Instagram Angst

So Instagram was finally made available for Android a couple of weeks ago, prompting a wave of anti-Droid sentiment across the cybersphere:

As mean-spirited and ridiculous as all of those comments were, I’m kind of thinking there was something to the idea that Instagram isn’t for everyone.

BD (before ‘droid), I had about a dozen friends regularly using Instagram to post photos to Facebook.  I enjoyed them, admired them, found them to be excellent photos.  I suspect those friends would have good photos without Instagram, just because of the kind of people I know them to be (artistic, creative, deliberate).

PD (post ‘droid), I have about 30 friends using Instagram to post photos to Facebook.  I have no idea whether these new users have Android phones or not–all the attention Instagram got with the new app version has probably made some people aware of it that weren’t before.  Regardless, there are a lot of Instagram photos coming through my newsfeed now and the vast majority of them are terrible.  The subject matter isn’t good, the photos aren’t framed well, the lighting is bad, the focus is unpurposely soft…in other words, they look just like all the pictures that were posted before, but now they’re filtered.  Seeing a dozen bad photos without Instagram was bad enough; with filters, they are worse.

I downloaded the app to my phone in order to get familiar with it and to see if there was something compelling enough about it that I should use it.  Right away I felt that an app like Instagram should serve a purpose.  I’ve posted two photos using #nyc and specifically chosen because they show something that is an important or unique part of my NYC experience:

They aren’t great and they didn’t really do much to help me decide whether I want to continue using Instagram, but they did kinda sorta help me understand the appeal of such an app–if you’ve never had your hands on a decent piece of photo editing software.

Bottom line:  On some level, while not a Mac person, I do admit to a certain amount of snobbery when it comes to photographs and yes, I’m hoping Instagram has some flash-in-the-pan -ness.

Still not sure the company was worth a billion…

Check Out Book, Read on Phone

I just finished reading The Financial Lives of the Poets, which will go down in my personal history as the first digital book I’ve ever checked out from a library.  All the dozens and dozens of e-books I read previously came from Amazon or from Project Gutenberg or a smattering of other sites that offer free books.  The problem was that I had no way to read ePub books.  Kindle doesn’t support that file type–yet–and I have been unwilling to shell out dollars for another reader, just to be able to access library books.

Luckily, my long-time web surfing habit served me well this month, when I discovered txtr.   From what I can tell, txtr is a German company that is partnering with Adobe Digital Editions, which handles ePub books for both the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library.  Prior to txtr, I would have had to read any library book I checked out on my laptop, which totally doesn’t appeal to me.  But txtr has an Android app that somehow makes Adobe recognize my phone as a supported device.  I can then read the library ePub book on my phone.

It seemed to good to be true when I initially read about it, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to try it.  I installed the app on my phone, perused the BPL website, chose a book, downloaded it, and then walked through the steps to get the book on my phone.  Guess what?  It worked!  Sort of.  I mean, it did work, but it wasn’t the greatest reading experience.  The default font size isn’t huge, but there are weird “margins,” so the default font means seeing only a few words on the screen at a time.  Since I was reading a book with “poets” in the title, I really did think for awhile that I was reading a long poem.  Really.  I did.

When I figured out what was going on, I made the font as small as possible and then I was seeing a decent strip of text down the middle of my screen, but I had to squint sometimes to read it.  The app doesn’t appear to save your place, the way the Kindle and Google readers do.  But it has bookmarks–yay!  But the bookmarks don’t work–boo!  I basically had to always stop reading at the end of a chapter and use the table of contents to locate my spot.

I daresay I won’t be reading library books all the time using txtr, but I’m watching for app updates.  I did send an outline of its problems to the feedback address on the txtr website.  I hope the creators find it helpful and we see a really good reader very soon.


Here is a shot of the Android app with books listed. My version is in English, of course.

Extra stuff:

txtr does a few other things.  It allows file sharing, uploads, and downloads.  It lets you clip parts of webpages to save for later.  (Similar to Instapaper, if you’re familiar with that.)  And it does have a store.  You can buy books there, but all the prices are in euros and the text is in German.  Handy if you’re in Germany, maybe not so much if you’re anywhere else.