Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Reading PDFs on iPhone: Kindle vs iBooks

Over the years I've found myself reading more on the iPhone. This is driven by excellent free access to classic literature ebooks through Project Gutenberg

After going back to school in 2012 I realized there is a treasure trove of free academic material in large PDF's that I would never read in front a traditional PC screen. With my new digital reading patterns I began craving to read these on my iPhone. But the legacy 8.5 x 11 formatting of PDF's does not lend itself to readability on a 3.5" screen. The text is far to small, requiring constant zooming and scrolling.

This is a show stopper for longer documents.

Placing the device in landscape, combined with double tap to zoom offers a glimmer of hope. But as always, the devil is in the details.

Here's a standard PDF starting in landscape mode:

My digital reading habit began in the Kindle app on iOS devices before iBooks was released. Never having any reason to switch, I've stuck with the Kindle app.

In the Kindle app, double tapping anywhere on the text (or anywhere on the document for that matter) will zoom in only on the document itself (margin included):

On a 3.5" screen, this text is still unmanageable for extended reading; requiring constant finger pecking.

In iBooks, a double tap on text will zoom in past the margin, to the edge of the text that was tapped. It also subtly locks vertical scrolling, as if the zoomed state was the original size of the document.

This detail is a habit breaker. iBooks has become my new default reading app.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Passage To India

Lo, soul, seest thou not God's purpose from the first?
The earth to be spann'd, connected by network,
The races, neighbors, to marry and be given in marriage,
The oceans to be cross'd, the distant brought near,
The lands to be welded together.

- Walt Whitman (Passage to India)
Could he even fathom...?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Clever Use of Space by Mailbox

 Clever ideas seem obvious in retrospect.

For example, first look at a screenshot from Apples native Mail app. In this screenshot on my iPhone 4S I just refreshed the inbox:

Note the space held by the persistent status bar in the bottom, the temporary space held by the loading icon below "All Inboxes", and the doubly redundant loading icon in the status bar.

Now contrast that with Mailbox on the right, in the same state of refreshing the inbox:

Active feedback is provided consistently at one location in the status bar, conserving precious real estate, while still displaying the standard status bar information when in it's neutral state.

Personally, I also found that Mailbox's less intrusive status indicators invited me to continue interacting with my inbox, regardless of what state it is in. I never thought of clicking an item or writing a message in Apples Mail app while it is loading. Instead I find myself staring at the loading indicator waiting for it to finish before proceeding with my business.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Why Do We Hashtag?

I originally understood hashtags on Twitter and Instagram as a functional way to link your personal experience to a larger shared experience. This is in line with the positive sociological trend, towards a more global consciousness, that I wrote about a few years ago.

Then people began to be clever; creating unlikely tags, daring you to click and find out whether anyone else in the world had concocted such a string of characters.

But then the meme made a radical evolutionary jump that left me awestruck.

Someone intentionally wrote a status update on Facebook followed by a series of hashtags. Not because it provided any functional linking, but because it was a way to provide commentary.

Digital social networks are changing us in a way that is compelling us to provide witty commentary on our own commentary before anyone else can.

And it is the sociological significance of this that I am still grappling with. Honestly, I'm struggling to find a positive take on this trend. Thoughts?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Zara: The Apple of Fast Fashion

Six years ago I bought a used pair of Zara cords, knowing nothing about the brand. They quickly became my favorite pair of pants. With no stores in the Pacific NW, I have always been curious about this mysterious brand behind my favorite pair of pants.

In January I was browsing the Bloomberg Billionaires and was shocked to see the 3rd richest individual in the world (displacing Warren Buffet) was the founder of Zara. I became insatiably curious about how this self made founder of a clothing brand, that does not even have a store in Seattle, much less Portland, could become so wealthy.

When NPR did a segment on The Reclusive Spanish Billionaire behind Zara, I tuned in.

It is interesting to note that Zara embodies a few core Apple-like traits:
  • Methodical focus on Supply chain efficiency; 15 days from design to shelf.
  • Vertically integrated; tightly controlling supply chain from factory to retail.
  • Spending relatively little on advertising, instead focusing on flagship stores.