How the iPad ruins my travel experience

I travel a lot, be it for work or pleasure, and one of the things I particularly enjoy when I’m transferring at my favorite Schiphol airport is visiting bookstores. I browse magazines, bestsellers and non-fiction, and usually buy an issue of The Economist, The New Yorker or a book. Or actually, I used to buy.

Ever since I have the iPad1, I stopped visiting bookstores. I no longer buy The Economist or The New Yorker, because there’s an app for that. Well, not only there are apps, but magazines are usually much cheaper if bought in “the newsstand” rather than in printed form. I no longer buy books there either, because I prefer using the Kindle app for reading while traveling (cuts the weight of the bag significantly). You might then say that there are no cons to this situation, and it is indeed a typical first world problem, but there are two observations I made today that I’d like to share here.

First off, I realized I don’t really read magazines as much as I used to, even though I have them cheaper, everywhere, and whichever I like. It’s a typical paradox of oversupply, so often noticed by music enthusiasts — back in the age of CDs (especially when they were expensive and not so easily available) we used to listen to music more carefully, knowing each album’s track titles, reading booklets that were inserted into CD cases, etc. Nowadays if I want an album, I can
click “buy” in the iTunes store, and I have it immediately, but I don’t spend as much time on each record as I used to.2 It’s the same with magazines on my iPad. I subscribe to a couple of them, but don’t have time to read every issue. Some issues I miss completely, unaware that they were downloaded automatically. Some weeks ago the situation was a tad better, because Polish magazines weren’t available in the App Store, but now I can get Gazeta Wyborcza, Polityka and even Uważam Rze there as well, so I don’t buy any paper issues of anything anymore, and, paradoxically, read less magazines.

The second observation is that I truly miss walking around bookstores, browsing, looking at covers of books, reading abstracts and reviews on the back, and buying. It’s probably just an illusion, but I think I used to read more before I actually had the iPad. I might be reading more blog entries and things I save with Instapaper, but less magazines. And I actually don’t like reading books on the iPad, because of reflections, because the Kindle App’s poor design, and because they always ask me to switch it off for taxi, takeoff and landing. And I won’t buy an ebook reader, because the iPad is more useful for me in other areas, such as emailing, web browsing, and, most importantly, reading and reviewing academic papers.3

So while thinking about all that and strolling around Schiphol this fine afternoon, I stepped into a bookstore and spent some time there. How lovely it was! I could browse the latest issue of The Economist (pointless, since I have it on my iPad, but still fun), laugh silently at people picking up Very Bad Books from bookshelfs, and finally wandering around the “non-fiction” section, and picking up two titles: one that is supposed to teach me about modern(-ish) physics once again (never too much of that, quantum mechanics really is twisted), and another one4 that is supposed to convince me that Dawkins isn’t as silly as I’d like him to be.

  1. Kindly supplied by Høgskolen i Bergen’s Department of Computing, Mathematics and Physics! 
  2. Not to mention certain Swedish websites that give music for free. 
  3. I honestly haven’t printed out a single PDF ever since I got the iPad. 
  4. Only now I read that this book is aimed at children and “young adults”. Oh well, buying wrong books is an important element of the whole physically-buying-books-in-a-bookstore experience. 

Published by Piotr Kaźmierczak

I like jazz and cycling.