On Sunday morning, Devon and I went to Estia’s in Sag Harbor to have a quick breakfast snack. In the corner of the small cafe, I noticed two men enjoying their breakfast along with some reading material. One of the men had his Sunday New York Times print edition, a mountain of read and unread sections sitting on the table, as he sifted through whatever stories interested him. The other man was reading the New York Times via his iPad. He was able to skim, browse, and devour all sections without clutter. Seemingly, the iPad man was able to read whatever he desired, just as easily as the print man.
With all the talk about how the iPad revolutionizes the reading experience, this Sunday morning ritual gave me slight pause. Like a lot of people, I cherish reading a Sunday paper on a lazy day. It’s always a nice treat to have that Sunday paper with you at some local restaurant or coffee shop. Such is the tradition nowadays, that Sunday newspapers are some of the only things we happily pick up after they’ve been used by complete strangers. One of the reasons we enjoy taking these Sunday papers with us, is because they’re disposable. Who cares if you spilled your coffee on the Week In Review section, you can still read the articles, and the paper only cost you a couple bucks. It’s not like you were going to keep it. The iPad offers up an entirely different experience. You do care if your pancake syrup drips onto your Sunday paper, when your Sunday paper is sitting inside a $1,000 piece of hardware. Does this mean e-readers signal the end of Sunday morning newspapers at coffee shops or restaurants? If so, maybe this means we actually have to start talking to our breakfast companions, instead of prolonging an awkward social dynamic.
This reminds me of the other iPad aspect that worries me: airplane take-off and landing. For decades, we’ve learned the valuable habit of relying on reading material during those 30 minutes at the beginning and end of every airplane flight. No electronics allowed, so you hang up your phone or turn off your iPod or collapse your DVD player. The only solace (if traveling alone), was your book or magazine or newspaper to keep you occupied during the stressful (because it’s the best odds for a crash) take-off and landing. With e-readers, you aren’t able to do that, because all electronics must be turned off. It’s probably the one aspect of all this that keeps airport bookstores optimistic. You might as well pick up the new Rolling Stone before your flight, if it’s the only way to entertain yourself as you leave the runway.
I don’t yet own an iPad, so maybe I will realize that all of these experiences are actually bolstered by its existence. Until then, I will continue spilling water or coffee on my periodicals… most likely when the airplane is cleared for take-off.