Convergence devices like tablets and smartphones are great because they eliminate the need for having a million different gadgets whose performance is only marginally better. But there are some instances when dedicated devices make more sense.
As the New York Times points out, reading books is one of those instances.
Fear not, this is not a militant rallying cry for physical books; those are fine, but overall, I'm rather ambivalent about what medium a novel arrives in. Rather, this is an argument about the virtues of the dedicated ereader. And it appears I'm not alone in this sentiment, as the New York Times has stats to back it up.
But there are signs that publishers are cooling on tablets for e-reading. A recent survey by Forrester Research showed that 31 per cent of publishers believed iPads and similar tablets were the ideal e-reading platform; one year ago, 46 per cent thought so.
"The tablet is like a temptress," said James McQuivey, the Forrester Research analyst who led the survey. "It's constantly saying, ‘You could be on YouTube now.' Or it's sending constant alerts that pop up, saying you just got an e-mail. Reading itself is trying to compete."
The times is spot on in highlighting the distracting nature of the tablet device. Our emails, IMs and apps are perpetually notifying us about new things. And nothing is worse than being immersed in the world of a novel or non-fiction work and being yanked out of by an email from some family member asking how to use a USB cable.
I love the tablet for flipping through magazines and reading 500-1000 word articles. And yeah, textbooks make sense. But when it's time for some hardcore reading, my ereader is the tool of choice. The phone is set to silent and turned on its face. The computer lid is closed. And for the duration of my time spent reading, I am uninterrupted from the words in front of my face.
Sure you can turn everything on your tablet off, but the distraction is still lurking under the surface in a more immediate manner. All those apps are a button away in those moments where you'd normally just stare out the window or take a short break to collect your thoughts.
And let's not forget about the many hardware virtues of the ereader. It's lighter, more portable, more durable, has a longer battery life and has a screen you can read in direct sunlight. These pros far outweigh the con of having to have a second device.
So yeah, when it comes to books, screw the tablet. Get an ereader instead. Even if its just an old one you found on eBay for $50. [NYT]