Another Reason I Don't Have to Drive The Car

By Bill Moore

Posted: 02 Jan 2011

Last week, I bought myself a belated present: an Apple iPad. I finally came up with the two pre-requisites: one, I now had enough money to afford it; and two, enough justifications as to why I "needed it."

The most important reason is, as you might imagine, work-related. I could use it to do Keynote (Apple's version of Powerpoint) presentations on it when I give talks to local groups or at conferences. Next, I could use it while on trips to stay up with my emails, allowing me to leave the laptop at home.

I also wanted it so that I could start offering a mobile version of EV World, especially my Insider newsletter. One of the very first things I did with the iPad once I got it home was to download the prototype version of Insider that I created over the Christmas holiday. I was pleased to see that it really looks great. If you have an iPad or iPhone you can download it at http://evworld.com/mobile/insiderPDF10.51.pdf. I plan to now offer future Insider newsletters to Premium subscribers in this format, which is also readable on any computer or smart phone with an Adobe PDF reader.

One of the neater capabilities of the iPad (also on the iPhone and iPod Touch) are the thousands of apps developers have created. Here are some of the handful I've installed on my device:

But perhaps the most valuable app in terms of my daily use is Google Books' ebook reader. A competitor to Amazon now, they offer a pretty comprehensive catalog of not only new and recent books you buy (though I think $9.99 is a bit steep or a digital file), but access to their growing library of works now in the public domain. Besides downloading sample chapters of 'The Black Swan', 'A New Earth', and 'In the Green Kitchen,' I also now have electronic copies of 'The Voyage of the Beagle,' Charles Darwin's record of his epic sea voyage around South America; and Alvin Boyd Kuhn's 'Lost Light,' the latter published in 1940.

What I am discovering after just a few days of ownership, is that I am reading more in the evening and watching television less. I also am discovering how much easier it is to read while I spend 30-45 minutes on the treadmill, something my daughter has inspired me to take up again during her visits over the holidays. Before the iPad, if I wanted to read a book while waling, I had to either hold the book or put rubber bands around the pages to keep it open. The iPad sits neatly on the little shelf on my treadmill. I can just reach over and flip the page with a swipe of my finger. It is amazing how fast the time goes by on the treadmill when I am engrossed in a good book.

And, of course, I am only one of millions who are discovering the joys of e-readers. Omaha's public library ordered an additional 350 ebooks to add to its collection before Christmas figuring that ebook readers like the Kindle, the Nook, and the iPad would be popular Christmas presents; and they were. All sold in record numbers this year. When I went to buy mine, I was determined to purchase one with 3G and 32MB of memory, giving me greater flexibility while traveling. Turns out that's all my local retailer had left. All their less-expensive WiFi-only models had sold out.

While I can't assume that everyone is going to use the new ebook readers the same way I do, what I think I can safely say is that having electronic access to a growing library of electronic books, means fewer physical trips to the library; and that can translate into fewer trips by car.

Two decades ago, when I worked the late shift at the airport, I had a lot of spare time on my hands waiting for the last fights to arrive from Houston and Denver. I often spent that time engrossed in books I checked out of my local library, some of which had to be special ordered from other, larger libraries in the region. Those books had to be physically shipped by mail from the holding library, often one of our universities. Then I'd have to drive to the local library to pick it up and drop it off again. Granted, I was the rare library card holder who did that, but everyone else still had to make those two short trips. E-books have now eliminated both, at least for the more popular best sellers currently in print. As a recent article in the Omaha World-Herald notes in reporting the rise in our library system's ebook collection, it will take a long time for the digital version to match the 2.3 million physical volumes in our city's system, but the trend is clear. The more ebook readers out there, the more electronic books will become available, the fewer physical trips we'll be making to the local library or book seller. And maybe, just maybe, we'll start reading more as a culture...

And maybe I'll starting losing that weight I've been carrying around my middle for so long as I burn calories and consume more knowledge. All good things.

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