are set. Otherwise, read on to see if it would be worth your while to upgrade and/or expand your technology now.

Compelling Reasons to Adopt iBooks Author Now. It’s the only end-user eBook creation tool. There are no other options if you want your eBook to look the least bit good short of spending a lot of money for it to be created in InDesign and even then it won’t look that good in the Kindle Format. There’s a new Kindle Format that is supposed to be good for media-rich eBooks, but there’s no creation tool for it yet. Cross that off your list.

Apple has leapt into the void here. If you are writing novels or non-fiction that doesn’t require illustration, you could scrape by using current tools if you could figure or hire them out. But knowledge professionals need to illustrate ideas with visuals. You can open up iBooks Author and start inserting graphics and more in a few minutes. The output on an iPad will be delightful.

Kindlestore vs. iBookstore. Right now Kindle books are the only game in town you say or may have heard. That’s true up to a point but that point of change is now. Even Amazon has started to abandon the lame eBook format (Mobi) they’ve been using and replaced it with what they are calling Kindle 8 which allows for decent graphics and interactivity (see above). Amazon released the Kindle Fire and broke all their own rules about how e-Ink is the best way to read books.

A lot of people compare the Kindle Fire to the Kindle Touch and like the Fire better for books because of the vivid color and responsiveness. I don’t think things will end well for e-Ink devices. They are niche devices in a world that is filling rapidly with full-featured iPhones, Android and Windows phones and iPads.

Ebooks Won’t Stop at Imitating Paper Books. Paper books are wonderful, but as we move to digital, other possibilities emerge that cannot be ignored. For example, iBooks Author lets you add glossary words in your eBooks. You get the most gorgeous glossary (with search) at the back of the book without any additional effort. And, automatically, the reader gets electronic flash cards that allow them to review and test their recall and comprehension. The eBooks you create for the iPad are truly eBooks. They are apps as well as books without you being a programmer — at all!

But, Shouldn’t You Wait and See? Maybe Apple will fall on its face this time. Don’t bet on it. The cost of waiting is that others will be there before you. Early adopters on this Apple juggernaut will be learning things as the technology rolls out. They will be looking tech savvy with eye-popping eBooks they’ve created themselves — running on the most desirable gadgets of our times.

Some technology is a pain and not worth adopting early. But, iBooks Author is made by Apple and is simple and easy. It is designed to be something anyone can pick up and use. I like blogging software like WordPress and recommend it to independent knowledge professionals, but iBooks Author is much more powerful yet as easy as using Pages or Keynote (Word or Powerpoint).

Resources. There is already a $4.99 eBook available that teaches you how to use iBooks Author. The title is iBooks Author: Publishing Your First eBook. The author is Maria Langer, an established tech writer who has written over 50 books. The moment iBooks Author was announced, Maria spent day and night and wrote, edited and prepared the book over a ten day period.

Even if you don’t have an iPad yet, you can check out Maria’s book or eBook and the materials and videos at This first version of Maria’s book is created with traditional tools to get the book in your hands as quickly as possible. She is working on a fancy iBooks 2 version but I recommend getting in on the ground floor now. Don’t wait for the fancy book. I plan to buy the iBooks 2 version for my iPad when it is available, but this chance to get a jumpstart on a new kind of eBook is too good to pass up.

Keeping Current – Best iPad Apps for Knowledge Professionals

Knowledge professionals live, prosper or die by their ability to keep current in their chosen fields. Besides your own knowledge niche, you need to keep current with events of the day that matter to your associates and constituents. A lapse in specialized or general knowledge reflects badly on you and may affect your ability to create value for your clients and associates. This is the fifth in a series of posts about using the iPad as a versatile mobile tool to accomplish essential knowledge functions.

We live and work in a mesh of people and information. Maybe there was a time when professionals just went to work and did their jobs. In these confusing, complex and rapidly changing times, important informal partnering and value exchanges occur constantly with our colleagues, vendors and clients. These major and micro-exchanges can make all the difference. But I digress.

This post begins the topic of Keeping Current and how you might best use an iPad to stay abreast of events and information in your field, your other areas of interest, your location and the world at large. Our focus today will be on News reading. My follow up post will finish up with Social News reading — with Flipboard leading the pack. Then I will get into reading after news capture with a discussion of reading apps like Instapaper and note/storage apps like Evernote.

Essentials of Keeping Current

Discovery. I want to be able to discover new news sources, authors and specific news items efficiently. I don’t know in advance what is going to be important. I want to be able to skim to sift through the new news.

Focus. I want to focus on the areas, sources and authors I find most interesting and valuable. This is in conflict to some extent with discovery but is equally important.

Diversity. Another value is that I want to see enough diversity in the news to get different view points that cause me to think and continue to refine my thinking and gain whole new perspectives and new concepts and knowledge.

Ways to Stay Current

There are many ways to stay current. Here are a few:

  1. Watching television news.
  2. Reading the morning newspaper(s) and weekly magazines via paper.
  3. Reading the morning newspaper(s) and weekly magazines via the internet or other electronic means.
  4. Creating your own aggregated set of news sources via RSS feeds and perusing the new entries that have come in since you last checked.
  5. Following news provided by those in your social or professional circles via means like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and new apps like Flipboard.

I’m going to skip over #1 and #2 as the dominant traditional means of staying current that have been losing share to electronic, internet and app-based methods. Further, I’m going to only cover #3 briefly as I think these methods are imitative of paper publications and are still finding their way as new media. I don’t think the biggest value add is here.

#3 News and Magazine apps on the iPad

I don’t know whether we are just in the era of rampant ADD or what but it seems in the last 15 years since web browsing began, we’ve become a nation of skimmers and surfers. Somehow the genie is out of the bottle now and I’m not willing anymore to be a recipient of news fed to me in a canned way, however literate, from one publisher. I am no longer interested in relying on the New York Times to find out what is going on. But, I am interested in having a newspaper constructed on the fly for me based on my interests and drawn from many sources not just one. That’s now possible and I find it desirable and efficient. If you like these single publication apps, go for it. Some other top publications like the Wall Street Journal and The Economist may serve you perfectly, but there is this new alternative that I really like…

Zite: Combo Custom News App

The new way to read like before but better is via an app like Zite. It has sections like the New York Times but there are distinct differences. You can choose among Zite’s standard sections to create your own newspaper and you can add custom sections. For example, I have separate sections for iPhone, iPad, Android and Kindle along with standard sections like Politics and World News. I like being able to my favorite topics front and center.

Even better, with Zite, I can thumbs up and thumbs down different articles and then have Zite give me more of what I liked and less of what I didn’t. So, for example, my Philosophy & Spirituality (a standard section in Zite) has gradually evolved to give me more about Zen and less fundamentalist Christian pieces. The Politics section has shifted to the Left.

Besides this customization, Zite respects my preferences in another important way. I can send the articles I want to keep to Instapaper or Evernote or email the full text. Now, every publication won’t allow Zite to do this, but most will one way or another (sometimes they require you to go to their website first). I resent apps that restrict me to email the URL to myself, Evernote or a colleague. I know they have to make a living too, but still. Zite recently introduced an excellent iPhone version that is excellent for reading news on the small screen.

RSS Readers

In the early days of blogging circa 2003 – 2005, bloggers used RSS readers. This allowed us to subscribe to each other’s blogs and browse new blog posts from the blogs we followed. I’m still doing it and it still works well but I have to admit to also using Zite and in a minute I’ll be talking about social news apps.

RSS Readers Defined. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, an RSS reader allows you to automatically received new blog posts from any blogs whose RSS feeds you’ve subscribed. The most popular RSS Reader on the web is Google Reader. You use a free Google email account to use Google Reader and add subscriptions there. All you need to do is enter in the url for the blog you want to add to your RSS reader. You can add or delete from your list of feeds as desired.

The essentials that RSS Readers excel at are Focus and Diversity. You can flood yourself with a ton of feeds that cover many subjects that you care about (Focus), and by subscribing to a lot of different sources within each subject, you get diversity. However, one key aspect of discovery doesn’t happen as well. You don’t get new sources and new topics as much. We all like a new discovery so you may need to go to Zite or social news apps for that spice.

There are several really good RSS News Readers for the iPad and I have my four favorites: Perfect RSS Reader, Mr. Reader, Reeder and River of News. All draw the articles from Google Reader, the web site. I’m not mentioning some other RSS readers like Byline.  If you want a more magazine-like experience, you may prefer Pulse, Pulp, Read or Newstream.

It may very well be that the days of these more traditional newsreaders is numbered on the iPad due to the appeal of magazine-like presentation. Of these magazine-a-likes, I’m currently reading Newstream the most. I’ve used it to go straight to some of my tech favorites like The Verge, GigaOm, MacStories, Monday Note, TechMeme and AppleInsider and the Atlantic. There is a wealth of good apps here that are furiously competing with each other and getting better all the time.

Perfect RSS Reader – $2 regularly $5. Newcomer whose aesthetics I like. What can I say I like the antiqued look. I like the split screen with articles listed with descriptions on the left and full articles on the right. With lots of functionality available with discrete buttons at the bottom. My current newsreader of choice. But you really should occasionally check out the competition because you never know when one will jump ahead of the others. I own all four of these.

Reeder – $5. King of the hill until really good competition took note and copied and then elaborated on what Reeder had done on iPhone and then iPad. I still prefer Reeder on my iPhone which is where I think it still dominates the straight RSS reader category. Besides being classy and great at what it does and innovative. Reeder has an wonderful Mac app which I like when I’m taking a quick news break on my Mac.

Mr. Reader – $4. Uber Powerful. Perfect if you like a list with some description for each and don’t want the full article except when you really do want it. This can work well if you mostly read elsewhere which many people do. You skim here and just hit the arrow to move the winners to Instapaper or Evernote in full when publication allows it.

River of News – $2. I used this app for probably a year and really enjoyed 2 key features combined. I could just spin through the river of articles and I set the preference to mark them read as I went through them. That feature alone can be helpful if you want to actually get through all your feeds. Simple clean interface without the column on the side. Worth your $2 if you haven’t tried it and think it sounds like something you might like. Simplicity is appealing and I may come back home here one of these days. I sure haven’t deleted this app from my iPad.

Social News Apps

Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – we will save for part 2. Twitter is the originator of the short status update and is the winner for social news for the knowledge professional. Twitter consists of 140 character blurbs of information-laden content shared publicly for others read. This service has proven so valuable that it has been adopted in a lesser form as Status Updates by Facebook, LinkedIn and many others. Sharing links to blog posts and youtube videos is dominant and thus forms a source of news that shouldn’t be ignored.

Status Updates on Twitter and elsewhere and tools that stand on the shoulders of these tools is a large and burgeoning area that I will address as a separate blog post. For now, just keep in mind that keeping current can’t be complete without the use of these tools in some capacity. On the iPad, I would start with Flipboard.