Doing old-school reading on a new-school device. Scholarly reading on the iPad.


  1. So the story begins, as it often does, with an article not available in my library's collections.  Interlibrary loan to the rescue.
  2. I log in to ILL from my iPad, and View the article I want to see.

    (This is if it just came in.  If it's been in for a while, I probably have it saved already to my iPad).
  3. Now, what program to use to open it?  I am a note-taker, can't read without a pen in my hand type of person - so Note Taker HD.
  4. There are a lot of note taking programs, why this one?  It's kind of funky, but bear with me.  

    So the main problem with writing on the iPad is the touch screen - your pen (or finger) strokes are big and clumsy - it doesn't allow for fine detail of any kind.  

    This app has one editing mode that lets you write directly on the screen, like you'd expect.  Edit 1 mode - which is what you see here.
  5. Edit 2 mode, on the other hand, looks like this picture below.  See that little blue box on the top right corner?  And the big what looks like text entry box on the bottom?  

    Here's the trick.  What you write in the big box at the bottom, appears in the tiny box at the top.   And it is resized down tiny (where "tiny" really means "normal writing sized").
  6. You can move the target writing area around by dragging it with your finger - which allows you to add marginalia to your heart's content.

  7. So, writing with my finger is really hard.  

  8. I really can't do it at all.  Plus also, there's the way I have been trained to read with a pen.  I've never ever found a keyboard alternative to that - no matter how many notes I take with the keyboard, I always end up back with my pen.

    I invested in a stylus to make it easier. The iPad really isn't set up for using a stylus (see above, re: not about fine motor skills) but I find this easier on my hand, even if my handwriting is only marginally better.  It can get frustrating though -- it's easy to lose the angle you need and easy to add extra dots and lines to your writing.
  9. Okay, enough of the finger-writing interlude.  Back to online marginalia and notetaking.
  10. The right side of the text-entry box gives you some easy controls to keep your note-taking smooth.  

    Undo, is of course, the most heavily-used of these.

    Return works like an old-fashioned carriage return, putting your target box on the next line down, at the far left margin.  

    Advance moves your target box down the page - so you can continue writing almost seamlessly.
  11. It seems crazy complicated and as this guy says, there is a learning curve, but I swear, it was almost intuitively easy to pick up. 

    I was surprised.

  12. Marginalia has kind of been trending lately, at least among my geek-writing-reading corner of the web - largely because of this article in the New York Times Magazine.

    And maybe it is dead, and this is all an effort to maintain a dying habit in a world that won't sustain it for much longer.  Still - look at the colors and the circles and the lines.  It makes me happy.
  13. So, now I have my margin notes and my highlighting and my separate page of "follow up on this" notes that I've been keeping along the way.  

    What do I do with it?

    Well, I could leave it in Notetaker.  There are tags and other metadata options to make stuff findable again.  But I want to be able to get this stuff anywhere.  

  14. First I go to my tools menu and choose the pages I want to output.