Who’s the Ship? The iPad and I

the ship who sang anne mccaffrey 9780345018816-us-300A few years ago, after Anne Mcaffrey died, I resolved to reread my favorite of her SF novels, The Ship Who Sang.  Alas, I couldn’t find my copy. But, as I recall, the heroine, Helva, a human being born with severe physical disabilities, is implanted in a spaceship as its brain. She chooses  a human partner to live and work with:  the human provides the brawn.  Sadly, they have different life spans:  she outlives her partners and is “widowed” more than once.

I love SF, and any excuse to read it will do. But I also thought  it might illuminate the complexity of our modern communion with computers.

I love my new iPad, but today, after several hours reading on it, I developed a headache.  The screen was too bright:  I haven’t quite got the hang of adjusting it.  And once again I thought of The Ship Who Sang. I wondered about my relationship with my tablet.  Which of us is the brain and which the brawn?  Which of us is Helva?

It’s hard to say.

Well, I’m not goofing around with Siri or any complicated smart apps, so I consider myself the brain and the tablet the brawn.   I confess I am using it as an e-reader, because it provides e-book apps for the Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and iBooks.  Between us, my husband and I have had six e-readers of various persuasions over the years (they don’t last forever).   On my iPad,  I have access to ALL my different  e-libraries except the Sony Reader.  It’s great!

It is ironic that I am getting serious about e-books when others are going back to the book, or so the newspaper articles say.  But, honestly, I have so many books that it verges on clutter.  I never thought I’d say that. I don’t mind all the bookcases, but I don’t even know what we have in the boxes.  I give away books the minute I finish them these days.

Then there are the local bookstore problems.  I mentioned last week that I could not find a copy of  Tessa Hadley’s The Past at an indie.  What I didn’t tell you was that I couldn’t find it at our local B&N, either.


So I bought the e-book.

Hadley’s The Past is very enjoyable.  Four siblings spend three weeks in the old house where they grew up, which is disintegrating yet redolent of enchantment and fairy tales.  The middle sister, Alice, 46, adores the cottage and  loves her grandmother’s letters, the beautiful china, and especially their childhood books.  She picks up a copy of E. Nesbit’s The Wouldbegoods and is transported to another time.

And here’s where I know I’m letting down the side by reading e-books.

The very weight of the book in her hands, and the thick good paper of the pages as she turned them, and the illustrations with the boys in their knickerbockers and the girls in pinafores, seemed to bring back other times–the time when she had first read this, and behind that the time when such children might have existed.

Heavens, E. Nesbit was my favorite writer when I was growing up.  I even know those illustrations by H. R. Millar!

So what am I doing with these e-books?

Well, it’s modern life.  What can I say?

My Tablet’s in the Next Room!

Cat with IPad!

Cat in nest of sweatshirts, with IPad!

I have no idea where I am, but my tablet might.  Call it Siri.

As you know, I am far, far behind the electronic gadget curve.   I have a land line, a laptop, and an e-reader, while you have smart phones, iPads, and whatnots.

And now I, too, have acquired a whatnot.   I bought an iPad because my old Nook tablet died.  Now I can fly with the  blasé travelers who  keep their library and office on the same small machine!

The Nook was primitive, as tablets go.  I bought it in 2011 when my mother was in the hospital in Iowa City. During a blizzard, the phone and TV went dead at her house.  The wind howled unnervingly while I tried to read in my old bedroom.  We had 15 inches of snow, and  I felt as isolated as a character in a Laura Ingalls Wilder book.  When I finally made it to the hospital, climbing over snowbanks and falling on the ice several times, I uttered a sigh of relief because there was wifi.

After the blizzard in Iowa City, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011

After the blizzard in Iowa City, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011

And now, lo and behold! I now have a small  iPad that can do everything:  take pictures (but I already have a camera), navigate via Siri (but I prefer maps), find my iPhone (but I don’t  have one!), surf the web, play R.E.M. videos, and has Kindle, Kobo, the Nook, and iBooks apps.

It can almost do too much, you know what I mean?  I keep it in another room so I don’t constantly go online and check out a link….and then another link…  A dedicated e-reader is better for reading e-books, if the internet tempts you too much.  But the iPad is a sleek machine, and it will be lovely for travel.

I am a Luddite by some standards, but we have many gadgets (some alive, some dead).  Check out this picture of portable “apparati,” as Gary Shytengart calls electronic gadgets et al in his comic novel, Super Sad True Love Story.   Alas, where are the antiques? Our Sony Reader and a palm pilot are missing…

Some of our gadgets!

Some of our gadgets!  (Yes, that’s a real landline phone on top!)