I think I finally get the ebook appeal — and it’s not at all what I expected. And if I’m right, then Apple has got the better product with the iPad than Amazon does with the Kindle. Here’s why.
Think of your workflow throughout the day. Mine goes like this: Up at 6:15, check iPhone for weather and emergency emails and overnight events requiring immediate blogging. Coffee, shower, get the kid ready for school. And during every part of that but the shower, I’m checking in on the laptop or the phone.
Get the kid to school, then get back on the desktop computer or the laptop. And for the rest of my working day, except for when I’m in front of the camera, I’m in front of a computer.
Get kid home from school, enjoys snacks and family time… and, yes, check in on the phone or the laptop. Blogging isn’t the world’s biggest effort, but it does require constant attention — you’ve got to moderate the comments, keep in touch with readers, and at least type some notes down whenever the muse tickles. And that muse is frustratingly unpredictable with her timing.
After dinner, settle in on the sofa, laptop on lap. Look, I’ve tried watching movies or TV without the MacBook, but wifi and IMDB have totally changed the way we absorb video. See an actor you like or whose name you can’t remember? IMDB’em. Miss an episode and need a synopsis? IMDB it. Oh, and, yeah, check in with work.
Bedtime? One last look at email…
And none of this is meant as complaint. My job rocks, and I’ve chosen these weird hours and this strange system all on my own. These days, pretty much all of us are wired in 24/7, and I kinda like it. And honestly, except for the thing with the video camera and the lack of a commute, I bet my workflow isn’t so much different from yours.
But there is one tiny bad part. I hardly get to read books anymore. I used to go through two or three or more a week. Now a book can take a week or two, because I’ve always got my eyes glued to an LCD screen somewhere. And as I’ve said before, the MacBook’s screen just isn’t good enough for reading “books.” And all that scrolling is a real pain.
How about this, however: a portable device with a killer screen and a great bookstore — that I can also get my email and IMDB and all the rest on? I’m reading my ebook when an important email comes in, or the CNN app alerts me of something blogworthy. Well, just switch over to email or the browser and have at it. Then switch back to the book. iPad can do that. As yet, Kindle can’t. So my money is, once again, going to Cupertino.
There’s just one little problem. Books — real, solid, papery, physical books — are still where it’s at.
Have you seen the Blu Ray movies that come with a digital copy you can put on your computer, then transfer to your iPod or iPhone? I hardly buy BDs anymore if they don’t come with a digital copy. And, it gives people a reason to buy physical media still.
But when it comes to books, the physical media is what still attracts most of us hairless primates. The electronic edition would be the bonus, the convenience, the thing I could learn to live with — as a bonus.
So Apple and Amazon should absolutely include an ebook with every physical book you buy. Free? Hell, I’m open to paying a buck or two more. And then I’d read more books again, and buy more books again. Win-win.
Well, except for my checking account.
UPDATE: Help me Baen!