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E-books, the iPad and publishing

March 8, 2011


It seems that many authors have different views with respect to the functionality of tablets and e-books. One thing bloggers, journalists and tech-heads all agree is that the way we read has drastically changed in contemporary times. Instead of ordering a book online and waiting weeks for shipping, you can order that same book online and read it instantaneously. John Naughton, journalist for the Guardian, reflects on his almost religious experiences reading the economic and current affairs magazine the Economist. Naughton describes how this experience was one of ‘immersion’ during a weekly appointment where he would fully engage with the printed text. He believed this experience was impossible to replicate. Apparently Naughton’s reading experience has changed as he now views the Economist each week on his iPad.

The tablets have been a success for those who have access to the technology. Michael Bhaskar’s blog highlights the poor internet resources for those living in South Africa and closes with the suggestion that the iPad and e-books could change the way the developing world is educated. However he does not put forward any evidence for this nor does he put forward a development model. While this argument, that tablets can enhance the education of people in poorer countries, is popular I think Bhaskar needed to be more persuasive in his argument.

On functionality, Peter Kirn argues on his blog that the iPad is a closed device allowing Apple to hold ultimate control in content and which limits user innovation. Kirn believes the iPad’s reliance on iTunes and its custom made dock connection allow for an Apple technology monopoly over what is regarded as a revolutionary medium. It seems that Apple’s dominance in providing music, books, movies, apps and hardware to its large Mac-using clientele is not only making Apple a lot of money but also limiting the user’s choice. The iPad is an exclusive product in the sense that the user can only use Apple programs.

An interesting piece of opinion within the discussion of the iPad and e-books is that the tablet revolution should not involve traditional publishers and printers. The availability of books on this medium has lead to the belief that the newspaper can also live on with this technology. The point put forward on Simsblog is that printers (as in the profession) will want to keep the conventional style of a periodical, shift it on to a tablet and charge people money for it. The whole point of an iPad, as the blog argues, is innovation not stagnation.

Having read all the required readings I felt that the move from traditional print to digital is a move that will take some adjusting. Johan Lehrer argues technology is “constantly making it easier for us to perceive the content”. So the tablet is making it easier for us to read. Whilst I agree with this I see no reason why the printed book won’t stick around.

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