Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The future of reading?

The iPod changed the way I listened to music. (In fact, it caused me to buy more music and listen to it more often.). The MacBook changed my relationship with the computer. (Turning it from a hated adversary to an indispensable tool for work and play.) Whether the Kindle changes the way I read remains to be seen.

But what might change it is that little doodad above. Set to be announced tomorrow, the new iTablet or iSlate or iPad or whatever they're going to call it looks like it could be pretty cool device, filling the space between an iPhone and a MacBook.

The iPhone is great and handy and portable, but you can't do everything on that little screen and with that tiny virtual keypad. And the MacBook is wonderful, but it's really heavy to lug around on vacation and to meetings, etc.

The device's exact look, size, features and price are all the subject of speculation and rumor at this point, but if it has a lot of what I'm looking for, it will be very, very tempting. In my ideal world, I could read books, listen to music, watch movies, surf the net, do email, upload photos from my camera for loading on to FB and iPhoto and view (maybe even edit) Word docs and PDFs.

I like the Kindle, but it has its limitations. They really sought to replicate as much as possible the experience of reading an actual book. Thus the special screen with magnetic ink that's easier on the eyes than LED. But I think I'd actually rather have a device that replicates a computer.

Like the Kindle only shows photos and illustrations in black and white. And not at a very good resolution. You have to click a button to advance pages, whereas I'd rather swipe the screen with my fingers, as you can do with the iPhone. And while clicking the cursor will give you dictionary definitions of words, I'd like more of an interactive experience. I'd like to tap on a word or phrase and go to its wikipedia page. And access the Internet if I'm suddenly curious about, say, the War of 1812 or want to look at a map of the Brittany Coast or check imdb to see how the movie version differed from the book.

Not to mention plugging in earphones to listen to music so I can drown out background conversation on the bus or at the coffee shop. Or even switch seamlessly from reading to listening to the book being read to me.

I suppose there's something to be said for simply immersing yourself in a book without all these modern distractions. But I've always been a little ADD when reading and am much more so now with the Internet. So I don't think there's any going back.

We'll see what the news brings tomorrow ...

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