With the iPad Pro, these paper tomes can go

I have been a keen “e-reader” these last ten years and have owned several devices. I love the lightness and backlit display of my Kobo Aura. But here’s why I still buy paper books:

  • There is no e-book available. Yes, that happens.
  • The e-book is actually more expensive. Incredible, but it happens.
  • Large-format art and photography books: doesn’t need explaining
  • I want to support my local bookshop.
  • Pride of ownership works better in print.
From Essential Scrum by Kenneth S. Rubin

I also bought no shortage of IT books since 2000. The learning experience of a well-edited book written by an experienced specialist is superior to most online tutorials or blogs. Current shelf occupancy is some 20% of what I owned in total, the rest having been discarded, given away or sold because they were replaced with newer editions or were about technology I have abandoned myself (Perl..)

These books do not tick any of the above boxes that would warrant owning them in print. What’s more, I feel bad about the environmental impact of books with such short longevity.

However, your typical IT-tutorial or reference book is a pretty poor experience on an e-reader, which excel for text, but not text with illustrations or graphics. Search speed is pretty dire. Zooming even worse. 

Sure, you can read the digital version on a monitor or laptop, which is fine for tutorial books with lots of coding samples. But books were made for a longer, uninterrupted sitting in a comfortable posture. If they are rich in illustrations and infographics designed for the printed page, the e-reader quite frankly sucks.

My new iPad pro solves it all: its screen is more than large enough to display any printed page without scaling down. Occasional zooming is not an issue. Search is excellent. Annotations with the stylus are not as great as a quick pencil doodle in the margin, but at least they’re searchable.

There is another area where the iPad shines: sheet music. With longer scores pianists always miss a third hand to quickly the page. Not only are there thousands of good quality scores of classical music in the public domain, but the problem of page turning can be solved with a remote foot pedal. The Forscore reading app can even do it by detecting the blink of your left and right eye. Amazing!

Fragment from Mozart Sonata with my own annotations