Look at the picture there on the right.
See the stack of books to the right? See the stack of books on the iPad? Which one reminds you of the stories still to be read, the books you want to reread; which one literally occupies a space in your conscience (as well as on your bookshelf)?
But in my experience, when I look at my iPad, I don’t see books. I see an iPad. On the device is Middlemarch, a Jonathan Ames novel, a Charlie Huston mystery, a couple of P.G. Wodehouse books, and a half-dozen nonfiction books I thought I wanted to read once upon a time.
This could just be a sad side effect of the way I consume books: Some people buy and read books on a strictly one-at-a-time basis. Me, I tend to buy three at a time and leave them on the bedside shelf so that I have an array of choices when I finish one book and move to the next. Today I’ll put up Mockingjay and then go back into the final hundred-and-fifty pages of Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. And then I’ll browse my shelf to see what matches my mood, and that’s what I’ll read next.
But I don’t “see” anything to read when I glance at the iPad. And when I open the iPad, I am distracted by the many other applications available on it. So instead of making reading more of a presence in my life, it has the opposite effect: It makes reading just one more media application. Provided I even remember the dozen or so books I have downloaded on the device.
I love e-readers—honest, I do. Before I had the iPad, I read on a first-generation Kindle, which comically ugly and poorly designed, was still a damn sight better than carrying around a satchel full of books and manuscripts. And the iPad’s reader is pretty spiff, as are the other reading apps—GoodReader and Nook—but the iPad (and before it, the Kindle) don’t fit into my head and consciousness in the same way.
Am I alone in this? Or is anyone out there finding that these e-readers make books out of sight and out of mind?