Historical Fiction author Susan Holloway Scott asked: 

OK, Sandra, so now you’ve had the iPad for a week. Has it totally changed your life, or at least has it been as much fun as Apple promises?

To answer: my iPad has quickly become an essential tool for research. Among other things, I can read and annotate PDF files and e-books on it: notes, highlights, underlined passages. I can send the annotated files to my computer (or just the annotations). These I can then put into a searchable database on my computer. 

Mind-blowing! Usually my research is in two steps: 1) read and make notes, 2) type notes onto the computer. This last step is a killer. With the iPad, it’s just one step. Plus, I’m not printing out PDF files, which is expensive. Too, a library of printed-out files is not portable.

It took a while to work out to read and annotate PDF files on my iPad. It’s not exactly transparent, but once I sorted it out, it’s easy to do. Here’s what I discovered:

For PDF files:

1) Download the iAnnotate app. It’s worth every penny. Ignore everything they say about using other apps. 

2) To put PDF files into iAnnotate (or any other reader): 

–Connect your iPad to your computer and open iTunes. 

–Select iPad on the left, and go to the Apps tab. 

–Scroll down to where it says “File Sharing.” There you see two windows. Select iAnnotate on the left. 

–Click the “Add button, which shows up on towards the bottom right of the right hand pane

— Find your file and click “open”

For e-books:

1) Download the Kindle app (free). 

2) On the iPad, go to the Kindle store and download a book. 

3) Click any word in the book and a box appears. Stretch it over the area of interest and select highlight or note. (You can do both by clicking again.) 

4) On your computer, to see your notes and highlights, log into your account on Kindle (http://kindle.amazon.com/) and click “Your highlights.” Copy and paste your highlighted text and notes into Evernote, a word file or whatever database program you use.

Note that you can convert any document into a PDF file and upload it to either iAnnotate or the Kindle app on your iPad. In other words: you can read and annotate your own manuscript or someone else’s manuscript on an iPad. No more printing out 500 page texts (at least not so often).

Note, as well, that many of the out-of-print texts so delicious to historical researchers can be downloaded from Books Google or other on-line libraries. Now they can be easily read and annotated. 

It’s rumored that GoodReads and other reader apps will be adding annotation features. For now, iAnnotate and Kindle are the best ways to go.

Game-changer? You bet!