This e-book movement really is about the psychology of the consumer, everyday life gets busier and we need to take in as much information as possible to ‘stay current’ or indeed stay social.
Incorporating devices like the e-book makes the clutter we carry through our lives seem like less of a burden. Items like diaries, calendars, games for the kids, music, newspapers, literature, shopping list, camera, photo library, weather report, Dictaphone, gym schedule… I used to break my back carrying these necessary items all day.
Technology as versatile as the iPad is so easy to market to consumers, young and old, we’re all happy to swap a few hundred dollars to lose a few kilos. Such a radical shift in the way we access information, literature and visual learning aids has occurred in the last year that the industry is scrambling to reconfigure itself around this morphing technology. “I think the e-books are in the process of transforming the way we do what we do.” (OSNOS, 2010)
However while we are grateful for an uncluttered existence it doesn’t come without its teething problems. The element that struck me last year upon the purchase of my first iPad was the experience. It’s well… sterile.
There are no markers, no ink smudges or photocopier shades on the pages; I didn’t realise it at the time, but all of those things actually helped me read the words and understand the content as intended.
I got a headache at my first attempt at reading, I adjusted my screen, thinking it was the brightness but no, there was still something missing. With my personal study texts I highlight and book mark the dog-eared pages, but reading off a screen doesn’t seem to touch the sides of my dorsal pathway.
The ease of the print, according to Lehrer, is repetitious and leaves less room for real comprehension. Another side of making reading books too easy – less brain activity, think of what TV has done for childrens’ imaginations, “I’d love them to include a feature that allows us to undo their ease, to make the act of reading just a little bit more difficult.” (Lehrer, 2010) However I think there is a ‘connection’ to the book that will still be missing.
Kindle, ebook, iPad (and the like) manufactures are laughing. The devices are valuable objects due to their sheer cost and because they do all manner of organising for work or leisure. Realistically, they are ‘conveniently’ tied to one person. This is especially true for family parent-child devices, where rough, slobbery handling becomes an issue; meaning more costly repairs than a simple re-binding.
The owner will tailor the content, reminders, things-to-do list, Newspaper or Magazine subscriptions to their specific tastes and needs. Owning a separate device is necessary for each individual, and as Naughton expresses, is one of the technologies shortcomings. Location becomes a constraint if you are to share content.
“The upside is that I can share them [books] with friends or donate them to a school, which is more than I can do with my walled-in digital edition, but that’s another can of worms.” (Naughton, 2010)
This limit on sharing is precisely how electronic online retailers like Amazon and Apple have intended to turn a profit. Text donation to charity, gifting an old beloved paper-back to a friend or selling said paper-back to a third party are all now ‘illegal’ and thus not an option for paying consumers.
“I would have none of those freedoms. According to the terms of service, I cannot, for example, “sell, rent, lease, distribute, broadcast, sublicense or otherwise assign any rights to the digital content or any portion of it to any third party.” (Naughton, 2009)
I will be watching this space in the coming years as to the development of ‘book pirating’ I suspect this could have the similar effect as file sharing had on the film industry.
Nevertheless, at this point I’m not feeling like the e-book provides the best possible reading experience, but it does have a place in my life and certainly my studies… From entirely my Gen Y perspective though, I still thank the heavens for my EREADER, if it could make my coffee in the morning, I’d marry it.
National Public Radio (2010) ‘E-Book Boom Changes Book Selling And Publishing’, December 21, <http://www.npr.org/2010/12/21/132235154/e-book-boom-changes-book-selling-and-publishing>
Lehrer, Jonah (2010) ‘The Future of Reading’, Wired, September 8, <http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/09/the-future-of-reading-2>
Naughton, John (2010) ‘Publishers take note: the iPad is altering the very concept of a ‘book’ The Guardian, December 19, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/dec/19/ipad-publishing-kindle-books-apple>
Image: Gene Wilburn, Available: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cdnphoto/4182802481/