nb59 View from Here

Posted by Guy Pringle, 20th July 2010

As we approach the next issue I thought I'd drop in Elsbeth's editorial as, once again, she's nailed an interesting subject that may well have crossed your mind. I'd like to think the 'guy-thing' was meant to have a lower case 'g', although I have to admit I've been tempted to buy an iPad:


Did you notice the UK launch of the iPad a couple of months ago? It was accompanied by the usual media frenzy although I didn’t see many women in the photographs of over-excited purchasers of the latest, perhaps best-yet electronic tablet. How much of this feverishness is a gadget-driven guy-thing, I wonder?

To be fair, I’ve not spent much time with electronic books yet myself, so maybe I’m a convert waiting to happen. The closest I’ve come so far is looking at the Kindle bought for a family member with diminishing eyesight. Previously all she could read were large-print titles from the library but now she can download anything she likes on to her electronic book and then increase the type size as large as she wants. Quite an advance.

With reading devices becoming ever more prominent, I was interested to read a recent newspaper article (by a man) expressing concerns about the experience. One of these was the absence of knowing where you are in a book – how far in, how far to go. With an ebook, apparently there are always precisely six more pages in front of you: disconcerting, surely, when you want to know if you can finish the book in a sitting, or are going to have to pause at the end of the next chapter.

Another, rather more significant objection concerned libraries. With a tablet, in order to read, you generally have to buy, not borrow. Nor can you lend your purchases, unless you lend your ebook along with them. How will this affect the social value of reading, the sharing and lending of favoured reads? And how much will it undermine the whole notion of libraries, institutions which many of us – as polls confirm – hold very dear, and which have greatly assisted the growth of reading groups?           

But the article’s final point was the one that preoccupied me most. The journalist pointed out the distractions of reading on an iPad or similar. Not only might the book itself be interactive, but all the time you are reading it, you also have the opportunity to check out some other website or publication, even the weather. What, he wonders, will happen to the simple business of reading when the ‘book’ itself proposes so many distractions? An old-fashioned, inert, paper text offers a calm, temptation-free experience. It doesn’t want you to do anything else but read it.

I begin to see the world divided into two groups (by age, or gender, or custom): the hoppers and the squatters. For those of us who like to zip and zap with our remote controls and smart phones, a reader that can perform many other tricks simultaneously is going to be pretty darn attractive. But for those of us who only multi-task out of necessity, who look at reading as a delicious retreat from interactivity, the simplicity of paper pages and one-thing-at-a-time may offer a last respite from digital clamour.

I think I know which camp I’m in.



Marjorie Neilson said...

As a woman, I suspect, like most women, we want to know "is it worth the money" and "what is it going to do for me". A book is transportable, it is tactile, you can flick back and forth easily (although a "Search" button would be handy sometimes) and if you want to get to the dénouement quickly you just turn the pages. You can read in sunlight, by electric light and even by candlelight if the electricity goes off.
You can drop a book in water and it is salvageable (just) but your Kindle or whatever would certainly not like water or, I suspect, sand. OK, if you are someone who takes a bag load of books on holiday, the Kindle (or whatever) wins hands down on space saving, but once you have bought your books you can't pass them on to friends - although I can just see someone setting up pirate nets.
Online books are not much cheaper than a hardback/paperback and if you buy a "duff" book, then you are likely to feel just as cheated, and some Amazon books cannot be downloaded on a Sony e-reader (as far as I am aware).
I can see e-readers being a boon for studies where loads of academic books are needed (and can be fairly weighty to carry) as this would allow them to be easily transported if a student wants to study away from a home setting e.g. on the train.
Having access to Internet on the move would be useful as a further tool. Some manufacturer may well produce a "cheap and cheerful" version on which books only are loaded and can be in large print or a talking version for the deaf or for use by those with arthritis who may well find holding a book difficult.
Some people still like vinyl rather than CDs, but DVDs have definitely replaced the video. Hopefully printed books and magazines will still sit happily alongside e-readers for a long time yet, otherwise what would us reviewers do without the excitement of the parcel arriving and the thrill of a new read.

Posted on Mon 02 Aug 2010 @ 17:45

guy said...

Not so long ago I would have been with you 100% but I have to admit, first, to being a gadget freak so am currently trying to convince myself I desperately need one of these new Apple iPads.
Secondly, I am the man who risks being charged for excess baggage because of the number of books I take on holiday. My personal best is 13 - to Greece some years ago - but I'm regularly pushing double figures. Not because I read them all - no, more worrying than that. How do I know what I will want to read once I get there? This is not a decision to be taken lightly.

Posted on Fri 06 Aug 2010 @ 14:08

Marjorie Neilson said...

Hi Guy. Well the Amazon Kindle (wi-fi or 3g Wi Fi) has been so popular that you have to wait until September before the new stock arrives, so if you want one in time for the Christmas stocking, its add your name to the waiting list time. The reviews on their website seem overall to be very favourable.

Posted on Sun 29 Aug 2010 @ 19:56

Post Comment

Please enter this security word in the field below (this is to prevent spam from bots)

back to articles Back to articles