Sunday, 14 February 2010


Steve Jobs, the man behind Apple’s innovation train has yet again revealed to the rest of us a glimpse of the future. This month Jobs introduced Apple’s latest product the iPad. Putting the iPad’s ton of technology in a nutshell, it is basically a touch screen tablet computer crammed into a device the size and thickness of a notepad. Being a technology enthusiast myself this piece of plastic had me highly excited, I mean anytime Jobs is set to reveal a product it is big news. Like it or not he has changed the way we listen to music after all.

The reveal was impressive and the features of the iPad superb, but is it just me or did anyone else feel a slight pang of concern when the eBook reader application was presented?

The eBook, the digital book, the book of the future made up of compressed and digitalised words reduced to bits and bytes of memory. A technology allowing us to carry thousands of books in one device. Not a fairly new technology, in the sense that eBook readers have been around for a couple of years now but haven’t proved to be very popular until Amazon introduced its Kindle.

Kindle is an eBook reader that is equipped with an Internet connection allowing you to access the book selling Goliath’s website and download any book you desire in mere seconds.
Following in Amazon’s footsteps Jobs has created his own version, fit it snuggly in the iPad and sprinkled some Apple magic on it (the magic being his wondrous marketing and advertising techniques).

This is all and well, I mean we have all heard the list of benefits. It starts with the space factor and ends with saving the planet yet after going through them I still feel anxious. What happens to the book? Should we give it a new name? The ‘original book’ or the ‘paper book’ maybe? If Jobs is to do to the book what he did to the CD then my anxiety is justified.

Sometimes technology makes us believe that we cannot live without the features it provides. That we absolutely need it. Amazon’s data suggest that Kindle users buy more books than they did before owning the device, but does that necessarily mean they are reading more? It is true we can carry thousands of books in one device but while we can listen to hundreds of songs in an hour we cannot do the same with reading, so why the need to carry them all? Efficient yes, but a complete replacement? I find that hard to imagine.

The image of reading in bed does not conjure up myself curled up with a Kindle or an iPad. And although the sound of pages being turned is an option on your device it remains a simulation. And what of the smell of paper that wafts as you feel the texture of the pages being turned in anticipation of reaching the end? I am sure Jobs will soon think of something to shut me up. Yet the fact remains the way we read, the act of reading will be changed forever.

I am a collector of rare books but in the near future I will be a collector of books for all of them will at one point become rare. As for Kindle and iPad helping save the planet, buying used books could too, there is no shame in that.

Yes I dread living in a paperless world. I do not harbour the fear of a publisher that spurs from profit and copywriting concerns. My fear is that of a reader that has held a book in her hands throughout her life and cannot fathom ever saying goodbye.

This article was published in The Gulf Today on 14th Feb, 2010.

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