Saturday, January 8, 2011

Book Group Redux

Last night, the five couples who make up our book group met for the 71st time, just a few months shy of our tenth anniversary, to discuss Tatjana Soli's first novel, The Lotus Eaters.  And as I looked around the room, I had the following thought: Ten years ago when we met, we would have had seven or eight copies of the actual book--real paper and ink--in our laps as we talked.  By contrast, last night we had two books, two Kindles and three iPads.  We also had six or seven smartphones of various shapes and sizes spread around the room for calendar-planning our next date.

Now, some of us lived through the vinyl to 8-track to cassette to CD to digital life-cycle of music (buying the same music four or five different times).  And, if we think hard enough, we've lived through any number of other life-cycles: have you needed a bank teller lately, for example, or "perked" a cup of coffee in your kitchen?  But I honestly cannot remember one that seems to have happened more quickly, or been quite so dramatic, as the digitization of the book.

I was a Kindle fan, and still am, and two years ago wrote my love letter to it.  But there's a new kid in town.  And reading a book on the iPad isn't just better than a book or a Kindle, it's kind of like a religious experience (or, at least what I envision a religious experience to be like).  Reading the WSJ every morning on a tablet is especially cool, and it's great to see more and more traditional media organizations embracing the new technology.

We're a 50+ book group and feature everything from very early adopters to late traditionalists.  So, it's likely to be a few years more before we go "all electronic."  But for now, some of us are riding our horse and buggy, and some our new automobiles, and the road seems plenty wide enough for everyone.