iPad; shm-eyePad

The Apple iPad, was introduced to the world on January 27 with much fanfare.  Almost everyone in the media is talking or writing about it, so I thought I might as well add my thoughts to the mix.

Apple wasn’t likely aware that the introduction date coincided with Family Literacy Day in Canada, and who knows if or how the iPad may change literacy in the country? It’s too early to tell of course.  I’ll go with “Can’t hurt, might help.” But I won’t be jumping on this bandwagon.

Reading a lot of text on a 17-inch screen is sometimes enough of a challenge for me. I can’t imagine trying to read a book or periodical article on a smaller screen. I understand why people might want to use an electronic reader for its portability factor, but it just has absolutely no appeal to me.

In thinking about this new way of reading, I remembered something that happened with our son Eric, and books. He was about a year old, and just starting to talk and to make the association between the objects in his world and their names. We’d been reading to him since he was born, and he had a small collection of books. On this particular night, Eric woke around 2 a.m. I tried to settle him back in bed, but he kept pointing around the room, clearly wanting something. I finally realized that he wanted a book! He couldn’t say the word, but he knew what he wanted. I said that it wasn’t time to read; that we’d look at the books in the morning, and tried offering  several stuffed toys. He was having none of it. So, I gave him a book. He immediately calmed down as he clutched it. He was quite content to let me go back to bed and didn’t care that I wasn’t leaving the light on. He was happily “reading” as I got back in bed and my husband asked what the fuss was about.  I told him that Eric wanted a book, and that maybe we had to read more during the day to avoid these mid-night interruptions.

Imagine this same scene today with a Kindle, iPad, or other electronic reading device. First, based on the high cost of these gadgets, you wouldn’t be leaving a baby alone with one lest it get dropped and broken. No such worry with a book. Second, where is the warm feeling that you get from handling a book? I could go on, but you get the point.

Both of our children had book collections from an early age. They eagerly anticipated getting their book-of-the-month in the mail.  Time to read together was, I think, as highly cherished by them as it was by us, and they are still avid readers. They do a lot of reading online, but  they still ask for books for Christmas and birthday gifts. Reading time is still a cherished experience for parents and children, but is the experience the same? Is pushing a button to advance the text the same as turning the page? Somehow I don’t think so, but to be fair, I haven’t read with a child using an electronic reader. I’d like to hear from those who have.

The iPad may, if predictions are correct, revolutionize the publishing industry, or this may just be a lot of hype over a new gadget. Cost of production will certainly be lower, but will the publishers be using those savings to pay their writers more, and protect their writers’ rights more? Don’t get me started….

Paying for the printed magazines, the ones you can hold in your hand, is expensive, especially since many online magazines have free content.  However, many of the magazines I like to read are not available in stores. Most of these are small-press Canadian magazines, and the racks are overrun with American publications, but that’s a topic for another time. I have decided that I want to continue supporting these magazines, and I hope that I’ll be able to continue receiving the printed copies in the mail.  I hope they won’t replace the print version with a digital version because it’s cheaper to produce. Costs could perhaps be lowered if they used less colour and didn’t print on glossy paper, but that is part of the appeal of the magazine to me—the smoothness of the paper, the sharpness of the text, and the beautiful graphics. Seeing it all laid out before me on a page is an experience I just can’t get from reading a magazine online.

I appreciate the irony of writing about the beauty of print in books and magazines in a blog.  I edit an online blog for my writers’ organization, and I know that some of our members would like to have a printed version mailed to them.  Online publishing is a reality. I just hope it won’t totally replace printing.

I hope those who have an iPad or the newest electronic gadgets for reading enjoy them. I’ll stick with the hard copy, thank you.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to [hand] write a letter to our other son Jeremy, who is teaching English in Korea.  I’m going to ask if he reads to the kids in his class, and ask about the popularity  of electronic reading devices there. We talk and write to each other online, but I thought he might like to get an old-fashioned letter, and I’m going to enjoy writing it.

Besides, this was probably more than enough text for you to read online.

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4 thoughts on “iPad; shm-eyePad

  1. Great blog and analogy between books and electronic reading devices. My daughter, 24, will have nothing to do with these devices. Her cell phone is a phone. She refuses to get an IPHONE or Blackberry. Yes, she has a compute rand a laptop. Yes, she texts friends, and has a Facebook account but she doesn’t like electronic gadgets, especially when ti comes to reading. She loves the feeling of a novel, carrying it into the living room with a cup of tea and opening it to read. Ditto me, except I prefer coffee. 🙂 Maybe the younger generation is trying to tell us something?

    1. Hi Suzanne:
      Thanks for the great comment. I definitely believe we can learn from the younger generation–not only about the new technology, but effective ways to use it so we don’t drive ourselves crazy.
      As I said, our sons do a lot of reading online (on their computers, not portable devices), but still love books, and Eric subscribes to Maclean’s–rather than read it online.
      He uses his phone to get updates from the web on topics of interest–mostly sports scores–but doesn’t have a Blackberry or iPhone.
      While not having to lug books when you travel is an advantage of the portable reader, I agree that there is nothing like the feeling of sitting down with a good book or magazine and a cup of your favourite beverage. Bliss.

  2. Thank you Doreen. I definitely can see the advantages of the iPad–especially the portability factor, and the fact that you can travel with many books without the weight of them.
    It’s early days yet, and people are saying wait until the “bugs” get worked out, but I think Apple likely has another hit on its hands.
    Keeping handwritten journals has helped keep my handwriting legible, but it’s a struggle to keep it neat, and straight. I used lined paper for the letter to Jeremy! I will definitely be checking out your blog. I hope lots of others do too.
    Cheers,

  3. Interesting post, Christine. I think you and I are in the age group that is caught between the old and the new. We are old enough to remember when, and still young enough to appreciate new advances.

    There is indeed something wonderful about holding a book or a magazine and appreciating the texture of the pages. And I, like you, spend my days working on a computer, so I don’t relish the thought of spending more/all of my recreational reading time in front of a screen — large or small.

    However, as someone who travels a lot and who realizes the excessive weight of printed material, I am quite excited about having a tool that will let me read abroad without hauling a lot of heavy books or mags with me. So my thumbs are UP to the idea of the iPad.

    One last point: Congrats to you for writing your son a handwritten letter. I write very few these days and almost always choose to communicate online whenever I can. Thus, the quality of my handwriting has diminished considerably. That, in fact, is the subject of my own blog post this week at: http://doreenisthewizardofwords.blogspot.com.

    Please read it and comment.

    Best regards,
    Doreen Pendgracs

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