A Horrible Thing I Saw The Other Day

@jamesscottbell

“I wasn’t trying to predict the future. I was trying to prevent it.” – Ray Bradbury on Fahrenheit 451

The other day I saw a horrible thing.
It wasn’t a traffic accident on the 101 Freeway, of which there are many on any given L.A. day.
It was not a wounded soldier or a bar fight or a new reality television show.
Nevertheless, what I saw twisted my stomach and made me groan for the future of our kind.
It was an otherwise lovely afternoon and I was walking along the sidewalks of Hollywood Boulevard. As usual it was awash in activity––people of all shapes, sizes, colors, tempers, faiths and costumes sauntering along the street of dreams.
As I am wont to do I was watching faces.
I love watching faces. Each one is a potential character or storyline.
I was content.
I was engaged.
And then I stopped, recoiling in horror.
Okay, it was only an inward recoil. But there it was, as real as the hardened gum on Dick Powell’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
A woman was pushing a stroller. In the stroller was a young child, a boy of perhaps two years.
The boy was holding a digital device. His head was down and his fingers tapped the screen like a mad reporter on deadline.
I thought: I have met dystopia and it is us.
In 1953 Ray Bradbury penned an essay for The Nation about science fiction. He began by describing a scene in his novella Fahrenheit 451 where the fireman comes home to find his wife in a virtual stupor, an earpiece attached to her head. She was not reading, for that was forbidden. Aural stimuli were being pumped into her docile brain.
For Ray Bradbury, that kind of passivity was one of the most awful scenarios imaginable.
Bradbury then recounted how he had been out for a stroll recently and saw a couple walking their dog. The woman held a transistor radio with an earpiece (back then, a rather ponderous and rare piece of equipment) plugged into her auditory canal.
The husband, Bradbury noted, might as well not have been there.
Bradbury expressed his astonishment that his prediction of a rather gloomy future was happening much faster than he supposed.
And this was the early 50s! What would the late, great RB think of any given restaurant today? Couples, trios, whole families sitting at the same table, heads bent over phones or tablets, hardly exchanging a word?
And now this, here on Hollywood Boulevard. Is this our future? Will it be made up of little boys and girls who had iPads in their strollers, now all grown up into humorless, unimaginative technocrats unable to engage the real world?
I remember feeling some of this same revulsion when I first saw a DVD player in a motorized vehicle. It was a desert night and I was driving back to L.A. after some event. I pulled up alongside a dark SUV and saw a small monitor playing a cartoon for the denizens of the back seat.
This was a night when the stars could be gazed upon in wonder and the mysteries of desert shadows might stir the imagination.
But not for the children in the car! For them the desert was a bright and colorful Looney Tune with a funny roadrunner and a rather frustrated coyote. 
I’m fearful. I fear that digitized babies are not engaging their world or training their imaginations. I fear they will grow up unable to engage a long-form piece of writing, let alone real people in actual, meaningful conversation.
Am I overreacting?
Let me throw it out there to you, Zoners. Am I engaged in the sort of fogey-ism that is a part of every generation?
Or, like Ray Bradbury, should we be truly alarmed?

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Fixing the Tool

A computer is at its core a tool. For a writer, it can be the mother ship of tools. It can be a research tool, a production tool, and a communications tool, among other things. If it suddenly goes wobbly, it can be a real problem that leads to other problems such as expense, downtime, and inconvenience. There is a way around it, if your mind is clear and your hand is steady and your heart is brave: you can, in many circumstances, fix it yourself.
I am the IT guy in our house. We — my wife, my daughter, and my bad self — each have our own computer. It goes without saying of course that we all share our respective machines with our cat (those of you who are owned by cats know exactly what I mean). My daughter, just to complicate matters and enable me to broaden my scope of knowledge, has an iMac. Since I spend the most time on a computer of anyone in the house it has fallen to me to be the fixer of all things technological. To that end, I have established the “three-minute rule” of computer aggression: if you can’t get the computer to do what you want it to do in three minutes, stop doing what you are doing and come and get me. Don’t sit there for three hours hitting the “Print” button because you’re going to get a surprise when your printer decides to start printing, yes indeed. You’ll see exactly how many times you hit the print button (“Thirty-two copies of the lyrics to the new One Direction single, huh?”) in due time.
How did I acquire my expertise, you might ask? I don’t have any. I have simply become good at looking things up and following directions. I am able as a result to resolve most resolvable computer problems with three things which you probably have as well: 1) internet access; 2) a computer or smart phone that works; and 3) the ability to follow simple directions. I started doing my own troubleshooting due to a combination of circumstances. For one, I don’t like strangers coming over, which precludes people in golf shirts driving up in vans to help me out. For another, I am somewhat tight-fisted when it comes to spending money to repair things that I should be able to repair myself. And for a third, I don’t like My Precious out of my sight for more a few minutes, which removes the possibility of my laptop spending the night with someone else.
I am totally serious.  I discovered this latent skill when, a few years ago (when all three of us, including my poor, deprived daughter, had PCs), I awoke one morning and discovered that all of our computers were displaying the “blue screen of death.” I figured out the problem was — a Windows update that had been automatically sent to all three computers did not get along with something that was already on them — but that didn’t help me with the main problem, which was how to repair each and all of the computers in the house. Fortunately, I had a smart phone. I did a search for “how to restore service to a computer displaying the blue screen of doom” and got the answer — do a “system restore” — and instructions for doing it. I had all of the computers working in a half-hour.

I will confess that doing this makes me feel useful.  I was having a delightful breakfast with some people at Bouchercon a few weeks ago when one very nice lady’s iPad froze up. I don’t own an iPad, but I fearlessly asked her to pass me her temporarily useless tool. I took out my phone, googled “How do you unfreeze an iPad?” got the answer, and…well, unfroze her iPad by pushing two buttons. A friend called me a few weeks ago because her daughter had a paper due the next day and couldn’t access Internet Explorer. Problem solved. But there is nothing special about me. There are folks who will attempt to fix their dishwasher utilizing a Google search (yeah, I did that too) but won’t even attempt to jump start their computers in the same manner. If you are going to do this, it helps to be as exact as possible when making your query. Googling “why did my pc just pass a sandcastle?” for example, will not be as effective a query as “why is my Lenovo B570 with Windows 7 displaying everything upside down?” It might be important to get an answer and use it five minutes ago, however, whether you are downloading pictures off of Tumblr or reading Facebook news posts or just wrapping up twenty more pages of a manuscript, when, God forbid, your computer freezes.  If you can frame a descriptive question halfway decently and follow directions a step at a time, Enterprise-style (boldly going where you haven’t gone before) you can very often help yourself. Some folks even post YouTube videos showing how certain procedures, such as installing new memory cards, are performed.  Most of the time the helpful people who post this information will give you an idea as to how difficult the task may be. Sometimes it is as easy as pressing F5, or restarting the computer; sometimes it involves more than that.
Which brings us to our question(s) of the day: When you have a computer problem that doesn’t involve smoke rising from the side vents, what do you do? Do you try to fix it yourself? Do you call a friend? Do you take it into a shop? Or throw it out the window?
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Joining the Revolution

I’ve joined the electronic revolution and purchased an iPhone. Having been resistant for some time, I could no longer avoid the temptation of having the social networks at my fingertips, cool apps to explore, email at the tap of a button, and a personal calendar on hand. Now I can relieve my purse of my pocket-sized appointment book and my emergency Sudoku pad. No longer will I have to fumble for someone’s phone number or wish I could send a photo directly to Facebook. I can do all of these things and more.

And therein rests the problem. The iPhone, like its larger cousin the iPad, is in itself a complete source of entertainment. Miss a favorite TV show? Watch it on your device. Need to look up the nearest pizza palace? Ask Siri. Need to kill time at the doctor’s office? Read a book on iBooks. Or better yet, play a game of Solitaire.

No wonder people’s attention spans are decreasing. It makes me worry for the future of reading. Who will be able to concentrate on finishing an entire novel when so many other activities require less effort?

Thank goodness for teen fiction that captures the interest of our youth and perhaps spurs them on to develop a lifelong reading habit. Because once the older generation who gobbles up our stories in print form dies off, who will be left? Consumers who expect their reading material to arrive in the form of daily excerpts? Will the art of storytelling devolve into single page entries? How can we make reading more attractive to the younger set to compete with iTunes?

Storytelling will always be part of our psyche even if the means of delivery evolves. But as a novelist, I am concerned for the future of our art. Can those of us trained to write lengthy works adapt to the changing marketplace? What if we have no choice? Do we want to write shorter, compelling, quicker prose? Can we compete with smartphones and tablets, or must we join the revolution and change our techniques to suit them? 

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A New Slippery Slope

Advertising in e- books. Are you ready for it? Do you want it? Granted, advertising in a book is not a new idea. There are paperback imprints that in the front or back of one book will place ads for other books which they publish which may be of similar interest to the reader. There was a somewhat short-lived experiment in the early 1970s to place four-color ads for cigarettes in the middle of paperbacks as well. But…advertising in an e-book?

That is the idea currently being floated by Harper UK. As it is currently conceived, such commercial interruptions would be limited to works of non-fiction (apparently because we readers of fiction have such easily derailed attention spans). The example which was presented was that an e-book concerning bird-watching could contain an advertisement for binoculars. You can see where this could go. Imagine the irregularly scheduled commercial in the e-book version of a sex manual. Or an ad for ginsu knives in a true crime book. Given the ever-growing popularity of the iPad (not to mention the Kindle Fire) such a commercial or advertisement could manifest itself in multiple media forms. Would it be a page that you could skip by, or perhaps one of those annoying popups for a movie or commercial product? And make no mistake: such a plan may be limited to non-fiction books at the moment, but if the trial with non-fiction e-books is at all successful, works of fiction will be next.

With that in mind, here is a bit of free advice: if you are fortunate enough to have a major entity, be it a publisher or Amazon or whoever, interested in publishing your work, make it your business to determine how and if your agreement addresses this issue. The argument from the other side may be that such an addition to your work in e-form is part of the content, or form, or your work, and thus falls under the purview and authority of the publisher. If you are in a position to negotiate this point (in other words, you haven’t signed anything yet) there are a number of points to consider. Two of the bigger ones would substance and form. You might object to ads for certain products (alcohol, condoms, and firearms, to name but three examples) or products manufactured or sold by a certain companies (The GAP, Wal-Mart, Progressive Insurance, and McDonalds, to name but a few). You might also have some concerns with regard to how the commercial is presented, or the product portrayed, in Your Book. An even bigger issue, however, concerns who will get the cheddar from the sale of such ad placement. When an ad is placed in your e-book, will your cash register go Ka-ching? Or will the proceeds of such go into the publisher’s coffers to offset the costs of publishing your e-book?
Is this an issue yet? No; but I believe it will be soon. Authors, published and prospective: what do you think about advertising in an e-book? Do you like the idea, or not? Why? And readers. Would you mind an occasional advertisement? Or are you happy to have a place to go that is ad-free?

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The End is Nigh – Read all About it!

We’ve blogged a lot about the challenges and changes in the publishing industry but this week I came to the sad realization that I am going to have to put a stop to an institution I have enjoyed since high school – the daily newspaper delivery. Call it another casualty of the digital age, but I have finally succumbed to grim reality: I don’t read the newspaper like I used to…Not that I don’t read the newspaper, I just don’t physically turn the paper pages anymore.

Since moving to Australia I tried to hold on to the past joys of paper, I really did, but then events conspired to finally make me realize that, yes, even for this home delivery stalwart…the end was nigh.

It came in increments – first was the cling wrap they use to entomb the newspapers here (it requires a Ph.D and more patience than I own to unwrap), then it was the endless rain that still managed to make said entombed paper soggy as mush. Then it was the fact that the newspaper was never delivered until 7:30am, sometimes even 8am, which rendered it utterly useless (I had already read the news online, had breakfast and got the kids ready for school
by then). We also have one of the steepest, longest driveways in the world (see photo – mailbox it over the rise in the upper right hand corner!) – not something you want to trek up in the wee hours of the morning only to discover the newspaper hasn’t come.

Finally there was the content…now, I know many of my Melbournian friends will be in up in arms, but truly, the local newspapers here are pathetic. Filled with tawdry details of scandals involving local footballers and schoolgirls, it was hard to find any decent international news or any opinion that doesn’t sound like it was written by an elementary school kid. We tried changing papers but to no avail. I had to accept the fact that I found Australian news boring.

And so the guillotine fell…

Of course the real reason for the demise of the physical newspaper in our house has been the rise of the digital newspaper equivalent. I subscribe to the New York Times on my iPad and its crossword (one of my obsessions). I can read all the local newspapers online as well as the San Francisco Chronicle (for what that’s worth). I can even indulge my love of low-brow gossip by reading London’s Daily Mail on the web. I also have apps on my iPad for the local ABC and SBS news services, the BBC, CNN, and PBS. Every morning I open the NPR app and listen to the hourly news. I follow that up by opening the BBC app and listening to the BBC world service. So, as you can see, the digital age we live in can cater for all my news-hungry ways!

So why would I keep having the newspaper delivered?Sadly, for many years I have been one of the last holdouts as newspaper circulation has dropped precipitously. Although I love sitting down and thumbing through a fresh newspaper every morning, even I have admitted defeat. Though I cannot forget that there was something visceral about the reading experience that I loved. Unlike reading a newspaper online, there was a sense of a slow, leisurely absorption of the news of the day, rather than the frenetic click and skim approach I now have to many news items. I loved how I used to stumble upon articles that I would have otherwise ignored. That doesn’t happen nearly as often online.

So this week marks the end of an era for me. I just can’t hang on to my newspaper anymore. What about you? Have you cast off the shackles of paper delivered news? Do you have any regrets? Any longings for the old days when you could sit down on a Sunday with a cup of coffee and take your time lifting and turning page after page?
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A Little of This, a Little of That

I visited one of our local Barnes & Noble superstores — one of those two story freestanding buildings that one can get lost in for hours — and was on the receiving end of a mental gut punch. A good portion of the second floor which had formerly been set aside for fiction has been given over to the expanded children’s section. I don’t have anything against children’s books, mind you; if young ones don’t love reading early it’s doubtful they’ll develop even a deep fond for it later — but a lot of what I saw consisted of book-related merchandise (stuffed animals and the like) as opposed to books. What caused the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach (and yes, there’s quite a distance to be traversed before one reaches my pit) was that I recalled a very similar occurrence several years before. There was a popular chain store named Media Play that I used to frequent. I walked into one about a year after digital downloading of music became popular, and found that their music CD section was reduced by forty percent. Media Play, by the way, is no longer in business.

What you will find at Barnes & Noble: signs everywhere you look for the Nook (you might say they‘re in every cranny). And the Nook will be available at your local Wal-Mart beginning Monday October 25. You’ll be able to find the Kobo there as well, along with the Sony e-book Reader and something called the iPad. The battle has been joined.

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Here’s an idea for you: renting e-books. If you can’t afford Ken Follett’s latest book, even as an e-book, rent it for two bucks for two weeks. Pay two bucks, download a DRM-protected file to your Kindle (or Sony Reader, or Nook, or iPad) and read it. It disappears after two weeks. The provider gets a cut and — yes! — the author and the publisher (if there is one) get royalties as well every time a book is downloaded. Under the traditional library model, nobody gets anything when a book is borrowed from the library. I remember a few years ago when I went to borrow a book about a Da Vinci code or something or other and was on a waiting list behind 288 people. If you don’t want to wait to read it, then for a couple of bucks you won’t have to. Reader’s groups would love this. You wouldn’t need a public, tax-supported entity to sustain it, either. I don’t see libraries loving this idea (or jumping on it (some libraries offer audio book and e-book downloads, but the selection is paltry) but its meant as an alternative, not a substitute, to libraries. And suppose you really like the book, and want to keep it? Your rental fee could count, in full or in part, toward the purchase price.
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A new site to bookmark and check daily: Len Wanner’s The Crime Of It All The Crime Of It All
The Crime Of It All

. It’s devoted to mystery and crime fiction. Worth a look and a read. Repeatedly.

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And speaking of reading: I’m juggling two books. One is NASHVILLE CHROME by Rick Bass, a fictional treatment of the history of country music’s Brown Family. It’s a wonderfully told cautionary tale about the downside of getting what you wish for. The other is BOOK OF SHADOWS by Alexandra Sokoloff, a beautifully dark tale by one of my favorite authors and people.

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It must be love, Ebook love..

You’ll have to bear with me as this is my first effort blogging on the iPad and it feels rather weird – but I have to get used to it as my family and I are embarking on a two month camping odyssey taking in most of the national parks in the Western United States. Tomorrow we head to Sequoia National Park and then Yosemite to start things off. Although I hope to be blogging from the road, there will be a few Mondays where we will be of the grid – but I am hopeful that my trusty iPad will keep me on track. Let’s just call it an adventure.

The one thing I do know for sure is that I am now an official ebook convert. I have to confess I initially viewed ebooks with trepidation. I was fully wedded to my paper book world – until now. Yes, it’s official I’m in love…okay and perhaps just a little addicted to my iPad.

It’s been only a couple of weeks and I have already amassed over 30 iBooks, 5 kindle ebooks and 28 Barnes and Noble ebooks. Now most of these are freebies I admit but still, it’s getting to be a bit of an addiction – believe me I am trying to be restrained! I just can’t help myself. I have also found myself trolling through the free ebook titles on all the sites – hey, you just never know when I might want to read that historical western or that paranormal erotica… Interestingly enough my major worry with ebooks used to be how to differentiate between the legitimate versus the self published but now I am actually browsing I find it is easy to see the distinction ( call me a snob but I haven’t downloaded any books from smash words as yet). To me the fact that publishers are giving me the chance to read titles like John’s No Mercy is great marketing and already I can see how free ebook samples can lure new readers in.

I also love how I get to carry a mini library wherever I go. On a recent flight I could keep my kids entertained with a variety of Beatrix Potter books complete with illustrations and it felt reassuring to know that I could read a number of other books in an instant if they wanted me too. In the past I have been weighed down by all the books I have had to carry.

Okay so enough of the love fest – what excites me is how technology has reinvigorated my love of books and, even more importantly, my children are just as excited as me. The reading experience has not been lost at all – just made a teeny bit cooler. So what piece of technology has done the same for you? Do you remember the thrill of the Walkman or watching your first VHS movie? What technology do you think will help reignite the passion for reading?

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My New Toy!

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

I’ve been giddy with excitement since Friday when I took possession of my new iPad and, although I haven’t bought all the apps or go totally crazy in the iBooks store, I have to admit I’m hooked. I bought it mainly because I wanted an e-reader and since the iPad offers both iBooks as well as the Kindle, it was a no-brainer for me. I also get to feed my NYT crossword addiction! Since my family and I are about to embark on a two month camping/national park odyssey the iPad is also going to be a much lighter (and let’s face it much cooler) option than lugging round a bag full of books, DVDs, DVD player, laptop etc.. The only tricky thing will be working out how to blog with it on the road.

Now I’m an old-fashioned Luddite when it comes to most technology but I have to say, having spent just over two days with my iPad, I really do think that it marks the start of some great changes to come. We’ve blogged long and hard about the whole e-book phenomenon but I know once my parents are like ‘this is cool’ the world must be changing! (for the record my parents are antiquarian book collectors so the mere fact that they are even remotely impressed says something). So here’s my initial verdict on the e-book capabilities of the iPad:

  • As my husband had already bought and loaded my own books on the iBookshelf it was very cool to see my books in e-book format 🙂
  • I like the fact that you just turn the page in an intuitive way that mimics the feel of reading a paper book. The colors and picture resolution are great (Winne the Pooh was already loaded) and I can see me reading an e-book to my children without feeling disconnected from the physical experience – so far it feels just as cozy reading to them from the iPad (despite the fact they fight over who gets to touch the screen and turn the page).
  • I liked the iBooks store but I confess I wasn’t overwhelmed by it. Searching is a bit laborious and there were a lot of titles I couldn’t find (including some of my fellow TMZers) so I think this will take some time to become optimal.
  • It was, however, way, way,way too easy to buy a book. I think I downloaded 10 free classic books and 5 paid books it about 10 minutes (seriously they may need to have an ‘e-books anonymous’ society for me!) But this is great news for authors. I can well imagine publishers vying for advertising/space on the ‘featured titles page’ once the iBook store becomes a bigger player in the market.
  • Which leads me to what I think will be a great ‘game changer’ – once Amazon and iBooks start eroding the power of big chains like Barnes & Noble I can imagine publishers will be able to diversify and niche market some of their lists better than they can presently (at the moment my understanding is they have very much a ‘will B&N buy this title’ mentality when it comes to acquisitions).
  • I was extremely excited to be able to download many of the historical books I use for research so I can read them in a portable format. I used to have to troll through them on my laptop which was very cumbersome.
  • Many publishers already have their own apps so readers can go directly to them (My publisher, Penguin USA, for instance, already has one) which is great (though not much different to what’s already out there on the web) but I can see scope for these apps to be expanded which can only help authors.
  • Already there are some amazingly cool apps that have created terrific visual/interactive content for books (Alice for iPad for example) and I look forward to many more that attract new readers (never a bad thing!)

So all in all, I give the iPad a big thumbs up. It serves my purposes well and has me finally entering the e-book age (which is a miracle in and of itself).

For any of you who have iPads what’s your verdict? Are there any new apps/developments that you think could really improve the e-reading experience? I can’t wait for historical books to have links embedded in them so I can really get the most out of my research (video links, costume designs etc. would be way cool). I was also thinking that our own JRM could produce a great ‘chicken army’ app…So what about you all, any great book app ideas???

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The Future of Reading…and Everything Else

James Scott Bell

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t. – Mark Twain

Twain’s words remind me of one of the formative movies of my youth, The Time Machine. In this version of the H. G. Wells story, the narrator (Wells himself, played by Rod Taylor) goes far into the future where he discovers the Eloi. They are placid people, living without passion or curiosity–and therefore powerless victims of the Morlocks, who reside underground.

What disgusts Wells is the discovery that the Eloi have given up reading. Their books have crumbled into dust. They have no repository of collective knowledge, except in a museum they don’t frequent.

Thousands of years of building up civilization, gone! So that they can become what they are, virtually mindless beings who spend their days seeking pleasure (only to be enslaved, and eventually eaten, by the Morlocks)

In an essay in the L.A. Times entitled “The Lost Art of Reading,” Times book editor David L. Ulin reflects on the increasing difficulty people are having focusing on, and “inhabiting,” the world of a book:

Such a state is increasingly elusive in our over-networked culture, in which every rumor and mundanity is blogged and tweeted. Today, it seems it is not contemplation we seek but an odd sort of distraction masquerading as being in the know. Why? Because of the illusion that illumination is based on speed, that it is more important to react than to think, that we live in a culture in which something is attached to every bit of time.”

We know this to be true. With a smartphone and/or an iPad or iTouch, or any other similar item to come down the pike, one never has to face a moment of silence or contemplation again.

So what does this portend for the future of reading? And writing long form narrative fiction? What, in fact, does it portend for the future, period?

I’m asking you. What do you think?

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The iPad: Is it really all that?

by Michelle Gagnon

ibooks_hero_20100403.jpgI’ll start by saying that I don’t completely understand the Apple mystique, in fact I’m a little perplexed by their cult following. I appreciate my iPod and iPhone as much as the next person (although AT&T easily takes the prize for the worst network). But in my experience, some of the Apple products leave much to be desired. My husband finally convinced me to switch from a PC to a Mac last year–which has absolutely been a mixed bag. Some of the programs, like iPhoto and Scrivener, I love. Yet I can’t fathom why there isn’t a blogging program for Macs that holds a candle to Live Writer. On the plus side: fewer viruses and crashes. But I sorely miss Microsoft Outlook.

So with all the hoopla surrounding the release of the iPad, I was skeptical. It looked big, for one thing. What I like about the Kindle and the Sony Reader is that they manage to mimic the experience of reading a book. You open something, hold it in both hands. In comparison the iPad appears unwieldy, roughly the size of a dinner plate. I couldn’t imagine holding this big flat thing and reading off it.

But then a friend brought one over for me to test drive. Wow. It has all the features of the Kindle, Nook, and Sony Reader. It’s light and comfortable to hold. The pages actually appear to turn, which is a neat trick. And that’s just the beginning.

There’s been a lot of chatter about eBooks and what they mean for the industry. Most of the debate has centered around issues like the recent Amazon/Macmillan pricing standoff, and what kind of ebook rights authors should be getting. There are those who claim that within a decade print books will be a rarity, limited editions published exclusively for collectors. Others say that’s an exaggeration, books are here to stay.

What’s been lost in the debate (because until now it was largely irrelevant) was how books and the entire reading experience could change. The Kindle and the Sony Reader were great, but they basically just enabled a reader to experience a book the same way they always had. The main benefit was that the font size could be adjusted, and the reader could hold a full library. Neither offered true interactivity, a bridge between books and other media.

That bridge is exactly what the iPad provides.

Check out this video of the iPad version of Alice in Wonderland (but be forewarned, it’s a little frenetic. I’d advise against clicking on the link if you’re prone to seizures).

Wow. Seeing that, I finally grasped the iPad’s potential. For one thing, it could revolutionize children’s books (although I’m hard pressed to name a parent who would hand a relatively fragile $500 device over to their child). And for graphic novels, this is a complete game changer. aliceforipad041610b.jpg

On my book tour for THE GATEKEEPER, I assembled a PowerPoint display of real-life settings from the book and other materials to provide a frame of reference for readers. Just imagine if that information could actually be incorporated into the text itself.

It reminded me of reading The Da Vinci Code while vacationing in Costa Rica. I found it maddening that when so much of the plot was focused on specific paintings and statues, there were no images included in the text. With the iPad, a book could include those, plus links to video interviews with the author, related sources- really, the sky is the limit.

I’ll save a discussion of other iPad features for another day, including apps (movies look amazing on it, though, in case you’re curious). But I have to say, I’m a convert. I’ll probably wait for the inevitable price drop. When that comes, (and I suspect we’ll be seeing a huge decline in prices for eReaders across the board soon), Apple could corner the publishing market the same way that they basically appropriated the music industry. And along the way, they might end up changing what constitutes a book.


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