Jan 29 2010

Rise of the iPad, Fall of the Book

I have two thoughts about the new Apple iPad.  Concerning its viability, I think that it will be hugely popular despite the widespread public disappointment that greeted its unveiling.  The iPhone was a technological (and ultimately social) game-changer, and most expected the iPad to follow suit.  The truth is that the iPad will instead be a behavioral game-changer.

The iPhone already functions as a backup laptop for most people I know that have one – I myself have relied on it exclusively while my old laptop intermittently died.  Combining the functional portability of the iPhone with the functional convenience of a laptop’s screen size and increased speed is to provide a must-have item that anyone can take to any room of the house or to any office or in any car.  A recent report by the Kaiser Family Foundation stated that today’s children spend roughly seven and a half hours in front of a screen daily.  The iPad both follows and enables this trend.  Apple’s bells and whistles may not be new, but they will be playing much, much more ubiquitously.

Children using computer, courtesy San Jose Library

My second thought is of the emergence of the e-reader in general.  I personally am strongly against them because of my deep-seeded and long-nurtured addiction to paperback books.  I also recognize that extended reading of text on a digital screen taxes the sheisa out of my eyes.  Friends and coworkers in my generation tend to agree with me on both points – eye strain and the comfort/nostalgia factor, so I don’t see an immediate rush to convert to digital reading.  That being said, humans follow patterns, and our society trends in almost every way toward consolidation and multifunctionality.  Therefore, and sadly, I cannot imagine paper books will hold out in the long run.  Who can deny the appeal of having six college textbooks and a slew of paperbacks on one iPad in a backpack, saving 30+ lbs (the average college textbook weighs 3-7lbs) and a couple trees?

I’ll finish this post about paperbacks with a novel I read at the end of last year – Kushiel’s Dart.  Jacqueline Carey is an exquisite world- and character-builder.  The book is high fantasy without the wizards and trolls (it’s set in an alternate history version of modern Europe) and romance without overly graphic or mushy material (she’s unfailingly tactful and true to the world she builds).  I recommend it to any adult reader looking for an engaging and challenging read.


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