Now out in a second edition, Wallace Wang’s My New iPad: A User’s Guide is a clearly written instructional manual that will have new iPad owners up and running with a minimum of study. It begins with the simplest basics: turning it on and off, recharging, using the various controls, and takes the reader through its more advanced features, notes, maps, email, and so on. It gives very precise instructions about how to use each feature and includes abundant illustrations. Each set of instructions starts from the very beginning, so the user doesn’t have to read the book cover to cover in specific order, but can “bounce around and follow the chapters that capture” his interest. Read what you’re interested in, the author advises in the introduction, and ignore the rest until you need it.
This is the kind of user’s manual you would normally expect to get from the manufacturer, and while Apple doesn’t include one with the iPad, it does make one available on line. A cursory comparison of the Apple’s manual and Wang’s book shows that they cover pretty much the same material. Some may find his instructions easier to follow; some may find his repetitions annoying. But in the main, there is little to differentiate between the two. Indeed, the main difference seems to be that the one gives you the opportunity to hold a real book in your hand, while the other plugs you into a pdf file. Old geezers who still prefer turning actual pages will take some comfort in the book. Youngsters more attuned to digesting information electronically may prefer the on-line guide.
One has to ask, however, whether youngster or geezer, if you’re going to get yourself an iPad in the first place, doesn’t that suggest at least some level of confidence with electronic innovation? It is ironic that in the chapter in which he discusses using the iPad to read ebooks, Wang touts the advantages of the electronic reader and concludes: “After reading an ebook on the iPad, reading paper books will suddenly seem quaint.” He does admit that there may be something irreplaceable in the “feel of a finely crafted book,” but I would sincerely doubt that his iPad manual is the kind of finely crafted tome he has in mind.
I would guess the real question is whether you would find Wang’s guide easier to understand and more useful than the Apple manual. Since they cover the same material, a comparison would be in order. In the section on maps, the Apple manual tells you how to search for a location:
“1 Tap the search field to bring up the keyboard.
2 Type an address or other search information.
3 Tap Search.”
This is followed by an illustration. Wang’s instructions for finding an address give six steps. He starts from the home screen and tells you to tap maps and the Maps screen will appear. Then you are to tap the search tab if it has not already been selected. Tap the field screen to bring up the keyboard. Type an address and tap the search key. The map, he says, will show a red pin to indicate the location of the address. An illustration of the final screen is included. He then adds a fifth step to tell you how to get different views of the address: “Tap the orange circle with the white silhouette of a person in it. The screen shows you a photograph of the area around the address,” and then he directs you to another illustration and explains how you can get a 360 degree view of the location. He ends by telling you how to get back to the map or tap done. The Apple manual gives you the rest of this information later in the chapter, but it is certainly more convenient to have it all in one place.
In the end Wang’s book has several things going for it. Instructions are clear and easy to follow. Even though it makes for a lot of repetition, everything you need to know about any given task is in one handy place. It also provides a web address readers can use when inevitable updates are available. For those among us who aren’t the most tech savvy, this kind of guide may well make life with the iPad more convenient. It may give us at least a shot at optimizing our iPad experience. For the more computer literate, on the other hand, well, I would doubt this book was intended for you.