Tuesday, April 24, 2007

New Input at The Student Tablet PC

Continuing briefly in the technological vein, I see that The Student Tablet PC blog has chosen three new contributors to add tips, product reviews, and their general combined wisdom to the site. One of them, Robert, is actually an MA student in medieval history (as opposed to something like engineering, where use of tablets and convertibles seems to be rampant and for good reason). Robert also has a blog of his own where he writes about tablets, ecologically friendly computing, and related topics. My quick look at his Paperless Undergrad taught me that one can actually get a solar battery-charger, which I think is a stunning idea.
I've only had a tablet pc (more specifically, a convertible and not a slate) since last summer, and while I think this technology is really going to become mainstream, I confess I have not taken much advantage of the tablet aspect of my machine yet. (Nathan won me over to the thing by showing me his when my last laptop was in its death throes.)
The true student tablet pc junkie carries almost no books or notebooks to class, but scans or buys electronic copies of textbooks, writes notes and diagrams using digital ink, and does a plethora of other things some of which are possible but less convenient on a regular computer, or which require that the class be set up for everyone to interact via computer (whiteboards, the Blackboard system, etc.). Indeed, I can see how it would have been nice to have written all my class notes on the tablet, where I could either keep them in handwriting or have them convert to typed text, and have my little sketches of the slides augmented by digital images of the art. This would have made studying for those MA exams (where I used to have to learn around 300 works for each class) easier. We could have made digital flashcards for group study rather than sketching the paintings and borrowing loads of very heavy books.
Currently, I mainly use the tablet aspect for reading PDF dissertations in portrait mode, which is a pretty low-level use. I also like to be able to take the tablet into the library stacks showing the list of titles to look for, but as there aren't open stacks here, I don't do that in Prague.
In the future, however, I expect I'll be using more aspects of the tablet, so I want to be well informed.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you have any thoughts on electronic paper? I have been tempted to buy th Sony Reader (I am going paperless with my files -- scanning everything to PDF). However, I have heard that the Reader is fragile and does not zoom well enough for comfortably reading PDFs.



April 24, 2007 1:14 PM  
Blogger Karla said...

Well, I can't say I actually know anything about Sony Reader. I just read my PDF files on the laptop using Acrobat.

From looking at the Wikipedia link you give, my impression is that the Sony Reader is tempting but not tempting enough. I like that it is easy to hold and can be read in bright light. However, I really wouldn't want to read texts on anything much smaller than my laptop screen (individual items, fine, but certainly not most things), plus the fact that you only get grayscale and no way of annotating... while I don't do lots of annotating, I really love the fact that I CAN. I run Acrobat's Capture function (OCR) on PDFs so that they're searchable, then I try to bookmark the chapters and so on, and I use the highlighter tool. But if I wanted, I could take notes all over the actual PDF texts, and you don't have to have a tablet for that, just the full Acrobat program. (Although you'd have to have some sort of pen input if you wanted the notes in your handwriting rather than typed.)

So I'd stick with your laptop if I were you.

April 24, 2007 2:54 PM  
Blogger Kristen said...

I have to confess that tablets are pretty cool--I've got a USB tablet. However, I'm old enough that I really can't effectively edit on screen. I still need me my hardcopies for serious editing and reading.

April 24, 2007 7:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, size is another issue. There is a chinese company that is supposedly coming out with a large screen reader using the same electronic paper technology, but it will probably have similar problems.


April 24, 2007 7:29 PM  
Blogger Karla said...

I think that in a few years there might be better options on products like Sony Reader. Then again, maybe not. People expected e-books to take off about ten years ago (maybe more!), but they were a flop. What's happened in the meantime is that certain types of text are great as e-books, for certain sectors of the population. Lots of textbooks, for example. Dissertations. Public domain books that people download free from Project Gutenberg and http://www.archive.org. Some of the same people who like to have a really nice physical book are the same people who want an electronic copy of a (possibly rare) title that can be marked up. I think that most people who are using digital books want to be able to do more than just read them, and would just as soon have a small paperback for ordinary leisure reading.

As for editing on-screen, I do a lot of it, but at a certain point I also need to revise with a printout. I've gone through several (hideously expensive) inkjet cartridges here.

April 24, 2007 9:00 PM  

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