Okay, so I got an Android Tablet for Christmas (Asus Infinity, love you, Mark), and finally realized that while cellphone reading is sooooo convenient (it is!), there is something lovely about that full screen, with a laid-out page and actual images embedded where they’re supposed to go.
I never got the hang of hauling around yet another extra device, way back when I had my first ebook reader (the Sony…and oddly enough, the first time I typed that out, I typed “stony” — The Stony…which it was. Pretty much a weight of no use except for pitching at seagulls when they crap on your windshield.)
Well, now I have a tablet, which is another extra device…and I love it, and haul it everywhere, and I use it for reading all the time. What made the difference?
I’ve been watching a lot of Ken Robinson’s speeches lately. He’s fascinating for a lot of reasons, including his dry-on-dry-martini sense of humour, and his really interesting take on creativity. Yes — you’re creative, too. Ken Robinson says so. Don’t believe me? Check out his now-famous speech on TED.com just to get the ball rolling — nearly 15 million people have seen it.
One of the ideas that Ken Robinson encapsulated for me in a neat little phrase was an idea that I already knew, but hadn’t put into full conscious thought. He speaks about the fact that baby-boomers wear watches and use them to tell the time, while teenagers these days mainly don’t, because they don’t see the point: Time is everywhere. This is a trend I had actually noticed myself and written into Blood Stone, when I had my vampires adapt to modern day culture by teaching themselves to check the time on their cellphones instead of their watches.
In fact, teenagers tend to ridicule watches, because, as Ken Robinson put it, they are single function devices.
That was the phrase that gelled the concept for me and let me realize why I was able to use and appreciate my tablet…and why I think tablets and hand-held and mini computers will become the readers of the future: They’re not single function devices. They do not dictate to the reader what format ebooks they must purchase and read, and which retailer they must buy their books from. They play music, provide email, text messaging, internet browsing (i.e. book shopping, social networking) and more. They allow the reader to add what applications the reader wants. Cellphones do exactly the same thing (and I loved reading on my cellphone), but cellphones didn’t have the big screen, and that killed the idea of reading on them for most people. Tablets and other hand-held computers will make the difference. To a certain degree, the Kindle HD Fire is almost as flexible. It is a tablet — but it does limit readers to a single reader and retailer.
My ASUS Tablet is an Android platform, which is from one perspective an overgrown cellphone. But for the purposes of reading I have loaded it with:
1. Kindle software
2. FB Reader (for ePubs)
3. Adobe Reader (for anything that these two don’t cover)
4. The complete list of all my “Favourites” in my music directory (about 300 tracks)
5. SkyDrive app, which connects the Tablet directly to all my critical files in the Cloud, including my personal library.
I also have (currently) about seventy books loaded — which isn’t quite as extreme as it seems, because I always have all my own books loaded just in case I get the opportunity to thrust the tablet into the hands of a potential reader and get them to read a chapter/page/paragraph/blurb and win them over to the glories of my writing so they’ll dash off and buy every book I’ve ever published.
Between these applications and the flexibility of the tablet (BlueTooth, WiFi, and direct synching, as well as access to my book library via the Cloud), I can read any book I want, no matter what format it is, using one of the readers on my tablet, and a range of converters (principally, Calibre).
How you or any other reader would load up a multi-purpose reading device varies according to individual taste…and that’s the glory of hand-held computing and why I believe it will push ebook reading into the next phase of massive popularity. Everyone will read ebooks the same way they access the internet and how they use computers: In a huge variety of ways to suit each unique personality.