It happened quite innocently enough, as these things usually do and I still can't quite fathom why I stopped what I was doing to look.
I was propped up in bed with my MacBook and the novel I was reading when I noticed a video on Apple's website of a new product it was bringing to the market. I had seen the link to the video several times before but had ignored it. This Sunday morning, though, something prompted me to take a look.
I clicked the Play button and was greeted by the measured voice of one of Apple's designers describing this 'magical' product. Then I saw it: sleek, sexy and paperback thin. I watched, mesmerized. As a dazzling array of features was displayed -- like the ability to tap open a photo album or pull up a map of an address from the Contacts page -- a smile of pure satisfaction warmed my heart and, like the heroine in a Harlequin romance, I was under its spell.
I felt powerless to do anything but hit Play over and over. I just couldn't get enough. In that moment, I realized that I had fallen in love - with the iPad?
The thought hit like a splash of cold water to my face and jarred me to my senses. I looked around quickly and saw the book I was reading lying face down next to me. Feeling as if I had just been caught cheating, I slammed my laptop shut.
What was I doing ogling the iPad? I'm a booklover who loathes the idea of eBooks!
My life has been a passionate affair with books that began when I was very young and has outlasted parents, lovers and best girlfriends. I never read more than one at a time nor have I defaced them. I don't even buy secondhand or sell the ones I own. Consequently, my living room - no, my entire apartment -- is quickly being overrun by books, both the ones I buy and those I use in my job as a book publicist.
This passion has made me a witness to revolutions in far off places, led me up snowcapped mountains, down dark alleys, and taken me close to many loves and losses, which I have felt keenly as if they were my own. It is this love that several years ago propelled me to form a book club, Date with a Book.
Because of this deep commitment to bound books, I have been boycotting electronic books and readers like Amazon's Kindle and Sony's Reader. To my mind, they just don't compare. I love holding a book in my hand, being able to tell whether it's a smooth paperback or a gritty hardback, feel and turn the page. And after spending my day looking at a computer screen, the last thing I want to do is to read a book on a device that would render it as static as an artifact in a museum's display case.
Don't get me wrong, I would appreciate the convenience of having my collection at my fingertips, especially on vacation and on long trips, but not even that swayed me - until now.
The iPad is, hands down, a beautifully designed product and Lord knows, I'm a sucker for beautiful designs. From the brushed metal case to the eye-catching features to the way it simulates the reader turning the page - all bring immense pleasure to my senses and set my imagination free to create new narratives. Watching the video, I could feel my previous objections to the electronic reader slip from my shoulders like yesterday's clothes.
I understand why, according to Apple, on the day the iPad was launched, 300,000 people lined up to declare their commitment to it - way more than did over the first two days of the iPhone's launch in 2007. I was not among that number. Yes, I did fool around and I did fall in love - but I decided to remain faithful to the format that has been my companion through sickness and health.
My rational side agrees. Beyond the cachet and the flash, it whispers to me, the iPad will be a flash in the pan if it doesn't fit into my life. You see, the iPad is not just a reader - I can watch movies, read and send email, surf the web, read newspapers and magazines. And that, more than anything, makes me concerned that I'd be too distracted to read my books. In addition, if I still have to buy books by Caribbean authors for my book club and if my clients' books aren't available, then the iPad will be just another gadget that is the equivalent of a clothes hanger.
While I am excited by the changes technology is ushering into the publishing world and the immeasurable value of eBooks from an environmental standpoint, I don't foresee a day when all books will be electronic. There's room for both to exist side by side and allow the consumer the option to choose.
I realize I may be a minority as the public's desire for the eBook is fast outpacing its appetite for bound books. According to the American Association of Publishers, last year, electronic book sales reported by 13 publishers jumped 176% while print book sales fell a dismal 1.8%. And recently, PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated that sales of eBooks would represent 6% of consumer book sales in North America by 2013, up from 1.5% in 2009.
I will always love the iPad and I feel a pang of desire whenever I see one but, for now, I will continue to just enjoy the dance. I can't quite make the decision to jump into bed, with the enemy -- at least, not yet.
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