Let’s take a moment to note the recent passing of a dear friend. Or, at least, the soon-to-be recent passing. The Kindle, that nearly revolutionary alternative to books, is about to be crushed by an Apple. The Ipad (a name which my wife, and then suddenly everyone else in the world, tells me is quite tacky) will allow the user to download books from Apple’s IBooks store, the shy and nerdy sibling to ITunes.* But as this article points out, the number one reason to buy an Ipad instead of a Kindle is to do anything other than read books. It has games, it has web browsing, it has something called “apps”…the Kindle just tried to kill off the printed book; the Ipad is going after the very concept of reading. Some day soon, all of you devoted book-handlers – the Touchers, the Feelers and, of course, the Sniffers – will look back at the Kindle and remember fondly that feeling of solidity, of heft; you’ll yearn for the tactile interaction of real buttons and argue that visual artistry does not depend solely on a vast palate of colors. It’s like the simple black and white beauty of Citizen Kane compared to Avatar. Of course, you can actually watch Citizen Kane on the Ipad.
Still, the possibilities ascribed to these devices seems a bit overwrought. I mean, I’m still waiting for the Iphone to change my life (it would probably help if I bought one, but to do that, I’d first have to change my life enough to be able to afford a $500 telephone, thus defeating the purpose of the exercise). The Slate.com Political Gabfest podcast, which I allow into my weekly rotation with grave suspicions, keeping one eye on the silver all the while, noted the coincidental timing of the Ipad launch and President Obama’s State of the Union address and asked, in that caressing-the-goatee, deep-think style Slate likes to adopt, which was more important. Well, here’s an easy way to measure relative importance: when Steve Jobs and an army of Manhattanite geeks invade another country and install Genius Bars where once were chicken coops and goat pens, then, yes, the toys they produce can be considered to have global impact. Until then, it’s just something else to distract teenagers while they’re driving mom’s car.
As I often tell my kids, “You two fight it out. I’m going to go read a book.”
*In an attempt to force Apple into adhering to the rules of grammar, at least to the limited extent to which they apply in marketing, I am now pronouncing these products as they are spelled, with a short “i” as in “it”, thereby removing any stress from the second syllable. If Steve Jobs doesn’t like it, he can damn well insert a hyphen, so to speak.