I’m no troll, but just this once I don’t agree with Charlie Brooker. He says “the single biggest advantage to the ebook… no-one can see what you’re reading”. True, but that doesn’t stop them wondering, and thinking the worse.
It goes back to that old adage: If you’re not doing anything wrong, what have you got to worry about? We don’t assume some chap with a balaclava just has issues with his acne, and similarly I wouldn’t think that whatever you’re secretly reading on the bus is anything less than the written equivalent of an act of terrorism. Or Alex Reid’s autobiography.
By masking the activity you’re currently doing, these e-readers make every user’s actions seem alike. You might be on the bus pondering the latest pseudo-science fiction by some charismatic new media entrepreneur, but if you’re doing that through an iPhone interface you’ll be grouped in with anyone else using one, checking Facebook or playing Flight Control.
And not just on buses, in pubs too. It used to be alright for a lone drinker to browse the paper at the bar before his friend arrives. Now even if you’re reading New Scientist online you’re judged as to be repeatedly checking your phone for signal, and pestering said friend with angry messages.
iPhones, and the E-Books that supersede them, should display publicly the high-brow things you’re consuming, perhaps in a timely Wordle that floats above your head. Or the device just needs rebranding, to be seen as a credible source for culture and intelligent discussion, as well as a convenient phonebook of pizza delivery companies. How about an attachment for resting one’s pipe on, or one to hold an apple? You know, stuff that clever people do while reading.
At times when I actually am checking my texts or emails, it should point out I’m not browsing the web, cheating in the pub quiz I’m currently competing in.
The easiest win iPhones could have would be to at least make it clear we’re not all taking surreptitious photos from behind them. I know simpler mobile phones have to make that annoying ‘click’, in order to prove we’re not all paedophiles, but would prefer something more explicit (obvious, not dirty).
I want a bright LED display that announces my innocence to those around me. Just not when I’m doing something I don’t want other people to know about. Media consumption transparency is all very well and good, just not when I’m looking at pornography. With multiple-tasking coming in iPhone 4.0 I guess I could open up my Business Inspiration app first, and hide the porn behind that; a new media evolution of reading Playboy behind a copy of the Financial Times. Whilst smoking a pipe.