Thursday, February 10, 2011

Handy, but only virtual

Stevie Cameron
Globe and Mail , Feb. 08, 2011

Four months ago, when I received an iPad for my birthday I immediately fell in love with the iPad and couldn’t wait to start downloading books.
I have always been crazy about computers, electronic gadgets and new software, but this was – and remains – the best. I was enchanted by how inexpensive books were, even new bestsellers, and how easy it was to buy them. I loved watching the pages downloading and the covers lined up on the screen. To see my own new book, in bright colour, was a thrill.

 But it’s funny. I’m actually not so crazy about reading books on the iPad. It’s great when you’re travelling. It’s great as a diary, it’s great for e-mail, writing speeches, making lists, showing photographs and for listening to old rock ’n’ roll on the elliptical machine at the gym. Virtual cookbooks are handy, as you always have recipes with you (if you carry your iPad everywhere, as I do), but the actual reading? No, I want the open book, the pages splattered with butter and flour and marked up. If you have to turn the iPad, the pages shift, which becomes maddening. And in bed at night, or curled up in front of a fire, or waiting in the doctor’s office, I want a real book, not a virtual one.

This became clear when I decided to buy my favourite book this season, As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto, as well as another treat, In Tearing Haste: Letters Between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor.
That’s the moment I realized the iPad was wrong for book reading. I just couldn’t bear to read these electronically. I needed to go to a beautiful bookstore and buy the hard copy and hold it and admire the type and the feel of it. Real books mean wandering around the store, talking to the owner about what’s new and great, reading a few pages, buying it, carrying it with me.

My iPad works hard enough for me that it doesn’t need to download books. Friends love their Kindles and Kobos and I understand, but my heart leaps with the actual book, not the virtual one. And surely I’m not the only one.

Stevie Cameron is author of On the Farm: Robert William Pickton and the Tragic Story of Vancouver’s Missing Women.

1 comment:

Tim Blackmore said...

Interesting. This exactly mirrors my experience. Virtual is excellent for travelling and I'll always have some form of reader with me when I'm on the move, but once I'm home it ends up consigned to a dusty corner because physical books are so much handier and pleasant to read if I'm staying in one place.