by Kareem Carr
One of the tools that I have found useful academically in the last year has been the iPad. Although, in the traditional advertisements for the iPad, the ability to play music, watch videos or use various cool applications features heavily, I believe that for the mathematics graduate student the definitive usage would have to be the ability to read PDFs. (I use an application called GoodReader). Combined with access to papers online, not only does this save a lot of trees, it saves you time and it gives you the ability to do things that you could not do otherwise, for instance carry around your entire library of research papers with you. Therefore, you can read papers at anytime and anywhere, which I often do.
In addition to papers, a few publishers, such as Springer Verlag and Cambridge University Press, have made full chapters of thousands of textbooks and reference materials available to universities with a subscription. This is a feature I have also used heavily. Some whole books are even available free of charge through this system. Further, some authors have made their books freely available. Thousands of informal articles, notes, introductions and tutorials can also be found online. Finally, I often scan things at home creating digital copies. (For instance, I have a few of my notebooks scanned.)
If two people have iPads, GoodReader has nice feature where one iPad can send information directly to another iPad. So, sharing with a colleague is quite easy and convenient.
In my experience, I have often found reading from a computer screen to be too different from reading from a book or paper. Therefore, I would often print out copies of things that were stored on my computer. However, I find this urge is completely gone with my iPad.
There are drawbacks. The ability to write directly on the PDF are limited. Although, I am aware that GoodReader has annotation capabilities, these leave something to be desired. Also, since the iPad is a multipurpose device, there is probably greater potential for distraction. The cost is also a little hefty. However, compared to the cost of reference books and textbooks, it’s not so bad. Besides, I think just based on my productivity increases over the year and the amount of paper that I don’t buy anymore that it’s well worth it.
For this article, I’ve written about the iPad because it’s the tablet/e-Reader which I know best. If you have similar experiences with other tablets, I am sure other people would like to hear about it.