Ebook Review: The Pillars of the Earth

Ebook FAIL.

Since this week’s blog theme seems to be FAIL, I figure I’d finish off the run of FAIL posts with the most epic failure of all: Penguin’s “ebook,” Pillars of the Earth. This attempt at ebook publishing is so full of FAIL that I almost don’t know where to begin.

When is an Ebook not an Ebook?

Home ScreenWhen it’s an app.

That’s the first problem. Announced almost the same day as Apple’s announcement that iBooks would support multimedia elements, I made the assumption that this new, “amplified” edition of Ken Follett’s novel would be an example of iBooks’ new capabilities.

I was wrong.

Not only is this a standalone iPad app, but it requires a whopping 1.54 GB of storage space on an iPad. “Updates” — and there has been one so far — are equally huge. In fact, Apple warns you:

Do not attempt to download this product wirelessly. Download in the App Store on your computer and transfer to your iPad by synching your apps.

The product itself is poorly designed, consisting of:

  • An ebook reader module. There’s nothing special about this at all. While it mimics the iBooks’ curling page flip, its implementation is sluggish and buggy; more than once, the page flip happened so slowly that it was impossible to turn the page. (It just wouldn’t move enough to “flip” over.) I had to quit the app and restart it to continue reading. The table of contents is broken down to the chapter level which wouldn’t be so bad if the chapters weren’t 50+ pages long. As a result, if you wanted to go back to a previous part of the book, it took forever to go to the page you wanted and then return to where you’d left off. Ebook settings do not include font size; you have to pinch to change that and more than once, it reset itself.
  • Character TreeA “Character Tree.” This feature is supposed to help you understand the relationship between characters. I found it nearly impossible to navigate and parts of it seemed to be locked out. It was more of a source of frustration than information. I still can’t figure out why some characters have flashing halos.
  • About the Author material. This includes text and video information about Ken Follett, author of mostly spy thrillers. This book is not spy thriller.
  • About TV Series material. This is the extras stuff that’ll likely turn up on the DVD. Starz marketing material, through and through. I figured I’d go through it when I was done with the book, but after the disappointment of being locked out of content, I figured it would be better to avoid additional frustration.
  • Links. I guess if they’ve got us, they may as well shoot marketing material at us with both barrels.

The settings screen is a joke. While it might have been a good place to put font settings, instead it offers just two options: Page Flip Sounds and Use Night Theme.

Annoying DialogI think the ultimate indicator that this is a poorly designed app is the dialog that appears every single time you open the app. Illustrated here, it includes a Don’t Show button. I tapped it every single time, but the damn dialog continued to appear.

Typos, Missing Breaks

The ebook text had its own problems:

  • There were typos. Real typos. I stopped counting after seven.
  • There was no indication of scene changes. For example, you’d be reading a scene where two characters are talking or doing something. Next line, another character who isn’t in the scene is talking or doing something. Huh? While the printed book may have used additional space to indicate a scene change, the ebook version doesn’t bother with such niceties. I guess they think the reader needs to be jarred to his senses once in a while.

Apparently, copyediting is not part of the ebook production process at Penguin.

The Movie Clips

Embedded in the book’s text are icons that, when clicked, may or may not display a movie clip from the Starz dramatization of the book. There were four problems with this feature.

  • Movie ClipThe clip usually did not match the text. The screenplay is apparently not a faithful adaptation, so dialog, characters, and scenes are different. Watching these clips while reading the book is like reading a book and watching a movie roughly based on it at the same time. Not a very rewarding experience.
  • The clips are teasers. There’s not enough content to make them valuable. They’re merely a tool to get you to watch or buy the Starz series.
  • The clip would not reliably play full screen width. You had to coax it to fill the screen by tapping a button in the upper right corner.
  • Unable to PlayThe clip would not display until it had aired on Starz! This zapped me early on. After reading a passage that described the cathedral under construction, I was pleased to see a video icon, hoping to be able to visualize the rather complex description. Instead, a dialog box (see image) told me that “speed-readers” had to wait until that clip aired more than a week later! My surprise quickly turned to anger when I realized I’d been sold a marketing tool for Starz.

The Book

Ken Follett writes spy thrillers. I’ve read a few of them. They’re good. Ken Follett should keep writing them and stop writing medieval historical fiction.

At first, the book was a pleasure to read. It introduced me to medieval times with an air of authenticity — other than dialog, of course — that was enjoyable to me. The dialog was not authentic at all and I think that’s okay. I don’t think I could have struggled through medieval dialects, spelling, and grammar.

But the book got very long very quickly. I’m a fast reader and can normally knock off a novel in two or three days, reading in the evening before bed. This one took more than a week. It seemed to go on and on and on. The story got boring. Even when it was supposed to be exciting it got boring.

About halfway through, I realized that I wasn’t enjoying the book anymore. I’d passed the point of being able to watch video content — nothing was available to me — so all I could do was read. And what I read was disturbing.

Spoilers Ahead!

The book had several antagonists. One was a violent man named William who couldn’t seem to have sex with a woman unless beating her was part of the act. He raped one of the protagonists while her brother was forced to watch and then had his groom rape her, too. He basically went through the book, beating, raping, and killing. There was no stopping him. He literally got away with murder again and again.

It made me sick.

Another antagonist was a bishop who would forgive William for his sins. No matter how bad they were. He was evil in his own way and also seemed to get away with his acts over and over.

These two antagonists, and a few other minor ones who wound through the plot, had their way with just about anything. It was heartbreaking to read their latest dastardly deeds, page after page. After a while, I wondered why I was reading. There was no enjoyment in the plot, no real reward for the reader who needs to see good triumph over evil. It was simply a long, drawn out punishment for the good guys.

We’re not talking about a short book here. The mass market paperback — the version you’d buy in an airport bookstore, for example — is 983 pages. That’s a hell of a lot of evil to wade through.

Oh, every once in a while, the protagonists would win a small victory. They defended their town against William and his raiders, “only” losing 70 or so people in the process. Hooray. That was after William had burned their town to the ground on the previous raid, killing innocent men, women, and children, including one of the protagonists, and causing the financial ruin of the woman he’d raped while her brother watched. Talk about insult to injury, huh?

Throughout the whole book, I kept waiting for William to get his just desserts. He finally did, on the last pages of the book. Somehow he and the rest of the cast had managed to live — during medieval times, when Wikipedia reports average life expectancy to be only 30 years — to their 50s, 60s, and beyond. It was then that William was finally hanged. An astute reader will realize that the bad guy has lived a long and comfortable life, directly responsible for the rape, maiming, and murder of hundreds of people, and it is only in his old age that he’s finally punished. We’re supposed to be satisfied with that?

The interaction between the characters was unrealistic and contrived most of the time. I’d read a scene and wonder why they did (or didn’t do) what they did (or didn’t do). It doesn’t seem to make sense sometimes. It’s as if the author’s only purpose is to set them up for something in the future — something unpleasant. And there are only so many times you can get into a character’s head and read the same thoughts before you stop caring about what’s in there.

And sex? Not only is it prevalent throughout the book, but it’s often quite graphic, with various private parts being stroked, grabbed, fondled, squeezed, sucked — you get the idea. I don’t know how it got past the Apple censors with this rating:

Rated 12+ for the following:
• Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content or Nudity
• Infrequent/Mild Realistic Violence

Mild? I don’t think so. The graphic descriptions of the rapes with their violence against women were disturbing enough to warrant a more protective rating than that.

And I don’t think I’ve read the words fuck and cunt so many times in a book in a long time — if ever. If this were a movie with that language, it would be rated R — that’s 17 and older, Apple.

But the most tasteless bit of narrative? One of the protagonists having sex with a stranger within hours of his wife dying while giving birth to their child. And we’re supposed to like these characters?

Finally, the book was supposed to be about the building of a medieval cathedral. In reality, it was a book about the brutality of the ruling class, the corruption of the Catholic church, and the rough life of peasants during medieval times.

Spoilers Done.

A Learning Experience

I thought this “ebook” would be a publishing breakthrough. That’s how it was heralded on USAToday and other news outlets.

After seeing the excellent Wired app — which I need to review here, too — I had very high expectations for ebook publishing. I thought that publishers finally “got it.” I didn’t expect them to take advantage of readers by selling them advertising material for a partner organization. I didn’t expect to be locked out of content I’d paid for. I didn’t expect an ebook to take up so much precious space on my iPad.

I’m not the only one disappointed by this mess. The iTunes store shows only 29 ratings averaging only 2 out of 5 stars. I wonder how many other buyers have demanded their money back, too.

My refund comes this week.

Highest Duty

A book review.

Highest DutyLast night, I stayed up late to finish reading Highest Duty by US Airways pilot Chelsey B. “Sully” Sullenberger. Captain Sullenberger was the pilot in command of US Airways Flight 1549, which landed with no loss of life in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009.

I’d been wanting to read the book for a while but I kept putting it off. I wanted it to be my first purchased ebook experience. I was supposed to get a Nook for Christmas, but the idiots at Barnes & Noble were completely clueless about customer service and timely order fulfillment, so I canceled the order. I wound up with an iPad in April. After weighing the benefits and drawbacks of ebook reader software — iBooks, Kindle Reader, and B&N Reader — I decided to go with the Kindle software and ordered the Kindle edition of the book from Amazon.com. From what I hear from Twitter friends, the iPad makes a better “Kindle” than Amazon’s Kindle.

On Heroes

I’ve always been intrigued by Captain Sullenberger’s modesty and apparent reluctance to bask in the limelight of his extraordinary experience. People call him a hero but he [rightly] refuses that title. He quotes from a letter he received after his Hudson River landing: “I see a hero as electing to enter a dangerous situation for a higher purpose, and you were not given a choice.”

I agree with this definition of a hero. Captain Sullenberger did what he had to do and was fortunate enough to have the knowledge, experience, demeanor, and team to carry it off successfully. His love and respect of life — including, of course, his own — is what motivated him to do everything he could to succeed.

In many ways, that’s better than being a hero. When a terrible situation was thrust upon him by circumstances he could not change, he rose to the occasion and emerged victorious, saving the lives of 105 people. Along the way, he gave the rest of us hope — after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, in the midst of a serious economic recession, with wars going on in the Mideast — he showed us what people can accomplish when put to the test. He gave us the happy ending we all needed.

It Wasn’t a “Miracle”

Another thing that intrigued — and, I’ll admit, pleased — me about Captain Sullenberger was his failure to credit his success to the intervention of some supernatural being. I’m talking about God.

I can’t tell you how sick I am of seeing famous athletes and celebrities and just plain people thank God for something good happening to them. Scored a record number of goals in a basketball game? Thank God! Won a Grammy? Praise Jesus! Tornado took out the house next to yours but left yours unscathed? God was watching out for you!

It makes me sick. People don’t want to give themselves credit where credit is due. They work hard, they train, they practice, but they give God credit for getting the ball through the hoop. They learn music, they practice singing, they get a great producer who helps package their material, but they give Jesus credit for winning that Grammy. They don’t want to admit that luck has a place in our lives — good luck preserves one house while bad luck takes the one next door away. What of the people who lost the basketball game or the Grammy or their home? Did God simply not like them as much? And what about when these winners get their own dose of bad luck — injury, illness, scandal, death? Did God change his mind about them?

Captain Sullenberger, however, did not thank God or any other supernatural being for the positive outcome of his Hudson landing. At least I didn’t hear him do so in any article, interview, or elsewhere. I wanted to read the book to be sure that he didn’t thank God within its pages. He didn’t.

And that just makes me respect him even more.

The Story

The book mingles autobiographical material with events from the day of the landing. The autobiographical material was presented in a roughly chronological order, but did bounce around a lot with side stories, including references to the Hudson landing. I’m not sure that was the best approach, but it did keep me reading.

Captain Sullenberger is clearly a true pilot. He entered aviation because of his love of flying. From his start as a teen, he took aviation seriously, learning what he could to be a better, safer pilot. He understands the importance of knowing an aircraft’s systems inside and out. He understands the value of studying past accidents to prevent future ones. He also understands that all the things that happen in our lives define who we are and how we will react in a given situation.

Flight 1549 from Wikipedia

This iconic photo of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River by GregL originally uploaded to Flickr can be found on Wikipedia under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.

A detailed discussion of the events of January 15, 2009 begin about 60% through the book. The story is riveting. He combines his narrative of what happened with references to his past that he believes influenced him to make certain decisions. For example, his knowledge of research into why military pilots sometimes ejected too late is part of why he decided not to worry about saving the airplane by attempting an airport landing and instead concentrate on saving the people by landing in the river. (There’s a lot more to his decision than that; this is just part of what went into it.)

Throughout this part of the book are bits and pieces of the cockpit transcript, recorded by microphones during the flight — the so-called “black box” data. Even though I knew how it would end — don’t we all? — I found the details fascinating. It was a great example of teamwork between Captain Sullenberger and his first officer, Jeff Skiles. Later in the narrative, it was clear that the flight attendants were also part of the team, helping passengers off the plane in as orderly a manner as possible.

The aftermath of the experience also made interesting reading. Getting an inside look at the mail Captain Sullenberger received from people on the plane — as well as many people who had no direct connection to the flight or its passengers at all — revealed the psychology of people. I’m not the only one who appreciated the happy ending to that seemingly doomed flight.

The Soapbox

One of the complaints people have had about the book is the soapbox aspect. Captain Sullenberger believes that airline pilots are not treated as well as they should be by their employers considering the hours and responsibilities of their work. He believes that pay cuts and pension cuts are making it ever more difficult to attract and retain quality pilots who actually care about their work. He suggests that airline pilots are like bus drivers of the sky.

Although I don’t have intimate knowledge of the airline industry, as a professional pilot who has worked for a large tour operator, I know exactly what he means. Aviation employers don’t care how good a pilot is. As long as the pilot meets insurance requirements and can do the job, all that matters is how much that pilot costs. In my experience, many employers would rather hire a cheap, entry level pilot than a seasoned professional who costs more. They don’t see the benefit of the experience. They’re gambling, of course, on the equipment and circumstances of flight — when something goes wrong, will the entry level pilot have the experience and knowledge to bring the aircraft and passengers back safely?

In the airline industry, pilots are locked into their employers for seniority. If they leave one airline, they lose all seniority and start at the bottom at their new employer. This prevents experienced pilots from looking for better jobs. It stagnates the employee pool. And although Captain Sullenberger didn’t mention this, it prevents good ideas from one airline from migrating to another.

Captain Sullenberger does discuss how many airline employees have simply stopped caring about anything other than what’s in their job description. As budget cuts reduce non-essential staff, customer service suffers. Captain Sullenberger talks about his personal experiences going the “extra mile” to help passengers who can’t get the help they need from other airline employees. He talks about how most airline employees are simply tired of doing other people’s jobs. He doesn’t blame them — he hints that they’re underpaid for what they’re supposed to do — but he does decry the system that results in this poor attitude.

He also believes that budget cuts have the potential to reduce safety. A good example of this is the emergency procedures book that his first officer needed to consult on the loss of both engines. In the past, the book had numbered tabs that made it easier to find content. The airline, in a cost-cutting measure, had stopped including the tabs, making it necessary to thumb through the book and look at individual page headings to find content. In the slightly more than three minutes the cockpit crew had to land the plane without engines, every second was valuable. Yes, this flight had a happy ending — but could other flights be lost due to cost cutting measures like this? It certainly makes you wonder.

My feelings about Captain Sullenberger’s soapbox are mixed. I didn’t like reading his complaints, but, at the same time, I knew they were valid. And I know that his experience and the interviews, articles, and books that come from it are the perfect way to get the message out.

While Captain Sullenberger was careful not to criticize his airline, it’s clear that US Airways is just as bad as the others when it comes to matters of pilot compensation and cost-cutting. Perhaps his insight will help make the situation better?

Sadly, it probably won’t.

Thumbs Up

In all, I give the book two thumbs up. While it’s especially good reading for pilots and others interested in aviation, I also think it makes a good guide for young people who want to make something of their lives. And for the rest of the world, it’s a great look at one of the most amazing emergency landings we’ll likely ever see.

iPad: First Impressions

First thoughts on Apple’s “magical” device.

iPadLast week, while I was away in Ventura, CA, recording a revision to my Twitter course for Lynda.com, I took the plunge and bought an iPad. I bought the 32 GB WiFi version. I already pay for Internet in three places and am not willing to add a fourth monthly Internet bill.

Because I had a lot of work to do all day in the recording booth and a lot of work to do in the evening to prepare for the next day in the recording booth, I didn’t open my new toy for over 24 hours. This was particularly difficult on the last day of recording when I could see the bag containing my new iPad right outside my booth, just beyond where my producer sat.

@Miraz commented on Twitter that I have iron willpower. She may be right, at least as far as this goes.

So later that day, when the course was in the can (dig my movie lingo), I finally got a chance to break my iPad out of its box and play with it.

Very First Impressions

My immediate impression on power up: disappointment.

The trouble is, if you don’t have an Internet connection when you first power up, there’s not much of interest to play with. So the “right out of the box” experience isn’t too thrilling. Perhaps Apple should have included some sort of video tour? Or sample content? Something to give you a gee whiz, this is fun feeling?

I didn’t have Internet when I first fired it up. I was staying in a hotel that had WiFi but it was kind of flakey. I’d connect with my MacBook Pro and maybe be able to access a page or two and then it would throw up a page forcing me to log in for free. It did this at least once a day. When my iPad reported that too many people were connected (?), I thought it was this weird hotel Internet.

Similarly, I had trouble connecting my iPad to my MacBook Pro with the provided cable. I kept getting weird error messages on the iPad. I kept doing what I thought — intuitively, mind you — would fix the problem. Eventually, it did. I made the connection to my MacBook Pro and, moments later, the weird hotel login screen appeared in Safari on my iPad. I connected to the world.

Suddenly, the iPad wasn’t so disappointing anymore.

The Good

I’ll tackle the list of what’s good about my first experience first.

  • Included Apps. The iPad comes with a number of applications and most of them are good, well designed, and useful. I’m constantly surprised by how well thought out some of them are. I’m especially impressed with the implementation of Address Book and the way Mail makes it very easy to add a sender as a contact. (More on apps — specifically, interface — in “The Bad” section below.)
  • iPad CaseApple Case. Frankly, I can’t understand why so many third party vendors are creating and selling cases for this device. The plain black case Apple offers (at a whopping $49) is excellent. It provides the protection you need for your iPad investment without making a slim, portable device unnecessarily bulky. And since the cover can be used to prop up the iPad at an angle in landscape view, it does double duty. Now that I’ve slipped my iPad into it, I can’t imagine the need for anything else.

Just two good things? Yes. For now. After all, these are my first impressions.

The Bad

Here’s what I didn’t like about the iPad. Remember these are first impressions. I’ve organized these by how nit-picky they are. The first ones are minor whines; the last ones are what I consider serious drawbacks.

  • Packaging. There’s too much. The box is beautiful, as most Apple product boxes are, but it’s about twice as big as it needs to be. As a result, I had to leave it behind in my hotel garbage pail. Couldn’t fit it in my luggage. And let’s be real here: Aren’t big boxes a bit wasteful?
  • Documentation. There is none. Well, there is a small card with a picture of the iPad and callouts to what its few buttons do. Beyond than that and a few brief instructions on the back of the card, you’re pretty much on your own until you can get on the Internet. That’s where you can download a 154-page iPad User Guide available as a PDF. As @JeffCarlson pointed out, there’s a link to this manual in Safari’s bookmarks. Sadly, I replaced Safari’s bookmarks before seeing that link. I had to stumble upon the documentation on Apple’s Web site. You can find it on the Manuals page.
  • Interface. While I’m sure the iPad’s interface is completely intuitive to someone who has been using an iPhone or an iPod Touch for years, it was very unintuitive to me. (I’ve never owned an iPhone or iPod Touch.) I didn’t immediately (or intuitively) know how to go back to a previous screen or perform some functions. I kept looking for Mac OS type interface elements that I needed to get a job done and coming up empty. Instead, there was some other element II’d never seen before that did the job. Yeah, I know I’m not a genius, but I make my living figuring out how things like this work and I still struggled a bit with it. I think that putting this in the hands of someone who has always used the same kind of computer and operating system his/her entire life will stoke up a lot of frustration. It’s very interesting to me how individuals who have no computer experience — very young children, older folks, and cats — seem to be able to use the iPad without much problem. I think it’s because they don’t have to “relearn” anything to do so.
  • Keyboard. In general, the keyboard is pretty good and very easy to use. But it’s definitely not one a writer would depend on to write a long piece. I started this blog post on my iPad (in the WordPress app, no less) and wound up sending it to my iMac to finish. (I got as far as the second bullet point in this list and added the images later.) I would go nuts if I had to write more than a few paragraphs with that keyboard. My main gripe? The apostrophe key. It’s in a weird place. I do need to mention, however, that since I learned how to use the dictionary assistant feature that’s part of text entry — I had to look it up in the User’s Guide, for Pete’s sake! — typing is a lot better, although not much faster. Using a wireless keyboard helps tremendously. The Keyboard Dock that Apple offers, by the way, is obviously not designed for travel. The Dock part doesn’t detach, making it extremely bulky. I’m surprised at Apple. They can do better design that that.
  • KindleKindle vs. iBooks. I think Apple missed the boat on this one. The Kindle app (see screenshot) has iBooks beat. Why? Because the Kindle app is available for iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, Mac OS, Windows, etc. iBooks is available on iPad. So I go to Amazon.com and I buy a book. That book is automatically available on all of my registered devices. My bookmarks and last page read are automatically synchronized among them. So I can read a book in bed on my iPad and then, the next day, when I’m stuck waiting in line at the Motor Vehicle office, I can whip out my BlackBerry and continue reading where I left off. Theoretically, I can also register my husband’s Windows laptop so he can read my books, too. The only thing that would make this better is the ability to loan books to other Amazon.com account holders like Barnes and Noble’s Nook. (By the way, I named my iPad “Not Nook” because I cancelled my Nook order in January, expecting to buy an iPad instead. B&N dropped the ball when they couldn’t fulfill orders in a timely manner. Not having a problem doing that anymore, I bet.)
  • iTunes. The iTunes app is really the iTunes store. It’s embarrassing to admit that it took several frustrating sessions with my iPad to figure out that I had to use the iPod app to access my iTunes music. Hello, Apple? You had to include two store applications? You couldn’t just make one? This really illustrates what some blogger — wish I could remember who! — said about the iPad: it’s just a vehicle for selling content.
  • No FlashFlash. Okay, so the iPad doesn’t support Flash. I don’t care very much because I hate Flash. I hate the way it’s overused on the Web, I hate the way it takes so damn long to load on the shitty slow Internet connection in my Wickenburg office, I hate the way when it finally loads that it wastes time and bandwidth with idiotic content. Take, for example, the crappy design of Stingray Sushi’s Web site. Like I need to see dancing Sumo wrestlers? Hear loud music? I couldn’t see or hear it on my iPad, but even when my husband connected with his laptop, he still couldn’t figure out how to view a menu. Web designers lean too hard on Flash to make Web sites they think will impress clients. They don’t consider the user experience. If not having Flash on my iPad means I’ll miss experiencing crap like Stingray’s site (see iPad screenshot), I consider that a positive feature of the iPad. Right now, it’s just a drawback because I occasionally can’t see something I might need to see.
  • Tethering for Internet Access. I knew this would be an issue when I bought it, but it still bugs me: I cannot use Bluetooth to tether my iPad to my BlackBerry Storm for Internet access. I can do so with my MacBook Pros, my iMac, my old PowerBook, and even my Dell laptop when I need to. But this capability is unsupported on iPad and is likely to remain so. I resent this. The only reason Apple has locked up the tethering feature is so force encourage people to buy a more expensive device and sign up for Internet access with Apple-approved providers. And even a long-time Apple user like me — it’s been 21 years since I bought my first Mac — should be able to look at the situation objectively enough to realize that it sucks.

Overall, I Like it

After reading all this, it may sound like I hate my iPad. I don’t. I rather like it.

The challenge is to understand what the device is and isn’t — and how it can be part of my life. I already see a bright future for it as a take-everywhere device. I even bought a new purse that it will fit comfortably inside. (I was long overdue for a new purse anyway.)

Testing has shown that it handles my multiple IMAP e-mail accounts extremely well. Browsing is quite acceptable. The e-book reader (Kindle is my choice) is magnificent. Syncing through MobileMe puts my calendar, address book, and Safari bookmarks at my fingertips. (Literally.) Twitterrific’s iPad app is an excellent choice for accessing Twitter and Instapaper gives me the ability to read Web content I’ve saved for later reading, even when I’m offline. The Netflix app gives me access to movies available for immediate playing through my Netflix account. I’ve even tested the iPad with my merchant account and found that have no trouble processing credit card transactions.

Of course, these aren’t first impressions. These are the things I’ve learned since Wednesday evening at about 8 PM. Less than four days.

As I learn more, I’ll likely start churning out how-to pieces and tips on Maria’s Guides. I’ll be sharing more overall impressions — good and bad — here.

But don’t worry. I do have a life beyond my iPad.