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There is something very beautiful and sensual about a new book. Anyone who has ever bought a new book will know what I mean. Whether you open the parcel from Amazon, or remove the book from a bag of a high street bookseller, there is something about the smell of a new book, the feel of the roughness of the paper between your fingers as you slowly flick from page to page. As you open it for the first time you can feel the stiffness of the spine of a book that has never been read. The smoothness of the dust jacket, the rough texture of the cover, combine to produce a tingling feeling of excitement as you realise you are about to open the book and start to read.

Books are extremely portable, they can be easily carried to any location and used. They fit into a multitude of bags and can be used whether you are a passenger in a car, on a train or flying in a plane. You can use books at home, in a coffee shop, on the beach, in a library, a classroom or in the park.

Books have an unique user interface that has never been adequately duplicated on any electronic device. You can flick from section to section, page to page. You can highlight and annotate. Put sticky notes on specific pages. Use bookmarks to identify sections.

Books are wonderful things, but still, the iPad is the future of reading…

posted by jclay on August 10, 2010

20 thoughts on “Books”

  1. This is a very interesting post and, in fact, runs along similar lines to a conversation I was having this morning with an Apple evangelist 🙂

    But I would argue that comparing a book to an iPad is like trying to compare apples and pears. They can both do approximately the same thing but they are both essentially very different.

    Of course, in basic terms a book is one kind of technology and an iPad another. Yes you can use an iPad like a book but I’m sure that’s missing the point – which is meaning that we’re also missing a lot of the exciting opportunities our students having iPads (or similar technology) offers us.

  2. Helen Hodges says:

    I too agree that this is an interesting post and I am looking forward to hearing more in James’ session at FOTE10 BUT being both a fan of the iPad and a life long book worm I have to say that for me, rather than reaching for my iPad to browse the iBook store, this post made me want to go home and browse through my collection of books, choose an old favourite, curl up in a comfy chair and loose myself for a few hours. But then that could just be me!

    I think that perhaps the last statement should have a few words after the dot dot dot …
    ‘Books are wonderful things, but still, the iPad is the future of reading … for some people, sometimes, depending what they want to achieve (i.e. not when you are on holiday and lying by the pool, which is where I do a lot of reading!)’.

    Off to choose a good book to read … 🙂

    1. Frank says:

      It pains me to say but I’m with Helen on this one.

      Not an iPad owner myself yet, shocking I know; I’ve touched and played with it (does that sound wrong) and it is an amazing little piece of technology.

      The fact that I don’t feel overly excited by the prospect of looking at another screen to read my favourite book, paper or magazine makes me wonder if I’m in the process of getting old-fashioned….

      I think there is only one way to find out; I need to get an iPad. 😉

  3. For me it’s the smell… old or new. The day the book dies, I will want to be there to mourn it.

  4. Being as I’m an (apparently not uncommon) avid technologist & bookworm – be interested to see how an iPad etc can replicate the difference between books, not in the content, but in the look, the feel, the weight – from a slim volume of poetry, to a coffee table book of architectural drawings, to a battered pulp detective novel – fantastic. Perhaps the iPad 3D, but I’d hate to have to wear those glasses…& that’s only the visual element…

    Of course, an iPad etc can’t – it’s different, but then that’s the key point being made above…

  5. vics says:

    I can’t see any point in buying an ipad. I have an e-ink e-reader to carry a library of books around so I can read with less eye strain than a normal screen – the ipad defeats that purpose.

    I have a laptop, mobile phone and netbook for other digital reading/ annotation purposes (though i can also annotate on my e-reader)

    and my favourite medium the paperback book for just the very reason you describe above – the tactile sensation.

    No the ipad is not the future of reading it’s just another way to access the written word to add the the many already available.

    ..but i concede that it may help guide a new workflow around the written word in certain industries.

  6. martin king says:

    I was 50 pages from finishing a library book but couldn’t renew it because someone had reserved it – Darn.

    No other physical copies in the library.

    Would this happen with a virtual book.

  7. martin king says:

    Should we even be using the term book for electronic “books”
    But then .. what would we call them.

  8. Sue Collins says:

    I like books; if you buy them they’re yours for as long as you want them. I haven’t gone down the iPad route – I’m only half convinced as the only advantage over my iPhone is the bigger screen.

    The advantage of a book is that battery life is no problem, but there have been times when I would have liked to cite something and could remember a phrase, and even the place on the page … but which book? A CD version in the back would be great for using Find!

    I’ll be staying with books and sticky notes for some time to come …

  9. Doug Belshaw says:

    The trouble is that books are seen as an external verification of internal knowledge. The water therefore becomes muddied when talking about books vs other forms of reading.

    Everyone feels like they need to give their credentials – that they’ve got a PhD and love books, that they used to work in a bookshop, that “there’s just something about them”. In my house books are increasingly ornaments even though I’m currently finishing up my doctorate (and yes, I used to work in a bookshop!)

    Having migrated from a Sony Reader to an Amazon Kindle recently there is no way I’d buy a regular book if there was an equivalently-priced Kindle version. Why?

    1. I can search through a book.
    2. I can carry thousands of books at a time on my Kindle.
    3. I can highlight passages and make notes, and then transfer them easily to my personal wiki.

    My son is three years of age. I can’t see him reading books just because of the ‘way they feel’ given the above advantages. Can you?

  10. As an avid book buyer (I average two books a week), having looked at e-book readers, drooled over the iPad, I have even gone as far as down-loading the apps onto my iPhone, I remain to be convinced.
    There is something very comforting about a book whether hardback or paperback. I spend enough of my life staring at a variety of screens of differing sizes and they are fine for maybe five or ten minutes when you are reading say a report; I cannot however imagine losing myself for a few hours reading a screen. I know they are convenient but how can you easily loan a book you have particularly enjoyed to a friend.
    If e-book readers are the future of books I am going to have to find a way of enjoying TV or film adaptations, as my reading pleasure will be greatly diminished.

  11. I love books, one thing I enjoy is sharing a book. I buy about one third of the books I read and the others are lent to me by friends and family. I really like it when someone says “I think you will like this” and I do, it widens my reading horizons. I know recommenders can do this for me, and I have sometimes bought (and enjoyed) books Amazon has suggested, but it is not the same as a friend arriving with a bag of books.

    I’ve got some “emergency” books on my phone, for unexpected reading situations, and I am thinking of investing in a few O’Reilly Ebooks for reference, but I’m not sure I would want to buy a book that it would be difficult to pass on.

  12. tbush says:

    Some thoughts on ebooks in response to the conversation around James’s recent blog post –

  13. Andy Powell says:


    I’m pretty confident that the iPad will die before the book does… 🙂

  14. Chris Grant says:

    Me and books have never been a great combination. I’ve never been 100% comfortable with books, but always completely at home with technology. The best way to describe my reading style is that of a butterfly reader – I just can’t make it from the first page to the last without flitting between pages, taking breaks or ducking in and out of other materials in different formats.

    Digital content suits my consumption style completely. I can pick and choose the source and format at a whim, and thanks to the iPad, I can do this while at the same time maintain access to the other tools I typically use throughout the day.

    Strangely, the ‘new book feeling’ persists whether I buy a printed or digital book – not for any touchy-feely reason, but perhaps the anticipation of what can be found within the content.

    Having approached some of our teaching staff with the idea of using digital book readers, it has been readers with similar characteristics to mine that have been identified as those who may find greatest benefit. How is our approach to e-book readers (and our level of comfort with them) affected by reading styles / needs in comparison to the cultural or generational differences in approaching books and technology?

    Dare I suggest that perhaps paper consumption is also relevant (I’m an IT manager – I had to mention it!)? We consume copious amounts of paper in our organisation alone, and we continually seek more ways to make paper consumption more reasonable (limit wastage, not remove paper altogether). For years we’ve been slowly reducing the number of printers around our campus, moving toward a centralised printing solution – but with limited impact on the amount of printed materials for delivery of, or resulting from, curriculum activities. Book readers can contribute to a change in printing culture. Readers have already demonstrated to me that any given student can take their e-books, supporting materials from the VLE (teacher produced) and – depending on the device – all their notes with them in one small and very light solution.

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