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  • Books in the post-PC world

    A few months ago, I left my iPad in the back of a New York City taxi-cab. My reaction was not the same as losing a cell phone or a stolen laptop. Losing those devices is an inconvenience, but I grieved the loss of my iPad as I do when losing a half-finished book. My emotional connection to a book and my tablet are the same.

    Nothing is better suited for the post-PC world than books. Tablets are a back-to-the-future experience reinventing a familiar and intimate media experience, they will revive reading and save the book.

    In a new study by Forrester Research, Sarah Rotman describes characteristics of the post-PC age of computing:

    Stationary to ubiquitous. Ubiquitous computing is more context-aware computing, aided by sensors like accelerometers, gyroscopes, and geolocators in smartphones and tablets.

    Formal to casual. In contrast to PC interactions with a formal start and finish time marked by booting up and shutting down, instant-on/always-on computing on smartphones and tablets fills in-between moments like standing in line or watching TV.

    Arms-length to intimate. With desktops, computing is literally an arms-length activity. With portable form factors like laptops, netbooks, and tablets, computers become something consumers keep close to their body, and they use them in intimate places like the bedroom.

    Abstracted to physical. The mouse/keyboard paradigm relies on an abstracted interaction with content. Touchscreens like those on smartphones and tablets enable direct physical manipulation of content in two-dimensional space.

    The PC and the Internet did not change reading, but they did compete with reading. Even the most passionate readers spent time away from books as we browsed the Internet, sent email and searched for the answer to every imaginable question.

    Now the book has an ally. The tablet renders books in ways that are familiar, fun and accessible. And readers are willing to pay for the privilege of reading stories, something they generally did not do on the desktop.

    The far-reaching computing shift from desktops to tablets from browser searching and surfing to apps and a curated rich media experience are profound and lasting for books and book readers. The revolution in miniaturization is finally engulfing the reading experience in a promising way.

    Now we have a device – the rich-media tablet — soon to be in the hands of 178 million people that enables people to read in a way that they are comfortable and even enchanting like the stories we read.