My journals from my first years of teaching will have to wait again, because I took the plunge and bought an iPad. I’m eager to write about it. Aside from there being something about touchscreen technology that makes me feel like I just stepped off of the Star Trek set (in a, you know, modern, hip kind of way), having an iPad has already changed my relationship to books. It’s too early to tell just how, but I’ve got my finger on the pulse.

The purchase was precipitated by several things: 1) the few friends and colleagues who have them talk about them non-stop, 2) as an educator, it’s about time I figure out how to use an e-reader, 3) there’s something very exciting happening with Apple technology right now that I don’t want to miss out on, and 4) I want to play around with making my own books, something that iBooks Author lets you do. The latter was, for now, the biggest pull — I wrote a post about digital dissertations earlier in the life of this blog, and have been thinking about my question ever since — is there a format that allows for a creative, digital way of displaying a dissertation? iBooks Author says yes. There are plenty of proprietary issues that I don’t want to get into in this post, but in the short-term, I’m intrigued.

But my initial question about the iPad was, what’s the best method for digital annotation? So I did a little ‘research,’ asked around, and ended up downloading a few apps to test out — PDFReaderLite, iAnnotate, and GoodReader. Here’s what I found out.

iBooks: Although you can annotate e-books in this app, annotating PDFs is impossible. To quote a friend, “avoid iBooks like the plague except for pleasure reading.”

PDFReaderLite: I don’t recommend this app for research purposes, as it mirrors how PDFs work in iBooks — you can only read them.

iAnnotate: I can see why people like this app: it allows a number of functions that come digitally close to simulating what it’s like to sit down with a highlighter or pencil and some reading — something I was in search of. You can make notes, highlight, type on top of the text (a function I was hoping to find in my search), and annotations are automatically saved.

GoodReader: this app is pretty similar to iAnnotate — the only major thing I found that distinguishes it is the option to save an annotated copy before you start marking up the original. As a researcher working with dynamic content, I really appreciate this. And in tandem with Dropbox, I think GoodReader might be the answer to my annotation woes. (Note: Not to be confused with Goodreads!).