Why I still need paperback books

The iPad can’t (yet) replace the $5.99 paperback I buy – and here’s why.

I read a fascinating article this weekend on why devices like the iPad may just about spell the end for printed books. The article (read it here) was written by Craig Mod and shared on twitter by Michael Hyatt.

Craig’s article is well written and well thought through, not to mention insightful and forward-thinking. However, it misses one very serious point in my opinion:

There are limitations to where I can take an iPad.

Sure, new tablet/slate/pad devices open up wonderful new possibilities for publishing and can help us redefine how we read and consume content. There are times though, when I just want to sit (or lay) and let my mind run rampant with the imagery in a good book – and many of those times I’m in places a $500 piece of hardware simply can’t go.

  • I’m not going to risk dropping an iPad in the bath the way I would a book.
  • I’m not going to lay on an inflatable in the swimming pool reading on an iPad.
  • I’m not going to read from my iPad on the beach when at any moment my kids could drag me into a game or into the ocean for a swim.

The cost is simply too prohibitive.

If I put my $5 book down on my towel while I let my kids try to bury me in the sand and someone steals it then it will be annoying but no great loss.

If I were to put my iPad down on my towel while going off to play with the kids though, I’m just inviting someone to run off with a device that it would have taken me years to save up for – and there’s no way I’d take that thing anywhere near water.

I’m excited about the possibilities that the iPad and it’s competitors bring and I’m excited about the future of such devices but the future where a device can store and display my books and yet be cheap enough to risk losing at the beach or dropping in the bath seems a very long way away.

One day I will probably look back on this post and laugh at my lack of vision but today a starting price of $499 for the iPad plus $30 a month for a 3g data plan makes me think that it will be decades at least before I even consider not buying printed books any more!