Thursday, 10 June 2010

You stopped here, digitally speaking.


“Ha! Who’s ever going to read a book on this!” The wife scoffed, pointing at a picture of Kindle on the computer screen. I turned around and requested my daughter to come over. (Yes, I request my daughter to do things. She is my daughter, yes, but you can’t trifle with women however little they might seem.) I asked her, “Hey, how would you prefer to read stories – in a book or on this?” She replied, “Of course on this daddy!” The way she said it and walked away, well, it reminded me of Casanova looking at the Englishman who asked him if he was interested in chicks. No, I just made up that Englishman story, but you get what I mean.

It looked pretty certain that Kindle was ‘The Thing’ and it would replace paper books very soon. Then came along iPad from Apple, launched, as always, by Steve Jobs himself.

(I have always wondered this about Steve’s new product launch conferences: There he is standing, conference after conference, launching brand new products that change the way the world computes, listens to music, chooses bags for their laptops etc. and every time he is wearing the same blue jeans and black polo-neck tee shirt! I am not sure about it but also, same white & grey sneakers. Okay, I know techies are geeks and are known to live in their offices and wear whatever is drying on their cubicle’s partition, but et tu Steve? By now you would expect him to have an assistant or something who he can send to the next cubicle to pinch his neighbour's jeans and tee shirt. No, wait! I know! The next product he is working on is the iButler! So if you are sitting around in a bar and find a butler left behind on a chair, a butler who will change the way the world butles, then that is him – the under-development iButler from Apple.)
Now this is what I don’t get about Apple: You spend a lifetime studying and practising marketing and advertising (you, not me), and come to respect the importance of being the First to launch something, having the First Mover Advantage or making a product claim for the First Time and then comes along Apple, after you, and pulls the rug from under your feet. Yes, that’s what it does: The Mac wasn’t the first personal computer, the iPod wasn’t the first MP3 player, the iPhone wasn’t the first mobile phone and the iPad isn’t whatever it is. This is the place where I make appreciative noises because I like it when conventional wisdom is subverted. But then, I have always made appreciative noises when it comes to Apple. From the time I first set my eyes and got my hands on an Mac LC III (yes, I am that old), to the time we convinced a female colleague to say ‘Ouch’ into a Power Mac’s microphone so we could make it the warning sound, and from the time I got the iMac Candy as my first home computer to the time I first listened to a song on an iPod… I always thought Apple was cool.
You might have a little difficulty in believing that even this post is not about Apple. It’s actually about reading books without buying one: According to pundits (guys who get paid by large media conglomerates who in turn get paid by large corporations who get paid by picking our pockets), the Kindles and iPads are just the things the doctor prescribed to save the ailing and dying publishing industry. According to reports (put out by large media conglomerates who…), people are not reading books, magazines and etc. How do I know this? Because I read it in the papers of course! But I am an old foggy and I would have believed what I read. But I don’t because: 1. Every few months a new newspaper is launched in the city. 2. Magazines keep getting launched with alarming frequency too. 3. New book shop chains are opening stores all over the country. 4. I don’t see the Times Group, Penguin or Conde Nast filing for bankruptcy. Hachette just launched in India. 5. My daughter and son both make me buy books and actually read them.
On the other hand, digital book readers are great for the environment. Paper is made from trees and we need those trees because we are still not evolved fully and have this urge to go and join our ancestors! No, not really. It’s because trees are our planet’s lungs and, oh, you know the arguments. If you don't, visit the PETA web site. What's PETA? It is the short form of Pornography for Ethical Treatment of Animals. 
Of course digital book readers can’t be crushed to pulp and recycled like paper but we will think about that when the pile reaches the height of Everest, shall we?
But hey! I am not complaining. I have figured out one industry that’s definitely going to die very soon: The one that makes book marks, those wonderful little things that you use when the real world interrupts your reading and remind you that you stopped here. Yes, those guys are going out of business. And I am going to jump in and make a fortune by manufacturing; you guessed it, digital book marks for the few Kindles and many iPads out there.
Not for long though; Apple will soon follow and put me out of business.

7 comments:

  1. Was a pleasure reading this.Particularly liked the Casanova simile as well as your version of the PETA acronym expansion. Cheers.

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  2. Thanks Slash. I think PETA is very effective. It makes many men want to eat vegetables, worn by their models of course!

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  3. I don't mind taking up digital reading if someone gifted me an iPad. ;o)
    I will miss my book marks, though.

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  4. Someone! Hello Someone! Are you listening to your wife?!

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  5. Sadly Mr. Someone has selective hearing. ;o)

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  6. Hey Sasha, finally you sold your soul to consumerism! There I was quoting your blog to random strangers - "When Apple launches a new gadget, we go out and book a flight ticket..." I am heart broken!

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  7. Deven, precisely the reason why I still don't have an iPhone or will never ever have an iPad.
    I said 'if' not 'when'. No harm in wishing, non?

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