Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
Rumors are swirling around the not-so-subtle Apple announcement for Tuesday’s event that teases, “We’ve got a little more to show you.” Little, you say? As in…mini? Something…nan-tastic?
Whatever the name will be (that I’m bludgeoning), it will follow the quiet demise of Amazon’s Kindle DX. The market for large-screened E Ink readers (the DX was 9.7 inches) is dwindling; the DX was one of the last such offerings in the United States. As device makers shift to smaller tablets, I picture myself shunning my beloved E Ink reader in the presence of fancy-pants tablet owners on the train. I remember how impressive I felt with my pink Blackberry Curve until suddenly punching raised QWERTY keys in public became an embarrassment. Will I someday bestow on E Ink users the same smug condescension as this guy? You’d think they stole his lunch:
“BlackBerry users are like Myspace users. They probably still chat on AOL Instant Messenger.”
Before I get ahead of myself, it’s important to note that not everyone is using the next shiny, retina-displayed $500 device for reading books. Across the Atlantic, Germany’s Textr released the Beagle, a 4.5-ounce, 5-inch E Ink screen ereader that costs about $13 USD and is sold through mobile carriers. It runs on three AAA batteries that are supposed to last a whole year. While the Beagle is a huge departure in price and functionality from the impending “mini” iPad (which is expected to cost either $249 or $299), it still addresses a need for a more compact and portable ereading device—one separate from your phone and the web.
The notion of a separate device dedicated to reading books becomes more and more attractive as I read books on my iPhone. Mourning the loss of my broken Kindle and undecided on a replacement, I’ve been squinting my way through Kindle cloud books on my 3.5-inch screen. Text messages interrupt my plot. The urge to check email rips me away from the narrative or the whirlwind ending of a novel (slogging through what should have been a fast-paced, thrilling end to Gone Girl is a recent example). And every time, through my dried contact lenses and frenzied attention span I think: I need to institute a Separation of Book and Web! This is by no means a novel idea; I’m not the first to lament on distractions from web-enabled tablets or phones. But as we’re inundated with constant technology advances, it leaves us with less time or wherewithal to assess our true preferences and more pressure to get the next big (or small) thing.
The essence of reading a book, to me, is to enter an alternate, unfettered world. I’m excited for the Apple announcement. This is a rare instance where I’m hoping for fewer features and less opportunity for distraction. Less will indeed be more and hopefully will help me return to my weird little book reading world.