Sunday, August 22, 2010

Leave me alone.

Here is an interesting piece from the NYT, "E-Books Make Readers Less Isolated," AUSTIN CONSIDINE, August 20, 2010.

That's interesting for me because I'm not sure how he means the word, Make:
Make as in a state of being? or Make as in force? Because I may not be a Luddite, but I'm absolutely convinced that almost all convenience technology (pretty much everything developed after 1989) is just a huge pain in my ass.

And this statement from the article makes absolutely no sense at all to me:
“I think, historically, there has been a stigma attached to the bookworm, and that actually came from the not-untrue notion that, if you were reading, you weren’t socializing with other people,” Dr. [Paul] Levinson said. “But the e-reader changes that also because e-readers are intrinsically connected to bigger systems.”
The "not-untrue notion"? So, is he saying that when one is reading, one is not socializing? If he is, then his second statement seems to say that ereaders fail as a reading device when they remain connected to bigger systems. Because is it not untrue that reading quietly to yourself is the antithesis to socializing? Yes, that's what he just said. Aren't you paying attention?
[Not from the article, made up by me]

What'cha reading?

Well, I'm not reading anything now because I'm talking to you. I was reading, 50 Ways to Kill Someone with Your iPad, and I was just finishing the part where it says I can fling my iPad and hit the person in the throat. In fact, all 50 ways in this book seem to involve hitting the offending person in the throat.
And what about this connection to bigger systems as an excuse to interfere with one's quiet time? Is Levinson saying that in addition to the usual nosy people, our ereaders will never let us be? It's bad enough when other people interfere, but now my ereader itself is going to keep me from enjoying my book:

As I'm reading my Chelsea Handler book, my ereader sends these pop-up messages:
"R. Jones of Austin, TX started this book on 8/14 and has already finished it. But you are still on page 161. Don't you like this book? Do you need help with the big words?"

"A. Smith of Cleveland, OH sent this comment about this book: 'Diiiiirtygirl! I'm laughing my ass off!' Like A. Smith, are you laughing your ass off? Tell me how much."
And (getting back the article) what the hell is this supposed to mean?

Debra Jaliman, a dermatologist in Manhattan, said, “We are in a high-tech era and the sleekness and portability of the iPad erases any negative notions or stigmas associated with reading alone.”
What? Books are ugly? I'm looking at a book right now that is both sleek and portable. Look, it's in my hand or in my briefcase or tucked under my arm. How much more portable can you get? And the cover design is beautiful. Or are you that insecure that you need a $700 hunk of plastic to be able to leave your house? It's like saying that your Herm├Ęs bag or your Panerai wristwatch help you to get out of bed in the morning.

If all reading becomes a social event and we can never think deep thoughts about the ideas contained in these books because we are continually sharing our immediate thoughts with others, then what will happen in the future? How will learning evolve when we need each other's comments to form opinions?

Will we even have "True or False" questions on tests in the future? Because of the social nature of learning and the popularity of Facebook, teachers might only feel safe enough to ask whether students Like something:
  1. Fifty million Africans were transported to the Americas during the slave trade and many were tortured by their captors.
    12 students like this.

  2. Millions of Jews, gypsies and homosexuals were sent to concentrations camps during the Nazi regime and many of them were murdered in huge ovens.
    8 students like this.
And then society will have to wonder whether these students meant Like as in agree with the statement or Like as in approve of the actions. And we will never have a restful night's sleep again with our handguns forming uncomfortable lumps under our pillows.

There is no stigma associated with reading a book quietly to yourself. Unless you read something the rest of us find idiotic. If you want people to approach you, get a baby or a dog.
“Strangers constantly ask about it,” Michael Hughes, ... said of his iPad, which he uses to read a mix of novels and nonfiction. “It’s almost like having a new baby.”
Oh, the iPad is like a baby. But it's not a baby, right? Right? Because you would never leave your iPad in the car on a hot day..., but your baby? Well, just read the news for the ruling on that one.

There can only be one reason for the current orgiastic response to the iPad, and that is, to destroy the medium of paper.

I can find no other logic for choosing to read from an ereader based on these comments about sharing or convenience. Except maybe that you read crap. And that some snob laughed at you one day on the subway.

But about feeling less isolated? Aren't you going to listen to music when you read that book on your iPad? So your hands are occupied with you iPad, your eyes are occupied with your book (or shopping), your ears are filled with Belle and Sebastian, your mouth is filled with organic dark chocolate and currants, and your nose... well, I guess that leaves your nose to interact with those strangers.

And depending on which big city you're in, with the smoke, the sweat and the stink, you probably wish your nose had something else to fill it. Give it time and I'm sure Steve Jobs will come up with something.