The iPad mini is a great digital textbook

ipad min itextbook - for some reason we don't have an alt tag here

I have a big exam in a week, and so I’ve been stuck in front of my iPad mini for most of the day lately. Storing and reading textbooks is one of my primary uses for an iPad, and also a major factor in deciding to get the iPad mini.

The size and weight of the iPad mini really comes into play when you read on it. It’s a completely different experience, closer to using something like the Kindle than it is to using a full size iPad. I can hold it for hours without getting tired, and without having any sharp edges dig into my palms.

The resolution is going to be an important point for many. The iPad 3 and 4 have four times the resolution, so if you’re used to that level of detail on text, the mini is going to be a problem. I came from an iPad 2, so it’s the same resolution with better PPI, leaving me quite happy with it. I even run two pages on the screen at once sometimes, which basically halves the resolution, but I still find it readable. It’s not that I don’t like higher resolution text, it’s just that I don’t consider it that important.

Speaking of the resolution, there’s a misconception going around out there about the resolution difference between the iPad mini and the Nexus 7. The iPad mini has a 1024 x 768 screen, while the Nexus 7 has a 1280 x 800 resolution. On paper, the Nexus 7 has a significantly higher resolution, and also a much higher PPI since the screen is smaller. In practice though, it really depends on the content you’re viewing. If you’re viewing anything that’s fullscreen on both, the Nexus 7 wins hands down (resolution-wise, though tablet-optimization for apps is a whole other story). If you’re viewing something in widescreen format, the Nexus 7 wins with an ever greater margin, as the iPad mini has a 4:3 ratio screen that gets black bars on widescreen content. However, if you’re viewing 4:3 content, like a lot of content that’s formatted for paper, the resolution difference is very small. Held vertically, a Nexus 7 displaying 4:3 content will have massive black bars on the top and bottom, and be restricted by the 800 pixels in the short side of the screen. This is only 32 more pixels than the iPad mini, so when you have something that display fullscreen on the iPad mini, it will only display at 1066 x 800 pixels, compared to the iPad mini’s 1024 x 768.

Since I handle a ton of PDF files on the iPad, this screen ratio issue comes into play a lot of times. I used to have a 7-inch Android tablet, and the difference between viewing a document on part of a 7-inch screen compared to all of a 7.9-inch screen does not work in the favor of the 7-inch device. Especially not when all 7-inch Android devices are thicker and heavier than the iPad mini to begin with, and I gave up on finding any PDF handling software for Android that’s as good as what’s available for iOS ages ago.

When it comes to textbooks, you’re also starting to have quite a few digital providers on iOS, least of all Apple itself. I’ve yet to find books I need on any of them, which is fine, since I prefer PDF anyways. Digital textbooks is becoming more and more common in schools, and I think the iPad mini is a big step forward when it comes to the higher education levels where a book is something you pick up and read, not put down and draw in.

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.

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7 thoughts on “The iPad mini is a great digital textbook

  • Hated 7″ tablets until the Mini came along. I thought it must be a size thing and that Jobs was right, 7″ is just too small for a tablet.

    But that isn’t true. 7″ widescreen is, for me, too small on a tablet but the 4:3 screen on the Mini makes it feel like a world of difference. I just feel far less restricted.

    Doesn’t really makes sense until you use one I guess.

    • Avatar of Andreas Ødegård

      I guess that if you use it for video, a widescreen tablet is better. Games may also be better on widescreen for some. For a lot of productivity uses however, 4:3 is the way to go.

    • To be fair, the iPad Mini is 8 inches, not 7. I agree with the principle though: 4:3 is simply better for a majority of use cases.

  • I don’t have any Apple tablets, but the 4×3 ratio is one thing that I think they got right. However, I don’t have any problem with reading on a 7″ 16×9 tablet (I do it all the time, PDFs and ebooks).

  • Avatar of jimmyjack72

    I have a galaxy tab 7.7. It is super thin, solid and has the clearest screen I have had the pleasure to read on or watch videos on. For me it is a step up from the ipad 2.

    • Avatar of Andreas Ødegård

      The 7.7 is great, about as close to the iPad mini you can get in the Android world, with a beautiful high resolution AMOLED screen. I had a tablet with the same chipset for a year, and I tried harder than most people would to find any good PDF software for it. The apps that people rave about on Android are absolute and utter shit compared to what you have on iOS. I’m used to being able to have several documents, often hundreds or thousands of pages long, open in tabs at the same time. Switch between them, annotate, search, sort, sync to dropbox. What I found on Android ws various apps that at best could do a couple of those things, but for the most part were just too freakishly slow to be of any use by the time the page count went up and you started demanding more features. Software is Android’s biggest weakness, and after a year of having an Android tablet, I simply had to stop kidding myself that it would be any better. It’s not a viable solution for what I use a tablet for, and I doubt it ever will be

  • Avatar of d14b0ll0s

    While I agree 4:3 is better for reading, there is plenty of good software for Android tablets at this point. Try RepliGo or Perfect Reader with a PDF plugin.
    iPad would be better for web-content if not for one thing — annoying ads everywhere which you cannot remove without jailbreaking the damn thing. This is the first thing which strikes me when switching from my Nexus 7 or ASUS Infinity to the iPad.


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