The Culture of Reading

I read a lot of books. I hate bad books. For every book that is on my Shelfari profile, there was probably about 1 book that I started, read 50 pages, and then quit, because it wasn't any good. I've heard that a personal library shouldn't consist of the books you've read - it should consist of the books you want to read. Sounds reasonable... if you're wealthy. I'm not. So for the moment, I have to rely on the public library as my personal library.

(from Flickr user Troy Holden)

For all the hype surrounding the iPad, I figured I'd throw in my own two cents. On this question, Daniel makes a few notable points:

Two features of the iPad have started to impress me. The first is the iBook Store. As someone who likes reading books and also tends to live in places with rather brutal winters, the ability to be up at around 1 a.m. and decide I want to buy a new book and start reading it immediately is very tempting. There’s also the utility of the iPad for higher education students who have to buy a lot of books and lug them around.
I think the 'instant gratification' phenomenon is, like Daniel says, very temping. It’s also potentially dangerous. Unlike newspapers or magazines, books aren't quite as time-sensitive. There's really no compelling reason why anyone can't wait a day or two before starting a new book. People also have a strange psychological drive to finish books that they own (I certainly behave this way), even if the books aren't any good. This is hugely problematic, because, as I said, I hate bad books. When I borrow books, I don’t feel bad about quitting 50 pages in. When I own them, I feel like I’ve wasted my money if I don't finish it.

Then there’s the question of e-textbooks. This is a hot-button for me, as I find the textbook market exploitive. Now, if e-versions of books could somehow drive down prices, I might support it; but my fear is that the opposite will occur. Under the current dead-tree textbook racket, students purchase textbooks, they use them for a semester, and then they dump them back onto the secondary market. Flooding the market with used textbooks drives down prices, as it should. E-textbooks are likely going to be non-transferrable and illiquid as assets. Textbook publishers have been trying to kill the secondary market for as long as it’s existed. This might finally be their shot.

I’m with Adam Frucci over at Gizmodo on the attractiveness of this device. It’s something I think I can live without.

4 comments:

    I do covet the iPad but I expect I'll wait until a 2nd or 3rd version comes out. Like you I've yet to adopt e-reading. I have huge stacks of books in my guest room, some read, some not. The latter are wonderful things to have as it means there is always something new I can delve into when I'm ready to start a new book.

    I also share books with friends on a regular basis. It's much easier to pass paperbacks back and forth than digital devices. For travel I think an e-reader would be superb (assuming we're allowed to have it on in-flight, one never knows these days) as I'd no longer have to carry the weight of the 5 books I usually shove into my backpack on trips. But for my personal & lending library there is something to be said for dead trees (or preferably paper from a greener resource.)

     
    On January 29, 2010 Brian Phelps said...

    I must say I love the instant downloads on my Kindle DX. The samples of the books you can download allow me to read usually the first 10-15 pages of the book before I buy it.

    As for the iPad, until it has e-ink, I wouldn't want to use it for reading books. Short articles and blogs would be fine. If it is anything like reading on my iPhone or computer screen, the eye strain would be annoying for reading anything longer. While the color graphics and interactivity are cool, the e-ink makes a big difference when it comes to reading.

    I do like to share books after reading them which is a big drawback on ereaders. Even if I could share them electronically, I don't know many people that have an ereader.

     

    I'm a bibliophile that wants the physical book -- the smell, the cover art, something that doesn't run on batteries and can take a beating or a coffee spill. But that definitely isn't everyone, and so I'll be interested to see how the iPad (c'mon, iSlate or even iTab would have been better names) works for less picky readers.

    Like you, I hate it when I read a bad book, and I'm more inclined to keep reading if I happen to have purchased the book. Re-reading is also pretty common, and the books I end up keeping (as opposed to off-loading at Half Priced Books) are those that have re-reading potential or reference value. If I had an iPad, I may be more inclined to purchase shorter new books or books that "everyone is talking about" under the assumption that it would be cheaper, and I wouldn't face the agonizing decision about ditching the book halfway or when I'm done with it. An iPad would be an escape from paying $25 for that new, 150-page hardcover that I simply have to have.

    The tablet is taking a beating on most tech blogs, and the Gizmodo post really points out what are HUGE shortcomings. But I think we need to give this thing a year or so from its first sale date to really gauge whether tablets will catch on.

     

    Rob, I'm with you on the danger of textbooks but I also think it's not an impossible danger. You raised a good point when you said that lots of smart kids won't buy into the e-textbook market but I also think there are a lot of students out there (me included) who are pretty bitter about the used textbook market. A lot of the time you can't even recoup a third of the book's cost. I think that fact will attract a lot of students to using the iPad.