Monday, January 31, 2011

Rediscovering TED

The TED website has been one of my favorites for several years.  You'll find videos of many of the most popular TED talks there, all available for free viewing.

TED also offers video access through an iPad app I downloaded awhile back.  I hadn't used it much till I discovered a very important feature: the ability to download and save TED talks locally on your iPad.  I always figured I could access TED videos on their website as easily as through an app.  There's also an option to download the talks from their website but the "Save Talk" button in the app is a much more convenient solution.  I wound up downloading about a dozen talks initially, queuing them up at the same time and setting my iPad aside while they came in.  I've only had time to watch a couple but it's nice knowing they're all with me and immediately viewable regardless of whether I'm online.

TED also recently announced another new extension you might be interested in.  TEDBooks is a collection of short non-fiction works in digital format.  The first three are being distributed via Amazon's new Kindle Singles program.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Warning: Don't Buy InvisibleShield from Zagg

Shortly after I bought my iPad last year I bought the only screen protector that was initially available.  It's called InvisibleShield and it's from a company called Zagg.  Here's a link to the original review I wrote about it.  As with so many consumer goods, everything was fine with it...until I made a replacement request.

You may recall that InvisibleShield was very high-priced (and still is).  I hated all the smudges on the screen and was willing to pay the premium though, particularly since they hyped a lifetime replacement warranty.  Earlier this week the protector got scratched and now needs to be replaced.

I just tried to get a new one and discovered two annoyances with their replacement policy.  First, they charge you the full amount, as if you're a totally new customer, and then promise to reverse the charge a day or two later.  Huh?  I asked the customer service person why and she had no reason.  It's just how they do business.  Second, and even more aggravating, they insist that you to ship your torn protector back to them.

No, I'm not going through the hassle of making sure my credit card charge is reversed and then running to the post office to send them a torn piece of plastic.  It's much easier for me to just stop by Fry's and get a new screen protector for $10.  (Btw, I neglected to mention that Zagg also charges $4 shipping for warranty replacements.)

Very disappointing.  I can't get my $30 back but hopefully I can convince you to not buy anything from Zagg.  They won't get another nickel from me.  These guys could really learn a customer service lesson or two from Zappos.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Revisiting the ESPN Mag iPad App

Now that I've had the ESPN Mag app for a few months I figured it's time to clean things up and delete some of the older issues.  After all, I don't hang onto the print editions after I'm finished with them and I certainly don't want them hogging up memory in my iPad.

I spent a few minutes poking around the app and couldn't find a way to remove an issue.  Rather than waste more time searching I decided to send their customer support an email about it.

Guess what?  It can't be done.  That's right.  Every issue you download has to stay on your iPad.  They sent me a nice enough reply, saying my suggestion "will be forwarded to the appropriate department for review", but this is a a feature that should have been in the app from the start.

I suppose one workaround would be to delete the app from my iPad, re-download it and start over.  That seems silly though, don't you think?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Instapaper App

Offline Pages was one of the first apps I bought for my iPad.  Everyone raved about Instapaper but I stuck with Offline Pages...until recently.  Both apps offer roughly the same functionality and are each priced at $4.99 (although there's a Pro version of Offline Pages selling for $9.99 which includes the ability to save entire web sites, not just individual pages).  Instapaper has at least one significant advantage over Offline Pages though: it lets you save pages in folders rather than just dumping them all in one bucket.

There are two features I'd love to see both of these apps add though.  The first is the ability to sense when an article spans multiple pages and to grab them all.  I can't tell you how many times someone has sent me a link to an article and I click the "Read Later" button on my browser only to discover later (usually when I'm out of a hotspot) that the link only goes to the first page.  To avoid this problem you have to scroll to the bottom of the article in your browser to see if it's all on that page or not.  If not, you typically need to use the Print option on the web page to have your browser render a version with all the content and then click your "Read Later" button.  Why can't these apps scan the page and see if the telltale signs like "Page 1||Page 2||Page 3" links are there?  If so, they could at least warn me that I'm about to only save a portion of the article.  Better yet, they'd have the ability to find the Print option, render the full article and then save it off for me.

The other feature I'd love to see involves marking up articles and sharing them.  I recently read a great article about the news industry that I wanted to annotate and share with others.  I put it in Instapaper and the whole time I read it I kept wishing for options to highlight excerpts, insert comments, etc.  How about we start there and add the ability for me to make notes to myself like this in the version I see in Instapaper?

But let's take it a step further and give me the option to share that marked-up version with my friends.  Either within the Instapaper app or somehow in the version of the web page my friends load, I'd like them to see my comments about that article.  Yes, this request is a bit more challenging than the multi-page one mentioned earlier, but it's quite achievable and something that would add great value to the offline reader app.  What I'm getting at is the need to enable more social networking functionality with these offline readers; not just sharing links but including someone's additional notes about it.  It's a great service to customers wanting to share content as well as publishers/authors of that content who would benefit from the increased visibility.