Saturday, November 02, 2013

I Don't Have Attention Deficit iBooks Disorder

Saturday – Entry 38:

I became distracted by iBooks for the Mac this morning. I should have been working on other things (like writing my book), but iBooks took my attention much to my daughter’s annoyance. “Hey, Dad! What about breakfast?”* I pulled myself away, but every ingredient in the scrambled eggs was infused with my frustration and focus on iBooks. I soon discovered, however, that I don’t have Attention Deficit iBooks Disorder. The real problem wasn’t iBooks at all but my screwy attention deficit from Adult ADHD.

I use my iPad to read a lot of books. If you follow me on GoodReads you already know this. I also try to give them a written review. It’s how I justify time spent reading. By taking time to not just rate, but review, I process the book and improve as a writer. Organizing all those books becomes an important part of this process. When I heard that Apple was releasing iBooks for the Mac, I was actually excited. Finally! A dedicated app to organize and tag all those books. What a shame I was so wrong.

I can only assume that this is stage one of an incomplete project. First, the transfer process crashed on book No.359, so I had to start over again. Then all of my books that hadn’t been purchased in the iBookstore disappeared off my iPad except for a few unfathomable outlier PDFs. Fortunately, the books hadn’t been deleted from the “Books” folder on my Mac, so I could add them back again, except that dragging and dropping the folders to the iBooks icon in the dock didn’t work. It would only accept individual epub files, but dragging folders into the iBooks pane did work, which was again fortunate and time saving but puzzling. Also, the collection of books shown in the iTunes iPad sync tab didn’t match my collection and I couldn’t edit any metatag information—including genre or author data, my “Last Read” information was non-existent since all my books had been read before the new import date, and none of my ratings or comments either transferred over or were accessible. And with the emphasis on purchased books, the user-unfriendly iTunes iPad sync tab has become even more laborious to navigate with large collections of imported books. I’m baffled as to the benefit this move from iTunes to a dedicated iBooks app gives me as a user other than the ability to read books on my Mac—something I don’t do because I don’t have a laptop. Apple renders asunder old ways when forcing their customers to adopt new ways. It is very irritating for those of us who have non-standard work flows.[1] The only consolation I have is that Apple usually fixes things, especially when they reboot something as they have done with the iBooks app for Mavericks.

Being interrupted to make breakfast helped prevent me from wasting any time on this buggy version 1.0. Because I am used to having supreme skill over my computer demesne, the occasional crashing program can suck up quite a lot of my time. I tend to get fixated making software bend to my bidding. However, as I diced the green onions and sautéed the mushrooms I began to wonder about something else: Why don’t I read books on my Mac? After all, I read news ad infinitum on my Mac. If something political happens, I can be sucked into the web for hours reading updates and opinions and even the comments.[2] On a bad distraction day I can read news for hours. So why not a book?

That’s when I realized this was just a new manifestation of an old problem. I can be distracted doing something for hours, but I can’t be distracted on purpose. To do the same activity on purpose makes me feel guilty—likely because I spend so much time being distracted. Also, news is given in 250–500 word blocks that I can quickly consume before moving on. Contrarily, reading books is an investment in time, and something I’d rather do sitting on my couch near the reading light.[3] All of this self-reflection has made me wonder if maybe I spend too much time reading news. Certainly I can spend my time better. Actually, I’d rather be writing a book, but if I can’t be writing a book, I should be reading one. I don’t have any other insights to glean from this other than maybe I need to cap my news reading to 30–45 minutes for the entire day. Set a timer. Make a new habit. This is nothing new. News reading is one habit that needs constant management. I love love LOVE new information.

However, I won’t be able to meet my writing goals if I don’t carve more time out of my day, and I can’t carve out more time if I don’t manage my Adult ADHD. When considered that way, finding the motivation to rein in my reading habits becomes easy.

  1. One thing that would make this easier for me is if the iTunes iPad sync pane allowed me to see the books by collection. This would allow me to easily select and deselect imported books to match the collection over in iBooks the Mac app. Fortunately, I can filter through my hundreds of books with the search feature to find the ones I need, but I still have to continually flip back and forth with iBooks to create a true sync. All of this could be done away with if Apple simply allowed the same functionality with iBooks that they allow with iPhoto. I could select book collections like photo albums, and opt to automatically include new books by date so that my large collection didn’t fill up my iPad the way my large photo collection would.  ↩

  2. I do so try to avoid the comments. Not all sites are created equal. Many allow their commenters to run amok without moderation. The comment sections become polarized pits of poison where trolls rule supreme, flinging their muck at each other while trying to shock and outrage their opposition. If they were clever it might be entertaining to read, but generally the comments are just grownup versions of “You’re a poo-poo head!”  ↩

  3. …even though my iPad is self-illuminated. We carry old habits into the future, don’t we?  ↩