Thursday, January 12, 2012

Into the Abyss: Review of Tablet Reading

Despite my tech addiction, I swore I’d never convert to an e-reader. I found comfort in the practice of turning pages, found character in a worn book and was entranced by the cozy sensation of my overflowing bookshelves. But Christmas morning, I unwrapped a beautiful, sleek and posh iPad 2 along with a gift card to the App Store. While I contemplated buying some games or apps with the free cash, I couldn’t contain myself when I saw that the book I’d been craving – In the Garden of the Beasts – was available for download and instant gratification.

As the book downloaded – in only a matter of seconds – I glanced back to look at my bookshelf crammed with warped books, spines swelling from my habit of dog-earing and carelessly spilling coffee onto pages. “Just this once, I promise,” I silently apologized.

Aside from being able to instantly access any book of choice when on the go, I love the ability to look up a name or word from within the book. If you’ve ever read an Erik Larson book, then you know his diction is delicious. Larson makes words dance in ways I wasn’t aware they could, and I love that I can tap a word while reading to read its various definitions. And since In the Garden of the Beast features a lengthy roster of characters, I find it useful to refresh my memory and look up historical figures using Wikipedia integration without disrupting the story.

But I do have some complaints. Reading on an iPad feels a lot like reading on the computer. Though I sport glasses for working on a computer, my eyes are still resilient enough to escape the lenses while reading books. However, since the iPad’s screen glares and features a stark white background, I’m forced to retrieve my glasses each time I indulge in some more reading.

Like a preferred plush animal of a young child, I love my books hard. I’m at times reckless with them, dripping coffee and smudging chocolate on its pages, tossing the book into a cluttered bag that mercilessly bends the pages into awkward positions. I also habitually fall asleep while reading, often waking up the next morning to find my book fallen on the floor or smashed under my pillows. But with the iPad 2, I have to take care when toting it along or reading in bed. I must gingerly place it in a safe and secure place where I know no harm will come to it. It’s a bit of a burden compared to my normal routine. I also admit that I miss the slight din of cracking a book’s spine and the smell of the pages as I quickly strum my thumb along page edges.

With the iPad 2, I don’t feel the same escape I typically find when reading a good book. When I have a book I love, I feel myself melting away into its pages. But the iPad 2 also hosts email, Facebook, Twitter, games and an assortment of other convenient distractions that inhibit the sensation of truly being alone with a book. Additionally, I love passing along a good read to friends. With the book lodged on my iPad, I’m sad that I’m unable to be the purveyor of good books.

Overall, the iPad 2 offers convenience for the reader, but it doesn’t offer the same satisfaction. When on the go, or too impatient to shuffle over to the book store, I’ll consider the iPad. But in general, I’ll be spending my cash on the good old thing.

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