Last week I spoke before a journalism class on a panel at the University of Guelph-Humber. It was a spirited discussion about media ethics and practices.
Towards the end of the class, one student asked for advice in how to do a better job of reading all of the material he has to go through. He was frustrated that he couldn’t find the time to focus his mind on a good book book, or a longer magazine article. I gave him a couple of suggestions for prioritizing what he read, but I also suggested he not read using his iPad.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my iPad. It is a digital swiss-army knife. I write with it. I consume the web, RSS feeds and Twitter with it. I use it to access Facebook, defend my plants from hoards of zombies, and watch TV shows and movies on it.
But I have three reasons why I no longer use it to read books, or any long-form journalism:
- Distractions: The fact that the iPad can do anything and everything is one big reason I don’t use it for reading. I don’t want to be in the middle of a gripping chapter in a novel, only to see the notification centre tell me about a new incoming email, or a reminder on my calendar. I do realize it is possible to shut off those disruptions (and for the most part, I have) but I still know, when I use my iPad, that those other programs are lying dormant in my hand, waiting for me to release them again. It is too great a temptation to take a pause from reading to look up something on wikipedia, and then just check my email one more time. I bought an ebook reader precisely so that I could use the gadget to read and focus on my ebooks, and do nothing else.
- The screen: No matter what resolution Apple includes in its latest iPads, the fact remains I am still holding an electronic display in my hand. The aluminum and glass gets heavy after a while, and I find the brightness can strain my eyes. Yet another reason I opt for an e-ink reader when I want to read a long passage. There’s also research that suggests our concentration and retention rates suffer when we read off a back-lit tablet (as opposed to reading a book or a newspaper).
- My toddler: I never quite understand the futurists who predict that we’ll wake up in the future to find that our tablet devices have downloaded a personalized multi-media newspaper. They obviously haven’t tried to have breakfast with my 3-year old. I can’t take my iPad out in front of her without her asking to use it (I do let her play with, in moderation, and always supervised). I can’t visit a news site to scan for headlines without her interrupting me, asking to borrow it to play an Elmo game. Rather than buying her a second iPad, I have a much cheaper solution: I read an old-fashioned newspaper. When she wants access to it (to look at a comic or a pretty picture), it is as easy as giving her a spare page.