Hello iPad Mini

photo[4]There are some weeks so bad that only comfort food and obscenely expensive aspirational purchases can save you. I’d argue I’ve just had one of those, having found out I have two tears in my knee and require an arthroscopy, getting flooded twice as badly as I did in 2011, and discovering that my stove has sprung a mammoth gas leak that will need wall-punchingly expensive plumbing repairs.

So, although I’d like to say that I bought my long-awaited, much-adored iPad Mini under happy circumstances (perhaps even—as I inadvertently worded it the other day—getting the clap on the way out of the Apple store), it’s come more as a consolation prize.

As consolation prizes go, though, I’m not complaining. The iPad Mini’s pretty incredible, and in just a few short days and limited plays, I’ve fallen in love with the following …

Its ereader capabilities

iPad_Mini_ereaderI’ve held out buying an ereader until now because I’m a dedicated worshipper of the cult of Apple, because I wanted to wait until the format wars died down, and because no ereader on the market did quite what I’d hoped (read: none were ‘Apple pretty’).

The crisp, white, Garamond font-inked pages unfurling on the iPad Mini actually made my heart soar. The handy functionality that enables me to highlight paragraphs, add notes, and more kind of make me wonder if I’ll ever return to physical copies, where I’m forced to dog-ear pages, add post-it notes that easily become unstuck, and rustle through pages down the track when I’m looking for a quote about something interesting that I vaguely remember marking somewhere along the way. In short, I’m obsessed with it and am currently plotting which ebooks I should buy.

Its accompanying magnetic cover

photoI had to buy it separately, but the iPad Mini’s light grey, magnetised cover that snaps on and snaps to without affecting usability or streamlined pretty is fantastic. Sometimes it’s the little things that really please.

The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) app

SMH_AppThere are, rather confusingly, two SMH apps, and I downloaded both before discovering that the one I want appears in the iPad Mini’s newsstand. And, despite the initial confusion, the correct app’s proving brilliant. Indeed, traditional newspapers may be struggling to make the digital shift, but you wouldn’t know if from Fairfax’s SMH app. It’s crisp, clear, image-driven, and extremely aesthetically appealing. It’s also packed with handy functions to save stories for later, share with others, and jump to favourite sections.

I’m pretty sure this newspaper app will be my gateway app to the likes of apps for the New Yorker, Longform, and the New York Times.

The Foxtel Go app

photo[3]Released just a few weeks ago and sounding far too good to be true, this app enables you to connect two iPads/iPad Minis to one Foxtel subscription. My parents have two Foxtel connections these days purely because they were sick of me poaching the TV to watch football at precisely the same time they wanted to watch some form of British TV.

I’ve long since moved out and drive back over to take advantage of said second Foxtel connection (I mean, it’s not as if I can afford to install Foxtel at my own place) and, though I’d heard I could effectively siphon off their connection to my iPad Mini, I was convinced it wouldn’t work. Surely Foxtel would detect I wasn’t on the same network, that I in fact wasn’t even in the same house?

It turns out not (although I’m still unsure whether this is deliberate or an as-yet-undiagnosed quirk), and I can now successfully pilfer Foxtel’s football from my parents’ connection. Provided it doesn’t change the ‘loophole’, Foxtel Go is officially the best. app. ever.

Finding out what’s next

I’m just days into my iPad Mini discovery tour, so I’m sure there are more than a billion features and apps I’ve not yet discovered. Are there any you’d recommend I download immediately and roadtest?

*Please excuse my rather dodgy phone photos—I’m a little incapacitated and a lot a fan of take-it-from-your-phone efficiency and ease. You get the right idea from them, yeah?

SMH joins longform journalism ebook push

Fairfax Media has published Australia’s first newspaper-driven longform journalism ebook.

Framed, by Sydney Morning Herald Asia-Pacific editor Hamish McDonald, is available to Kindle and Kindle app users via the Amazon website, and is priced at $1.99.

It’s a hard-hitting piece of investigative journalism, examining a shocking incident in Australia’s history deemed the equivalent to Britain’s Guildford Four and Birmingham Six cases (in which ten individuals were wrongly convicted over IRA terrorism bombings – remember Daniel Day-Lewis in In the Name of the Father)?

According to McDonald, Australia’s criminal justice system bears similar guilt, for locking up the so-called Croatian Six more than 30 years ago. The young Croatian-Australians were convicted of plotting to plant bombs around Sydney, and each served time in prison. McDonald has found evidence to suggest the men were set up by the intelligence service of the then Communist Yugoslav state.

He tells of the involvement of unwitting police officers (Roger Rogerson was among those who carried out the arrests) who may have acted inappropriately, of a judicial system turning a blind eye to flaws in evidence, and to Canberra officials covering up knowledge of the Yugoslav role.

He speaks to some of the men, and to members of their families. It’s a riveting read – I finished it in 45 minutes.

The 10,000-word title will be promoted via a 2000-word extract published in the print edition of today’s Sydney Morning Herald, on smh.com.au and in the SMH iPad app.

Sydney Morning Herald tablet editor Stephen Hutcheon has managed the project. He told uBookish in an exclusive interview yesterday that the publication came about because the newspaper was unable to publish such a lengthy work in its own pages, either in print, online or via the app.

“It wouldn’t have looked as good as a big block of text online or in an app,” he said, adding that longer pieces like these need extra formatting and breaking up into smaller chunks to work in those formats.

Hutcheon, who has been following developments in ebooks and longform journalism for some time, proposed the long work be published as a Kindle ebook, and having received clearance from the newspaper’s editor and editor-in-chief, went ahead and did just that this week.

“This is a very low key thing,” he said.

“Everyone is just happy to give it a go.

“We’re just seeing whether we can do it, and what the reaction is – whether there is room for longform journalism.”

Initially, Hutcheon submitted the work to Amazon’s Kindle Singles program, but it was rejected – probably because Amazon’s publishing program is, like most of its activities, heavily US-centric. The email he received suggested Fairfax publish the work directly for Kindle themselves.

Hutcheon, who as a former SMH website editor is experienced with html coding, did the file conversion himself once the book was edited in house. He then spent a fitful night hoping the advertised 12-hour turnaround before the ebook would be live in the Kindle store would be accurate. It was, and you can download the book here.

Hutcheon chose the Kindle format because it allowed him to reach a wide audience via the Kindle apps for smartphones and tablets as well as the Kindle device itself. However, he did not rule out making the work available through other channels.

“We haven’t signed away exclusive rights to Kindle,” he said.

McDonald is the author of four previously published books, including Mahabharata in Polyester (2010, University of NSW Press) and Death in Balibo, Lies in Canberra (co-authored, 2000, Allen & Unwin).

A former Fairfax journalist, Charlotte Harper worked as a web producer on smh.com.au from 1997 to 2001.