This photo is from our family room, a portion of the books we own – which, as you can see, are spilling from the shelves. And that’s just one of the bookcases. A conservative estimate is that we own perhaps 5,000 books. Before we moved into this house twelve years ago, the owners from whom we were buying the house allowed us to move our cartons of books into their living room before we actually closed on the purchase. The cartons filled the entire living, floor to ceiling fan.
Nothing can replace the feel of an actual book in my hands – the smell of it, the way the paper feels against my fingers as I turn the pages, the immediacy of the printed words. That said, it became apparent to me about four years ago that perhaps e-books had a much needed place in my life. I mean, really, we’re running out of wall space. So, Santa Clause brought me a Kindle for Christmas and oh, what fun I had downloading books from Amazon.
When we traveled to Aruba six months later, in June 2009, I felt really great about having four books on my Kindle and not a single book crammed into my suitcase. On our second day in Aruba, I set my Kindle down on the counter, but apparently did it a bit too hard, and the screen image shattered. The screen itself didn’t break – just the image. I discovered that the price to correct this problem would be about the same as a new Kindle.
That ended my love affair with Kindles.
A year or so passed. When I bought books, they were the actual hard copy versions. Then, for Christmas of 2010, I think it was, Santa brought me a Nook – you know, the Barnes and Noble answer to Amazon’s Kindle. Wow. Vast improvement. Except. With Kindle, you can download a book from anywhere because you’re on Amazon’s whispernet network; with the Nook, you can only download a book if you’re in a place that has WiFi or if you’re in Barnes and Noble.
Eventually, l became disenchanted with my Nook because the system wasn’t all that easy to navigate, it wasn’t very fast with downloads, I disliked how the books looked on the screen. It also lacked what seemed like common sense to me: a button that would actually bring up the virtual keyboard. I gave my Nook to our daughter, and went back to buying actual tangible books, again.
After the iPads came out, I started eyeing them, doing some research. I went to the Apple store to test drive iPads, talked to the sales people, asked about how I could write a book on one. I figured if I could write a book on it, I could justify the price. So I talked to my writer friends who had iPads: “Can you write a book on it?”
“Well, no,” said Hilary.
“Up, sorry, not yet,” said her husband, Jeff. “But hey, it’s great for email.”
“Nope,” said Nancy. “But wow, now I can get online regardless of where I am.”
But my friend Julie, a screenwriter, said she could edit a script from her iPad and that actors were using iPads for memorizing and reading from scripts, that directors were able to view dailies from the film they had shot that day. She said she had downloaded a couple of cookbooks onto her ibooks app and took her iPad with her to the grocery store and bought the ingredients from her ebook recipes. In other words, she considers the iPad to be transformative, particularly when you consider the thousands of apps, many of them free, which enable you to use the iPad in new ways.
So, for Christmas of 2011, I begged Santa for an iPad and Christmas morning there it was, under the tree in that tidy Apple box. Santa also brought me a portable keyboard for it. Okay, I’ve been using my iPad for six months now. Gripes? No USB port. Pros? Everything else. It’s the best gizmo I’ve ever owned.
I take it with me to the gym and while on the treadmill, read any of the books I’ve downloaded, check my email, approve comments on the blog, and surf my favorite Internet sites. When I travel, I use ATT’s network to do everything. I love reading books on this marvel. Everything is easy, effortless, not hard on the eyes. I can read in bed. I can also download PDF files to my ibooks app and read those when I feel like it. I can walk outside – or sit in my office – bring up the free night sky app and see where the stars are positioned right then. I can press my free Flipboard app and see if there are new posts on the blogs I enjoy. I can press my free Pulse app and read the news from any number of sources.
A few months after I got my iPad, I started reading stories about the miserable conditions for Chinese workers who put these gizmos together. I had seconds thoughts about my new best friend. Then I read that Apple was trying to correct what had gone wrong in those factories, for those workers. This story drove home the point that we may be living now in a version of Blade Runner, a Philip K Dick masterpiece, where corporations own the world.
I still love my iPad. It surpasses the Kindle and the Nook as an e-reader and really is a minicomputer and camera and tech marvel rolled into one. But it worries me that such techie beauties are created by corporations that take advantage of workers in other countries who earn peanuts of what any of these gizmos cost.
I can probably write a book on my iPad, using mac’s word system and my portable keypad. One friend told me about Scrivener, a word processing program that will work on an iPad. I’m going to try the free version first. But do I really need it? When I travel, I have my MacAir. When I’m home, I have my iMac. You see what I mean? Once you go Mac, you rarely go back – to Windows in all its permutations, to Internet Explorer, to all those security updates with Norton, MacAfee, etc. I’m a happy mac person who hopes Apple does the right thing in China.