Friday, June 11, 2010

My New Pad

At first it seemed I was the only person with it. But a couple of weeks ago, while waiting for my flight to board at La Guardia, I spotted a twenty-something guy tapping away on his ipad. I could tell he was a pro by the way he blocked out the crowded airport terminal around him. Just tap, tap, tapping on the screen… He didn’t even notice the people around him looking over his shoulder.

I’ve had an ipad for several weeks now and it feels like my little sidekick. I walk around my apartment with it tucked under my arm. It’s my secret weapon. Want to randomly search online for shoe sales? I can do that. Want to read every Slate piece posted this week? Let’s do it. But the ipad is not what I expected.

With the massive amount of attention the publishing industry has given to the ipad, I figured it was just a jazzed-up ebook reader. I quickly found out that the ipad is not about ebooks. The ipad is a small, light laptop. It’s great for reading blogs, websites, news sites, and checking email. It just makes you slightly neurotic.

The difference between reading on an ipad and reading on your laptop is that the ipad is like holding a magic mirror and as you stare into it, you want more and more. It’s a toy that you keep poking. While reading articles and blogs on the device, I suffer from what Nicholas Carr writes about in The Shallows—constantly clicking through hyperlinks, finding it hard to focus on one long piece. I’d stay up late because there was always one more blog to check out. Gone were the days when reading calmed me down at the end of a day.

I found myself checking out a million different apps before I ever thought to download the free ibooks app that allows you to buy books. I tried to read the free Pride and Prejudice ebook but my email was just a click away! I’ve attempted to read ibooks in bed, but you can’t cuddle with an ipad. The screen flips the wrong way when you’re on your side. There’s no I’m-lying-in-bed mode. Plus, you’re reading on a screen, after a while your eyes just get tired.

Despite my new frantic reading habits, reading on a device makes so much sense. And the ipad is impressive enough for the flock to follow. It bothers me that Apple has such a power over us, controlling every app and the way publishers profit from ebook sales, but Amazon’s less flashy Kindle feels too plastic and slow.

The ipad doesn’t give me that same let’s-take-it-slow feeling I get from opening a new hardcover. It doesn’t inspire me to take a break and just read for a long stretch of time. It makes me hyper and needy. But at this point, I’m okay with having that split personality. My night stand has room for both.

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