Reading by Capitalism: Kindle versus the Femme Fatale iPad

Mark Hubbard's picture
Submitted by Mark Hubbard on Sun, 2012-07-08 05:08

From best of Life Behind the IRon Drape. This post also featured this morning on Graham Beattie's Book Blog. Getting capitalism out to those who didn't think they wanted it.


To shamelessly run with a concept employed by economist Don Boudreaux in his ‘cleaning with capitalism’ series at Café Hayek, I’ll post on reading by capitalism; beginning with a reading problem I’ve recently picked up: my iPad.

I was originally a happy man, content and in a middle age marriage to my Amazon Kindle. It was nothing exciting, just a great read: I found the e-Ink technology kind on my eyes, and I could read outside, but also at night with the lights off using the torch attachment built into the cover that can (and should) be bought with the machine. Best of all, I could read two average sized novels on a single battery charge. Unfortunately, however, lust for a feature, or rather, an app, has led to my Kindle being jilted for another.

The affair started on my reading budget being weighed down by the demands of, well, all the other things that money has to be spent on, particularly as we’ve just built a house on escaping Christchurch, meaning library ebook lending became too attractive to bat my eyes at anymore. The problem is the New Zealand library service doesn’t work on Amazon's platform, no doubt a licencing issue due to that latter company’s desire the owners’ of their machines can only get content by buying from the Amazon store. Which I have no problem with, but it simply meant to loan ebooks from Christchurch library I had to get an iPad and download the free OverDrive app. A fatal attraction. Woe is me, I had no idea of the trouble I was getting myself into, with this foxy, seductive little piece of technology.

The difference between a Kindle and an iPad is the difference between a Soviet styled planned economy and laissez faire: a single function versus choice. Lots and lots of choice. The affair with my iPad has truly left me like a gaping innocent staring with sparkly eyes at the world of email, Twitter, games apps, every sort of app you can think of, and of course, the Internet. Which has also ironically meant I can’t read books any more. At least, not in the three week library ebook lending period, before the digital locks go down on the boudoir of whatever I might be reading. Currently two days left on Charlotte Grimshaw’s ‘Night Book’, and I’m barely half way through it.

The trouble is I get into bed with this temptress, my iPad, not Charlotte, and my whisky nightcap – though I’m beginning to think apple cider might be more apt - and instead of going direct to the book reader app I can’t seem to resist the bright lights, glitz and possibilities of first checking my emails, then Twitter, oh, and then perhaps I’ll just check my blog stats - getting a bit OCD on that lately - but on the way to those, look, that article in Granny Herald, damn, I’m going to have to write a blog on that, and before I know it Mrs H. is mumbling from the pillow, ‘turn that damned thing off and get some sleep!’. Which I do, meekly, of course.

So whereas I used to read books, and love them, my heart has been turned by reading the Internet, which is to read everything and nothing; left feeling like an empty vessel, a wastrel, spent force, Twittering my life away, each time I turn the saucy little iPad off. You’ll see at the top of this blog that I set it up because I was writing a novel, well she’s been spurned also for the gleaming, shiny retina-display of 2048-by-1536 pixels. I’ve even done something I said there should be capital punishment for, despite my belief in the non-initiation of force principle: used the camera app to photograph the pooch and post her on Twitter! Kill me now, please.

Because the thing about choice is, it’s great, in fact, fantastic, imagine a world without choice (as Marx did, and which Stalin put into practice): but it does require discipline and some self-responsibility to give us the outcomes that we set ourselves. And until I find that discipline again, which I’m sure I will, my old, austere Kindle, sits lonely and sad, in her little red jacket, in my bedside drawer, unloved. I’m sure it’s temporary though, I’ve got books in the blood, I’m sure I’ll remain true after this trifling fling. So for now, with her battery advantage, my Kindle is a traveling mistress only, but heed my advice about that femme fatale iPad: she’ll take you places you might not be able to resist, and ruin you for reading.

Coincidentally, instead of reading Charlotte, or writing, right now, I’m even tap, tap, tapping this blog post on my iPad, while watching Coro Street. Mrs H. has just emailed me from her iPad if we should perhaps open another bottle of wine; which we probably shouldn’t, as it’s been a Chardon-day since lunchtime. Last night, after a Google, she tricked me by emailing the three Coro cast who are going to die in a tram wreck in an episode this coming Friday, thinking that funny, but only rubbing in how the iPad may be the death of the story if in the wrong hands, or if kids aren’t brought up with a love of words, and a little discipline. And speaking of hands, she’s now tapping me on the arm, showing sometimes the old ways can still have merit: it must be my turn to actually move and fetch that bottle … um, I’ll just check my Twitter stream first, there could be someone wrong on the Internet, again, who will need correcting, and for some reason I’ve anointed myself as the one to do it. Who says capitalism doesn’t involve self-sacrifice. There’s no point watching Coro, anyway, I know what’s going to happen. I guess after I get that wine I could read - Oh look, my solitaire app is waiting for an update …


Now click along to see Nicholas Dykes new novels here on SOLO.

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I find my iPod touch far superior...

Marcus's picture

...simply because it is pocket sized and can do everything the iPad can.

Of course the iPhone would do just as nicely, probably even better, due to the 4G connectivity or whatever it's called.

It's the same as the original

Richard Wiig's picture

It's the same as the original kindle, so no colour, but minus the keyboard, with a touch screen. I've tried dimming the light on my ipad, but I still prefer the eInk's easiness on the eyes.

Cheers Commander. I've not

Mark Hubbard's picture

Cheers Commander. I've not seen the Kindle Touch. Is that a colour screen? I'd be interested to see how well eInk works in colour. And yes, the eye strain reading in a dark room on the iPad isn't that good, though I've found it not too bad by turning the brightness right down (plus I get more out of the battery).

A very enjoyable read, btw,

Richard Wiig's picture

A very enjoyable read, btw, Mark. Thankyou! I've just purchased myself a kindle touch. I'm finding reading on the ipad to be very hard on the eyes for any prolonged period.

Gregster, here's an excellent

Richard Wiig's picture

Gregster, here's an excellent alternative to transfering files through Itunes for when you don't need all the bells and whistles.

Word search..

gregster's picture

Yes, books

gregster's picture

It has some videos and audio Q&A too, but not as much as recently linked by Craig.

Cheers Gregster. Will I find

Mark Hubbard's picture

Cheers Gregster. Will I find AS app in apps store? Under what category?


gregster's picture

Good one Hubbard. Chardon? I have the Atlas Shrugged app. It's good. Searchable. And all those PDFs one can get from Mises, put them into iTunes then the Pad.

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