Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The iPad as a writer's tool


Well, well... Apple certainly has released a polarizing device. And while I can't argue with those who question the average consumer's need for an iPad ("it's just a big iPod Touch"), I find it very compelling as an average creator.

From a pure writing standpoint, it meets most of my needs as a portable tool (when combined with the keyboard dock). The battery life is excellent -- I estimate I can get 20 hours. It has no noisy fans, it's light, it's "always on" (no boot up time), and the screen is in a portrait orientation (again, when combined with the keyboard dock) . I find that more conducive to writing, especially in lower resolution displays. Netbooks are all wide-screen, useful for watching video but not so useful for the vertical display of text.

There's other benefits as well. It's a great reading device. Perhaps even better than the Kindle, since the screen is lit. The Kindle's main flaw, to me, is that it's a single-tasker, which makes it hard to justify the expense. For roughly two times the price, an iPad can do the same stuff (there's even a Kindle app for it), plus so much more.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm still a big fan of physical books. But a lot of writer's don't realize one of the great features of the Kindle book store (and, now, Apple's iBooks): you can get a free sample of any book in there. Usually about 50 pages. Anytime I hear someone say "oh, you should read so-and-so, she's great", I don't have to jot that down and, sometime later, pick up one of their books at the bookstore and read a bit of it. I can download 50 pages right there on the spot. Enjoy it, study it, and annotate it. Download enough samples and you've created for yourself a compendium of writing examples from published authors, all available to you at any time.

The iPad is also a sketchbook. There's a bunch of drawing applications available.

You can do mind maps, take notes, create outlines, do research (via the web). There's even a free version of Dragon Dictation, allowing you to voice your ideas (or dialog!) and have it captured as text. I could go on.

I guess if I had one wish, it would be for an iPad version of Scrivener. That qualm aside, it's the best portable writing device I've used. It will definitely replace my netbook, Alphasmart, and Kindle.


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