This week I got a late birthday present, in the form of the latest from that purveyor of excellence, Apple. That’s right, folks, I am the proud owner of the first iPad on my block.
I have to say, I wasn’t prepared to love it as much as I do. It is, in a word, elegant. In eight words, it is like a computer that just works. No load times. No viruses. No maintenance. No confusion. And while it doesn’t do everything I want a computer to do, it does about 90%, all while being extremely portable.
Yeah, yeah, I know. The technology set is still sticking to their story that the iPad is nothing special. To me, this is like the academic and literary authors who said the Da Vinci Code was nothing special. They’re entitled to their opinion, but they aren’t really the target market.
To me, the target market is grandmas and students and people who don’t have the good fortune to be married to computer programmers. I’ve often wondered how such maritally disadvantaged people get by. Now I know: they can just buy an iPad.
But where the iPad really rocked me is by convincing me, in less than a day, of the coming e-book revolution. When I was a kid, the idea of a world without paper books would have been anathema to me. But now I’m ready to say it: The king is dead. Long live the king.
I’ve been reading plenty of online discussions defending the longevity of physical books. People love the feel of books, the smell of books, the look of books on a shelf. They love lending books, giving books as gifts, and taking them into the bathtub. They like giving them to their children without worrying about replacement costs.
Those are all excellent arguments, and I don’t disagree with any of them. But they don’t exactly counter the arguments that people like searching their books, and annotating their books, and traveling with books but without bulk. People like buying books, and starting to read them, all without leaving bed.
The two forms just offer different features, and I’m starting to think that the e-books have the better set. They’ll expand their capabilities, too; it won’t be long before we get gift codes and cheapie e-readers for kids.
And the most powerful argument of my youth, that people don’t enjoy reading on screens, has been overset. Not just by the new form factors of the Kindle and iPad, but also by the Web itself. Over the last ten years we have all gotten sort of used to doing a lot of our pleasure reading on screens.
It can’t be said that I’m ready for the revolution, exactly. I’m experiencing a bit of collection bifurcation anxiety at the moment. But ready or not, it’s happening. It might take ten years, or even twenty. But the war, as far as I’m concerned, is over.