The iPad and the Library.
I have a lot to thank Steve Jobs for. I am from the generation of writers who has never been able to savor the virtues of a typewriter when it comes to typing. In my defense, I have attempted to use a typewriter several times in my life, but never had much success in expressing my creativity on one. Give me a keyboard and a blank screen and I should be good to go. The reason I am thankful to Steve Jobs is because I gather that his garage in California was the birthplace of the Personal Computer also known as the PC which evolved into the laptop which is my weapon of choice in my writing career. Without Steve Jobs, I might not have gone very far with my career, I might not even have learned to type so well without looking at the keyboard, something that I have been doing for quite a while now, but which I could never have accomplished on a typewriter.
When Mr Jobs’ newer invention – the iPod was introduced to the world a few years ago, I was not giddy with excitement like a lot of people were. I had a media player which worked perfectly for me. My Sansa MP3 player had the storage space and the battery capacity that I needed. Mr Jobs kicked it up a notch and introduced the world once again to a new invention –the iPhone. That got my attention. It was a neat little device, and I found all those apps quite fascinating. The only thing for me was that for a phone, I thought it was too busy. I never contemplated getting one, because, I asked myself, what happens when you are in the middle of a nice app like a game or something and the phone rings. So I looked at the iPhone and thought, “Nah! Not for me.”
The thing about Mr Jobs is that he seems to think about everything. Like Daniel Lyons writes in Newsweek – “He has an uncanny ability to cook up gadgets that we did not know we needed but suddenly can’t live without”. For the people like us who harbored a desire to take advantage of the thousands of apps being created but did not want the encumbrance of a phone attached to the device, he created a new type of iPod the iPod touch. I became the proud owner of one earlier on in the year, and thus the whole world of neat apps d entered into my world. I enjoy using my iPod touch, and to be quite honest, I hardly ever use it to listen to music, which probably explains why my Sansa has not yet retired.
Mr Jobs was not quite done in his quest to revolutionize the world of digital technology. A few weeks ago, he launched the iPad which he described as a truly magical and revolutionary device. It’s the iPod touch but bigger. Tiny and highly portable, it weighs one and a half pounds and has a 9.7 inch screen plus it can hold a battery charge for up to 10 hours. Many of the reviews of the iPad have been positive – ‘its simplicity masks its transformational power because it is guaranteed to herald a new era in computing.’ Some analysts predict that the iPad could eventually become your TV, your newspaper and your bookshelf and even your cable company, since consumers could soon be watching their favorite TV shows on the iPad by purchasing subscriptions via iTunes.
The fact that 75 million iPhones and iPod touch units have been sold, speaks to the success of Steve Jobs and Apple, and one cannot help but admire their business model – try playing your purchases from iTunes on any device other than your iPod, iPhone or iPad and you’ll understand what I mean.
Some bibliophiles however have a bone to pick with Steve Jobs. You see, with the iPad, publishers can directly have books released on e-readers and Mr Jobs announced earlier on in the year that he has entered business agreements with publishers – Penguin and Simon & Schuster. This has led many bibliophiles to assume that this will lead to the demise of the bookstore.
One of my favorite writers, Anna Quindlen captures this notion quite eloquently by reminding us that “the invention of television led to predictions about the demise of the radio, the making of movies was to be the death knell of live theater…” Yet, there are many people who prefer the cool ambiance of the theater to the haughty decor of the movie theater.
It is after all a question of personal choice.
In the days before the iPad was launched in the US, the Washington Post asked its readers to weigh in on the issue by polling readers to respond to the question – ‘Do you think tablet computers will revolutionize the print media?’
69% of readers responded negatively, with one reader stating “It’s too early… sometimes a book or a paper is really the best choice for the situation, and that’s not changing anytime soon.
Tablet computers will revolutionize the field of optometry. With people staring at computers at work, then the tablet on the way home and even at home, their eyes are surely going to suffer.
Commenter on the Washington Post Poll
The truth is e-readers have been around for some time now. On Amazon.com, which boasts to have earth’s biggest selection of print media, the biggest selling item is the Kindle, which is an e-reader. Sony, also has its own e-reader. But I am quite sure that like many people, I can’t imagine reading a whole book on a machine like the Kindle or the iPad. One of the apps I have on my iPod touch is called 301+ short stories. I downloaded it because it was free and the bibliophile in me just had to take a peek. I started with F.Scott Fitzgerald’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a story which I have found fascinating and which in my opinion the movie did not do much justice. I did not get very far, and resolved to look for the actual book in order to continue with the story. But then again, it could have been because the iPod touch is a smaller device and maybe if I downloaded the app on an iPad and tried reading it on a larger screen, I’d go further. Who knows?
I don’t have an i-Pad yet and it is not on my list of things to get in the future. If and when I do get one, I can say this much, it will not be my preferred choice for reading. I am a bit like, Jonathan Lethem, who writes in this month’s edition of Oprah magazine ” for me, reading is a physical experience, one that vanishes, evaporates completely, the minute you have read something on the screen”. Although, I can read newspaper articles, blog entries and even recipes on the computer screen, I derive joy from reading a physical book. I can’t imagine having my library of books on a hand held device, but we are living in the 21st century and there are some people who could and do. There’s nothing wrong with that.
While we are on the subject, here are some of the literary pieces I am currently indulging in.
An Elegy for Easterly ~ Pettinah Gappah
L’Homme Qui M’Offrait Le Ciel ~ Calixthe Beyala
El Plan Infinito ~ Isabel Allende
Malgudi Days ~ R. K. Narayan
La Vie Devant Moi ~ Soukaina Oufkir
The Book of Not ~ Tsitsi Dangaremgba
If you counted that’s seven books! I have this very bad habit of not being able to stick to one book at a time. Plus, I am taking Jhumpa Lahiri’s advice in the introduction of R.K. Narayan’s delicious anthology of stories – Malgudi Days – one story per day for thirty-two days.
The United States just celebrated National Library Week (April 11-17), something that has been celebrated since the 1950s, even the advent of e-readers and iPads will not stop that from happening. Libraries will be around for quite a while and so will the iPad.