TeleRead is a devoutly e-book focused blog. But as the tech to read e-books becomes more complex, all-encompassing, and embedded in our daily lives, it becomes difficult to divorce the issue of content from the issue of the limitations, frustrations and barriers for entry involved with running the devices we read them on.
I previously mentioned yet another Apple scandal making the news—the mysterious ‘Error 53’ message which is allowing Apple to remotely brick a user’s otherwise perfectly usable phone to punish them for servicing it at a non-Apple dealer. And now comes this piece from Boing Boing’s Jasmina Tesanovic, in which she laments the feeling that her new Macbook Air is “more bossy, less friendly, less aligned with my interests as a person and crammed with cruel little tricks and traps that suit the interests of Apple and its revenue streams.”
Boy, can I relate to this! I lost my Macbook to an accident similar to hers—mine was coffee instead of beer, but it was the same tale of woe. And, as I faced either ponying up for a new Macbook to replace it, or replacing it with something which was not an Apple product, I had to ask myself: do I love my Macbook $600 more than I’d love another computer? In my case, the answer was ‘No, I do not.’ I never thought I’d say that, but there it was, and for many of the same reasons Tesanovic mentions. As her thoughtful op-ed explains:
‘All my hidden resentments came boiling up. I found that I too, shared increasingly famous discontents with Apple’s behaviors. Alarming digital rights management, ferocious demands for passwords and credit cards, automatic fill-in of mailing addresses that don’t work and create embarrassments, an Apple cloud eager to suck up every stray scrap of my data, strange incompatible formats to lock me in, new senselessly expensive plugs that Apple forces me to buy as well as cheaper, far more useful plugs that Apple slyly removes, and so on, blah blah blah.’
To that, I say ‘Hear, hear!’ My own Apple devices have been plaguing me for the last two weeks with incessant upgrade messages. It downloads the update without asking, then wants to install it. The only options are ‘Install it now’ or ‘Remind me later.’ And if you choose the latter, trust me, it will remind you. Over and over again. There is no option to tell it you don’t care to upgrade at all, and no option to ask it to stop pestering you about it. The phone—which is my only phone, by the way, since we don’t have a landline—will be completely unusable for up to an hour when I finally cave in and let it do it. And it will run slower, buggier and one step closer to obsolescence every time I submit.
And the DRM issue! I’ve been doing an App Store unit with my Grade 3 technology class, and I wanted them to do some e-book shopping and get some chapter books for their peers. I had to manually input the password onto all 15 iPads to access the iBooks store. There was no way, as the Kindle education tablets allegedly have, to shop from a web interface and send it to all of them. I was reluctant to lock us into the iBooks app in the first place, but we have so little storage on the non-expandable second-gen iPads that I couldn’t justify downloading a second app when this one was already there.
And the error messages! One student was told we had too many devices registered and couldn’t download a thing. Two others had the iPad keep on cycling between the two wifi networks. Every time it dropped a connection, they got booted back to the iBooks homescreen and had to start scrolling through the booklist from the top. Three students got prompted for credit card authorization codes, even though we’ve bought off every iPad numerous times. Why was there no way to streamline any of this?
Apple used to be the better way. Now, I don’t know. I’ll leave you with one more quote from Ms. Tesanovic, which I think sums it up much better than I could:
“I can remember when computers were inadequate, clumsy, unpopular, geeky, devoid of cachet and huge ad budgets. I survived wars and I saw Communism crumble, so why should I passively succumb to my everyday commodities?”