Lynn Neary perpetuated the meme this morning on NPR in anticipation of today’s announcement about the Apple iPad: “It may not be the Second Coming, but as one wag already said, this is the most excitement a tablet has generated since Moses handed down the Ten Commandments.” Tech analyst Yair Reiner told Neary that the new gadget could provide readers with a richer e-book experience:.
Author interviews, unlimited amount of additional material like photographs and videos. I think thats pretty exciting for publishers, not just in terms of being able to perhaps charge more but also in terms of being able to perhaps make more interesting content that brings aboard new and different kinds of audiences.
Author Eric Weiner posed a contrarian view of that “richer experience” in another NPR story. He thinks the availability of all that added content will rob attention from reading the book itself:
Much of the talk about e-books has focused either on technical issues or questions of pricing, but that misses the point. The technology will improve, especially now that Apple is in the game. And I’m confident that I’ll still get my fair share from each e-book sold. But as an author, I’m not after your money. Well, not only your money. I have my sights on a much more precious commodity: your time. We enter into an unspoken pact, you and I: Give me a few hours, stolen moments on the subway or after the kids are asleep, and I promise to inform and entertain you. Frankly, that’s always been a tough sell, given the sundry ways you can spend your time, but at least I had a fighting chance. Curled up with a pinot noir and my book, your attention was mine to lose. Not anymore. The new generation of e-books will, in essence, merge the laptop and the book. Now if my narrative starts to drag, or I digress, readers can click onto their favorite news site to see what’s up with health care, or click onto TMZ to see what’s up with Brangelina. How do I compete with that?
As one who has lost the ability to read printed books, I’m always searching for that richer context when the text itself is inaccessible to me. I thrive in the proliferation of book excerpts and videos, reviews and interviews available now on the Internet. I have more ways to learn about books than ever before. In the end, though, what I want is the book itself in an accessible format. Given Apple’s penchant for patriarchal control of devices and DRMs, I doubt that the latest tablet handed down from the mountain will reach me as a reader.