Joining the Tablet Generation

In the end, it came down to my eyes no longer being able to focus on the type in your typical paper back book.

The array of ebook readers out there was not foreign to me.  Both of my parents have an Amazon Kindle.  My daughter has a Nook Color.  A friend of ours has a Kindle Fire.

But being something of a Luddite at times, I clung to books in their physical form.

Until this past summer when middle age struck again, and I ceased to be able to focus on anything within “book range” of my face without a pair of 1.25 diopter reading glasses.  Getting old sucks.

Oddly, I do not have problems with text on the computer screen and am able to read the default teeny-eyestrain-o-vision font used in EVE Online without having to blow it up into human proportions

Glasses are a pain.  I have not built up a lifetime of eyewear management like many of my family and friends.  I have to have multiple pairs of sunglasses just to ensure I can find one pair when I need them.  And even that isn’t always doable.

So an ebook reader, where one can increase the size of the type to read, seemed like an idea whose time had come for me.  But I wanted something backlit, light for reading being a rare commodity in our home, which left the standard Kindle devices off the list.  As for the Nook Color and Kindle Fire, those 7″ screens seemed a bit wee.  I like to get more than a short paragraph read per “page.”

Which left me with a muddle of Android based tablets and the iPad.

But with the holidays and money being tight, I didn’t want to face another $500 on the already potentially scary credit card bill.  So my wife managed to piece together an array of gift cards that were all redeemable at one local Target that also happened to be in a Westfield Shoppingtown mall.  I only had to pay the tax out of cash in my wallet.

So that was my post-Christmas present, a base model iPad 2.

I immediately downloaded the Amazon Kindle app for the iPad.  I have a nearly 15 year relationship with Amazon, so that seemed the best place to start.

A couple of books in, I have to say that the iPad works find as an ebook reader.

I also grabbed the Barnes & Noble app, which lets me download any books my daughter has on her Color Nook.  While all of those Warrior Cats books are not so interesting, I have been reading The Hunger Games trilogy with her.

I haven’t done anything with iBooks yet, though I see that a number of publishers have an option to buy ebooks directly that can be imported into iBooks.

Of course, with this brand new tablet, I could not just read books.  I had to get some apps.

And there are apps out there for everyone.

Everyone in the house has played with my iPad

There are lots of apps in the Apple store.  But as with iTunes… and frankly almost all online shopping… browsing is a pain.  If you know exactly what you want, you can get it, but just sifting through the lists of apps… not so much.

I refused to get Angry Birds, since I think we have that on enough devices already.  I did indulge my daughter and let her get Fruit Ninja, a game at which I am comically bad.

And there was, of course, the Games for Cats app pictured above.  A simulated laser pointed works as well as the real thing, though sometimes Trixie starts digging under the iPad when it goes off screen.

I also grabbed a few reference apps, such as the ones for NPR, BBC, PBS, WordPress, and the Internet Movie Database.  I am semi-disappointed in the lot of them, as none seem to improve much (or at all) on just using their web sites with a browser.

There was a nice EVE Online app, EVE Universe, which I grabbed.  It just shows information based on your API Key, but it looks good.

On the science front, among the many astronomy choices, I bought Celestron’s SkyQ app.  I can stand in the family room now, waving a 10″ diagonal window around, showing my daughter the sky we would be able to see if the city lights were not so bright that they blot out pretty much anything dimmer than the moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Sirius, Polaris, and Orion’s Belt.

But so far the most entertaining app I have downloaded has been the iPad version of the board game Ticket to Ride.  I actually own the physical game, but the iPad version is so good that I may never use that again.  It translate the game to the tablet very well, picks up all the minor administrative tasks, and offers solo play against bots, local play via hot swap or wireless connection, and online play against strangers. (Though, par for the course, people still disconnect the moment they are going to lose. I hate that.)  More games like this please, as opposed to the EA games which, if I read the reviews correctly, you pay for and then they pop up ads during play that obscure the game.  Nice.

I also grabbed the Rift Mobile app, which is somewhat limited in functionality, but which does give me palanarite lotto scratcher every hour, up to a maximum of six queued up, that have been helping to feed my planarite needs in the game.

And, finally, I resubscribed to NetFlix stream and have streamed some movies and TV shows to the iPad with very good success.  I have used it ala the Syp method, allowing me to watch a show and play EVE Online.

All in all, I quite like the iPad.  I have to take it away from my daughter now and again, who will sit in her room and stream Futurama if I don’t keep an eye on her.  Mostly it gets used for reading and playing Ticket to Ride.  I have hit something of a wall when it comes to apps though.  Not that I need a lot more.  But every time I use the iTunes app store, I just feel in my bones that there has to be a better way to organize and display apps.

11 thoughts on “Joining the Tablet Generation

  1. Facepalm

    I’m jealous, haven’t yet taken the plunge on a tablet.

    I have the digital version of ‘The Settlers of Catan’ on my iPad and it’s great, I’d recommend it for your iPad as well.


  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Facepalm – I have eyed that, as well as the iPad version of Carcassonne, but tend to be a bit cautious when it comes to spending money. Good translations of board games to another medium can be a transcendent experience when done well, like Ticket to Ride… or they can just stink on ice and make you mad.


  3. jokeefe

    I had to laugh as I read the first part of the blog post as you just went through what I did about 4 months ago, the need to start using glasses. Oddly enough, I generally don’t need glasses when reading on my Kindle, which suspect is due to the high quality of the e-ink presentation and the great contrast on the screen.

    Still, I don’t like the admission that I’m getting old but I welcome you to the club, grandpa.


  4. p0tsh0t

    Being a skeptical cheap bastard, I too was hesitant to embrace tablet land. However, I was fortunate enough to win one in a resubscription contest for a trade group. Ipad 1, wifi only, but hey, the price was right.

    Compared to the Kindle, I find it too heavy to do much serious reading. I quite like it for “magazine” like content, but not so much for “book” like content.

    I too have been mostly underwhelmed by app development for the platform. From a design perspective, much of what I’ve seen falls into the just-because-you-can-doesn’t-mean-you-should camp. Yes, swiping and swishing and scrolling and such are oh so neat, but please just let me get to the content thank you very much.

    In our house, it has replaced the print version of the daily newspapers on the breakfast table and finds its way into the kitchen as a cookbook proxy quite frequently.

    Interested in what you think about typing on the beast…


  5. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Potshot – Yeah I get that, at one point, when the iPhone first came out, there was a great rush to get any app going, no matter how goofy. But I think we’re past the time when an app that displays a lit lighter you can hold over your head at concerts is really pushing the envelope.

    I am also already picky about getting apps that are designed with the iPad in mind. I’ve already downloaded a couple apps that were clearly, “Yeah, sure, it will run on the iPad… at iPhone resolution.”

    The weight of the unit does not bother me when reading, but I have not used anything else of late against which I could compare it, aside from a hardback book.

    I have a friend at NASA Ames that uses the on-screen keyboard to type all the time, so it can be done. I imagine that I will have to get a bluetooth keyboard for it to do any serious typing, having gone to the Miss Osser School of Typing and Retro Hairstyles.


  6. Sleepysam

    Infinity blade 2 is cool I also put civ rev on there supposedly a better civ port is incoming. You might get a kick out of star legends or pocket legends. I have yet to find a really great game though. Follow the free app a day feed on twitter as well occasionally something interesting in there.

    Lookin forward to some tablet/iOS talk.


  7. Maarkean

    I’ve wanted to get an iPad. It seems very cool. But i wouldn’t want to read ebooks on it. The backlight would get annoying after awhile. I like the e-ink aspect of the Kindle for reading. But the iPad seems far more versatile. And has that air of Apple mystique.

    PS, if you’re looking for books to read on there, check out mine: Aristeia: Revolutionary Right (sorry for the spam, but it was a perfect opportunity)


  8. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Maarkean – Like I said, lighting in our house discourages devices without backlighting. Even in bed, our big cat sits on my nightstand and gets right in my light. So it was a requirement for me.

    And yes, I have actually looked at your book over at the Kindle store, just to see how the cover ended up looking over at Amazon after you did the series of cover updates on your blog. I will have to see if can get to it after I get through my backlog. David Brin put up his 10 favorite SF books, and I found that I had not read five of them. So there was work to be done catching up.


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