Tomorrow Apple will unveil the tablet, a book-sized electronic device that may change the way we consume information. Perhaps the most powerful idea behind it is the merging of media – text, audio and video – that will make books interactive and living.
Can you imagine reading a physics text book and, while being introduced to the theory of relativity for the first time, being able to tap your screen for explanatory videos, pictures of Einstein and the clock tower that he was looking at from a moving trolley car when the idea first came to him? Or being able to study music theory in a multi-media format? All of my banjo lessons could be written in “tablet form” with explanations, a video showing me exactly how to do something, and audio clips that could be manipulated with the swipe of my finger. I sure would enjoy tapping the French words in my Russian novels to hear them pronounced and translated right away.
But I would also miss the feel of my old leather bound books, the hand-written pencil marks that show my thoughts the first time I read something. I also wonder if reading from something battery-powered would make me feel like I needed to hurry. What about the effect it might have on imagination? If I have pictures, videos, and sounds automatically associated with what I read rather than imagining what something might be like, will that affect my ability to think creatively? And if imagination is suppressed, where will our poets and song writers come from?