Thursday, October 21, 2010

I Caved In...

I'm in the middle of three crazy days at the moment, where pretty much every single minute of every single day has been accounted for, with the result that certain things, like blogging, have taken a backseat. That's why there's been this deafening silence here since last week.

But, anyway...

I love my iPad* for all sorts of reasons. It seems like every time I turn around, I'm finding a new use for it. I'm running all my class lists and records off it nowadays, as well as all my lectures, marking and meeting notes, meaning that my teaching has become virtually paperless in the last couple of months. I use the calendar function on it for all my appointments, and unlike my old paper diary, I actually use the calendar, which has made for a more efficient life. I'm using it for design (like the blog title up there), email, internet, magazines, journals and all sorts of other things.

But there was one function I was determined not to capitalise on. Determined.

I wasn't going to read books on it.

Now, call me old fashioned, but I'm one of those people who always claimed to like my books printed. On good, old fashioned trees. And that hasn't changed. I like being able to hold a book, to heft it in my hand and feel the weight of it. I like the smell of paper and the texture of it. I like the soft crinkle of paper as you flick the page. I like (don't hate me for this) being able to dog-ear the page I'm on.**

So when I got my iPad, I decided that the one thing it wouldn't be is an e-book reader.

Until the other day, when a colleague of mine presented a fantastic paper here at the uni, about the future of the book. She also has an iPad and, unlike me, is an avid reader on it. In her talk, she broke down a lot of the objections regularly raised in relation to the e-reader. She talked about the economics, the portability and the convenience, but for me the moment she changed my mind about this particular issue was when she talked about the tactile aesthetics of reading on the iPad.

She made the point - and I can't argue with her on it at all - that the iPad is, in its own way, just as much a sensory and tactile piece of reading equipment as a book. The smoothness of the screen below your fingertip, the oh-so-subtly muted polish of the machined aluminium chassis, the cosiness of surruptitious reading at night with the lights off, the tweaking of font size, brightness, contrast and 'paper' colour until you're looking at exactly the reading surface you want to look at.

That was what got me. It's not about having the same tactile reading experience as with a book, but it's still about tactile engagement with the words on the page.

So, last weekend, I bit the bullet and bought my first e-book on Amazon. John Birmingham's After America. I'm roughly halfway through it now.

And, I have to say, I'm enjoying reading it. Even aside from the fact that its a damn good read, the iPad is almost always with me nowdays, and therefore so is my book. When I have five spare minutes*** I've got reading material. When I'm eating and couldn't normally manage both a thick bestseller and my food, the iBook is a one-handed operation.

The tactile stuff is living up to its promise, too.

So, reluctantly, I have to admit it. I'm... well, not a convert; I'm still going to be buying 'proper' books, and I don't think a book will feel quite 'real' to my until I'm holding those bound and covered pages in my hot little hand. But I won't not be buying e-books, either. They've definitely got their place.

*I might have mentioned this already...
** But only in my own books, of course.
*** something that hasn't happened since 7.00 last tuesday morning


  1. is your colleague's paper on the future of the book available anywhere for us to read?

  2. Not yet, it's still a work in progress, but she's delivering it at the international conference on the book in Switzerland in November, and I imagine it'll be published soon after, either as part of the proceedings, or in a journal. I'll keep you posted, as it struck me as so ethic g you'd be interested in.


  3. Keep an eye out for Kindle's free ebooks; it's a great way to try authors you might not otherwise read.

    I'm still buying new and used "proper" books, but with my iPad I've now got the best of both worlds.

  4. I'd never thought of the one-handed benefit of reading on an ereader. Just being able to have it sitting on the table while you eat is brilliant. I so want one!

  5. Thanks for the comments everyone. I'll definately be watching out for the free e-books. And Jonathan, the one handed thing was an unexpected, but very welcome bonus after years of struggling to read at various tables, especially when travelling and eating alone.


  6. So interesting! E-reading is the number one reason why I want an iPad. Mostly cause I live in a small apartment with a musician and we can't fit any more books or guitars. But also for when I'm studying next year, being able to highlight and annotate and google within a text, and then have all my annotations and highlighting searchable - it's exactly what I need.

    The only question now is, can I hang in there until iPad 2 comes out?



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