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March 2011
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Reading E

Lynn sends me an Unshelved comic that, while it may not entirely reflect my experience of reading on the iPad, sure does resonate.

I read Turkle's book on the iPad and I've started The Information (so far I'm only getting books in which the iPad itself has at least a bit part).

Here's what I like: 

I can write notes of any length (or, at least, I haven't hit a word limit yet).  Since I have to type them (which is easy enough with the wireless keyboard) they're more legible than my handwriting ever is, and I don't have to squeeze them into the margins of the page.  In a print book that is really engaging, this sometimes gets ludicrously messy.  I really like that you can then go to the front and see a list of all of the places that you've underlined or noted and go right to them.

With the case that Marian gave me, I can easily prop it up and read while I'm eating lunch.

I love that you can touch an endnote number and go right to it and come back.

What I don't like: 

Blocking the passage that I want to highlight or attach a note to is very awkward. More than half the time it takes me two or three trys to get it to stick. This interrupts the flow of the reading. Very different from just having a pen in hand to underline or annotate as you go along.

There's no variation in marks.  You can highlight or attach a note, but that's it.  When I'm reading I underline, use check marks and circles and stars and a whole iconography that I've developed over 50 years of reading and writing in books.  I feel bereft. 

I was startled, when I started The Information, at how much I didn't like the fact that it looks exactly like the Turkle book.  It's a different book.  It ought to look and feel different.


The technology will get better.  We are so much in the early stages of this.  No doubt a scholar in Alexandria who was used to papyrus scrolls was very frustrated the first time he came across a codex.  This'll never take off, he would've thought.

Still, it's hard for me to imagine that an electronic version could ever be better than the equivalent print book.  It can be different.  It can do different things, and be much better at those things.  Josie loves the electronic version of The Monster at the End of This Book.  But when she goes to that she's playing with a toy, she's not reading a book.  Not for a moment does she think that it's equivalent to reading the book (which she also loves).  They're different experiences.  Both worthwhile, but fundamentally different.

I'm trying to imagine the technology getting to the point where I would prefer the electronic version of a print book.  But unless the "book" does different things, I can't see why I would -- and then it's no longer a "version" of a print book.  It's something else.

I do love that endnote feature, though.