Monday, June 14, 2010

iPads and Red Herrings

My wife and I love our new iPad. I use the word, "our," loosely since the iPad is in Barb's possession about 95% of the time. She strongly preferred to read the New York Times on my MacBook Pro instead of her corporate issue P.C. Since I am not good at sharing my toys, she bought the iPad with the primary intent of using it for reading, passing on the Kindle because she wanted color.

The iPad is a terrific media player. And as I'm sure you know, its release stirred up a bit of a frenzy in the press-- lots of feature articles about the Kindle and iPad signaling the end of books. This in turn has created great anxiety, anger and even despondency from book lovers. It's been a bit extreme.

Now look, I come from a family of book lovers. I am an English major with a Masters in English Ed. I have taught lit classes for thirty-five years. I don't hate books. And it's not like they are going to disappear, tomorrow. The ebook police will not be raiding homes, seizing paper books, and tossing them into giant bonfires like something out of a Ray Bradbury story.

I also get it that many readers have strong emotional attachments to their tattered copies of Hamlet or The Great Gatsby. I have a few keepsakes like those on my shelves. For that matter, I prefer paperbacks to ebooks if I'm taking lots of notes or need to thumb through for a passages. Nevertheless, my book reading has picked up since Amazon came up with their Kindle App for my MacBook Pro. (No more headaches from that tiny paperback type).

But I'm hearing and reading a lot of rubbish from the nostalgic supposed book lovers. Some are behaving as though these media players are an assault on the very essence of literature. Can't they see that ebooks will do as much to save books as to kill them? Ebooks don't go "out of print." And since forests don't have to be felled, lumber pulped, paper printed, bound, shipped, etc.; the economics and the ecology of the new model is sounder, isn't it? Those who wax nostalgic about browsing through shelves at book stores, should temper such sentiments with memories of calling or driving all over town for a copy of this or that.

Even though I teach in a 1:1 school, my students drag enormous, bookbags laden with tons of texts from class to class. You can't tell me that if their texts were available on an iPad or Kindle that this would be a wonderful improvement. I require one textbook myself, and it is available as an ebook. Alas, most of my students have preferred the traditional text because they have to do so much scrolling on their HP Tablets. I get that too.

But the folks who deplore the ebook really do need to recognize that the joy they received from reading did not come from the smell of decaying paper or lugging their dog-earred paperbacks around. The iPad and Kindle do not presage the end of literature or even book lovers.

"Red Herring" Frickr Creative Commons photo by "No Matter" Project on our iPad

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