A few things have been pushing my thinking even more about reading and writing in digital environments, and I thought I’d throw some kind of random thoughts together here mostly to capture them but also to see where writing about them takes me. So apologies in advance for the thin threads and varied directions this may go in.
First, let me say I love my iPad…as a reading tool. I’ve been telling people that when the new OS comes out here in the next couple of weeks, my “grade” for it will go from a B- to a B+ just for the mere ability to multitask through many open programs, which is the major frustration I find with the device right now. I hate having to close one app down in order to open another up because it’s just so different from the usually six or eight programs and 30+ tabs I have running at any given moment on my MBP. But having said that, I absolutely love reading on the iPad. It’s light, it’s thin, it glows. Yeah…I’m having a moment…
To that end, I seriously don’t know if there’s a more useful app than Instapaper. Now, when I’m working on my laptop and my network floats up some interesting piece to read, I just “read-later” it in my browser and the article, stripped of all the ads and extraneous junk on the page, syncs right into my iPad for later, leisurely, comfortable consumption. And…for somewhat comfortable creation. (Btw, here is the RSS feed for my Instapaper saves if you want it.) With a little work, I can share out those pieces to Twitter, capture chunks on Evernote, save them to my Delicious account, all of which will get oh so much easier when the OS updates. But there is no question thatÂ reading no longer just means consuming. It’s all about pulling out the most salient, relevant pieces and doing something with them that potentially makes other people more knowledgeable as well.
Second, there has been a great series of posts on my new favorite blog at the Neiman Journalism Lab (Harvard) regarding the use of links:
Why does the BBC want to send its readers away? The value of linking
Why link out? Four journalistic purposes of the noble hyperlink
Making connections: How major news organizations talk about links
Now I know most of these have a journalistic bent, but I think they have relevance for any of us who write in this linked world, whether it’s blogs or Twitter or whatever. In fact, I might argue that conversations such as these should be happening in fourth and fifth grade as we begin to help our students understand the value of public writing. I mean it might just be me, but I would love my kids to have an understanding of the value of links in writing in terms of how they can be used in storytelling, in keeping the audience informed, in enabling transparency and their value as a “currency of collaboration.” Isn’t that an inherent part of the online writing interaction that we should be teaching?
Third, back to the iPad for a sec. I love the fact that this morning, Clay Shirky’s new book Cognitive Surplus landed in my Kindle app, ready for me to read. I just finished Switch (highly recommended) and now I have two abridged, annotated, digitally marked up versions of recent books in Evernote that are fully searchable and remixable and sharable (within limits, of course.) I’m becoming more convinced that I’ll never buy another paper book again if it has a Kindle version.
And finally, I bought the Wired Magazine app for the iPad on Monday ($4.99) and it’s, um, pretty darn cool. It’s also another small step in the way we read; embedded videos and audio, amazing graphics, interactive buttons to push. I found it much more engaging to read…that participation thing again. Not that it’s the reinvention of print, but I would have loved to been in some of the brainstorming and idea sessions when they created the interface. It is beautiful and functional. And soon, according to the developers, it’s going to get more social as well, more opportunities to do “connective reading.” Not saying I’m going to subscribe to Wired this way, but when textbooks are made for the iPad in this format…could be very interesting.
I know most people shudder when I say this, but I’m more than ok with letting go of the paper reading world at this point. I’m much more interested in exploring these digital spaces, their opportunities and their drawbacks (as Nicholas Carr has been espousing of late) than watching my paper books grow dust on the bookshelves.
Dale Holt says
As I was reading (and nodding my head in agreement fervently)the term connective-reading really stood out. We are in that phase more than ever before that begs active participation and communication. And what better for it to be the focus point than building context around the things we read. That is what good readers do (a phrase i try to echo as i teach any book in school). I am not saying burn the paper, I love paper books and have an entire wall in my apartment dedicated to them. I love the feel and dog-earring the edges of the page (don’t tell my librarian friends). But we can’t really make a strong argument that the delivery model of things is changing. We should be happy about that especially if it makes the world more connective. I will use any method necessary to get reluctant readers to start. We should show that we value reading in all its forms not try to de-legitimize what will probably be the most highly used form of reading for students in the next 10years (until we can get info loaded matrix direct into our brainstems). For the skeptics, try it, for the critics, rethink it, for the teachers, model it, and for everyone else take the wonderful works of human authorship, add your thoughts and then connect it.
Clint Kennedy says
Great post…..love putting your instapaper feed into my Reader.
Did you mean to imply that you were able to move annotated versions of books from your Kindle App into Evernote?
Aparna Vashisht says
I must admit that I like both paper and Kindle books. I prefer the kindle over the ipad for reading. I don’t like glossy screens. What I love about the Kindle or an e-reader is the fact that I can simply download a book at the touch of a button and then take 100s of books with me at all times. It is unbeatable.
Enjoy your iPad. 🙂
FYI – the new OS comes to the iPhone in two weeks, but doesn’t come to the iPhone until some not-yet-announced date later this year.
Oops – I meant doesn’t come to the iPad until later this year.
I have been quietly trying to convince people here at school that we need to add writing for the web/public writing/blogging to our curriculum the same way that we teach expository or narrative writing. This piece gives me more to think about (not to mention ammo).
Scott Weidig says
This is probably the only area of anything that I have been ahead of you on the curve for… Most often I am happy if I see you ahead, down the road, around the curve whiley brain is desparately trying to catch up…
I have LOVED digital reading for the last 7-8 years or so since my first Palm/handspring device. The freedom that a digital reader provides I find stunning and sometimes
overwhelming. Having the ability to have multiple books, texts, PDF’s, and access to the web in the palm of your hand is liberating from the alternative of hoping that you brought all of the material you might need or be interested in at any given time. While I do not have an iPad, yet, all of this is done currently via my iPhone.
Annotating, clipping, bookmarking, sharing at any moment is amazing. Having near instant recall of information with connections to like material is just awesome.
Because I do some development, I do have iOS4 currently running on my iPhone right now. While multitasking is nice and I would not want to go back to 3.1.2 it is no true multitasking like you are used to on your MBP. It will require some getting used to overall. Welcome to the digital revolution.
I hate to interject a practical note but how do you do your annotating? I love the idea of an iPad (although multitasking seems like a huge deal) but I’m also a confirmed tablet PC user. Inking notes to myself in OneNote or Journal and inking annotations on pdfs and documents is a beautiful thing. I can do it with one hand and without a stable surface to type against, its faster then typing on an onscreen keyboard, and it doesn’t obscure the document while I do it.
Think you hit the nail on the head with “Iâ€™ll never buy another paper book again if it has a Kindle version.”. The innovation of the Kindle is the ease of buying, sampling, and reading. It is particularly useful if you read multiple books at once.
You should do a screencast/blog post on your exact workflow; reading and writing using the ipad, kindle, evernote, twitter, etc. Moving data around and then repurposing it I think is the most challenging aspect of making these devices useful.
I’m a fan of connective writing and will teach it with enthusiasm in the fall. I am telling my colleagues about it and noone has heard of it. I will have a blog post soon also, of course linked to a couple of posts.
Barbara Paciotti says
Well said. Lately I’ve been getting most of my professional reading through my Kindle.
So, can you set the pace & help the rest of us “go digital” with our reading & teaching by issuing a Kindle version of your own book “Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, etc”? Not that I wouldn’t love having your book on my shelf, but I’m in the process of downsizing my household & with the digital options now available, a lot of my physical books are going to the used bookstores!
Jessica Scaggs says
I am a middle school science teacher and I regularly incorporate technology into instruction and learning. I was blown away with the thought of using iPads or Kindles in the classroom. I think of all the teachers in all the schools that currently can only get new textbooks every 5 – 10 years or more! What an amazing concept to think as schools have access to more technology it could change how students access information. Schools could subscribe to textbook publishing companies and have the textbooks downloaded into these devises. As updates became available, the content could be brought up to date so quickly; without postage or wasted paper!
Catching up via Google Reader today and loved your post. I agree with you my Kindle is my mobile library and I see no reason to go back to paper copies. I thought I would miss paper and there is simply nothing to miss.
The iPad is equally, if not more amazing. I am not sure how you use annotating with Evernote. Please post more on that.