Friday, 27 December 2013

E-Books and Tablets are so 2013.

In Autumn I decided to switch over to use a tablet  (Nexus 7, maybe part of the problem) exclusively for private work. At the same time I decided to use E-Books, mainly because I had read so many bad books I threw away that keeping paper didn't make much sense anymore.

From Jan 1, 2014 on, I will switch back to a laptop and paper books for the bulk of my work. Here's why.

Why I dropped the Tablet (pun intended):

Main reason: I multitask. I know it's not efficient. Probably it's same kind of boredom that drives me to it, as I am certainly not suffering from ADHS. Unfortunately I am not a stream person, either. Tablets are made for streams, executed one by one, like packet switching or serial monogamy. They are built for either technology agnostics (think iPad for seniors) or very organized cloud-only stream-switchers (think Ben). Sure, some solutions like Cover try to address this with contexts, but it's still single task.

Having more than one E-Mail open? More than one browser instance? Switching between a Spreadsheet and a PDF staying at exact the same spot? Want to write an article with references (leaving aside there is not a single good quote-taking app out there)? Undo after you accidentally deleted all text? All that is currently impossible with the current state of most Android and iOS Apps. It gets worse with offline or limited connectivity (Hybrid Apps just crashing, Google Maps stays blank), where it's literally impossible to do research over more than a few browser tabs. Add technical problems (no ESC key when Apps freeze, Android updating in background just when you need to show your plane ticket) and questionable product decisions (Apple disabling USB Sync) it destroys all the productivity added in the first place.

I was positively surprised with the text input (thanks to an IVSO keyboard and Markup editors), on-screen note-taking, reader capabilities and TV connectivity (ChromeCast). Really, I loved the Nexus. The problem is though, it only works 90% and drives you crazy the other 10%. It's those 10% that tests usually not mention but made me unpack my 5-year old PC and get workin' again. Efficiently.

As for E-Books:

Main reason: No experience. I do read for both pleasure and knowledge extension, but the latter I primarily do via Readers like Pocket. A book is usually a long text I want to work with, i.e. a text I need to understand, cross-reference, highlight, read many times. All this is extremely cumbersome, at least with Kindle (I did only try Google Books as an alternative but found almost no books I am interested in. Same by the way for movies (less than on a regular plane flight) which one cannot even rent in English).

The Kindle app does not have a central place to look through your notes or highlights (apparently in the US store there is "my Highlights and Notes"). It does not allow multiple page markers or general sidenotes like a quick pencil brush. It's, like the tablet, for grandma reading, not for working.

But even with longer novels it's not pleasure. There is only a very rough feeling of process as the bar and remaining time are based on tags (for chapters) apparently randomly distributed through the books I've read. The process bar shows a general process even if there is lots of advertising and errata in the book - which also destroys the nice experience of finishing a book. I had to scroll though some multiple times until the index showed 100%, a few will probably never make it over 99%. Reading multiple books in parallel (yes, I multitask) is annoying because they all show up, randomly ordered and no grouping.

In addition, you cannot rent or nicely give an E-Book present. A voucher for Christmas, really? Why can't I transfer it in virtual gift wrap? Why is there no way to transfer a read book with a nice personal ex-libris note? That probably put the final nail in the coffin.

Sorry slick technologies, at the moment you just annoy me.

Inspired by XCKD 1309

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