No, I’m not talking about coastal golf courses, but hypertext links. I don’t think I’d ever talk about golf. To me it’s a silly game. I should know, I tried it for a couple of years. I was utterly useless. I think it needs patience – something I’ve never possessed.
Some people will probably object to me calling it a “game.” But I don’t think Hemingway was far wrong when he said “There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.”
I’ve never tried mountaineering, and I doubt I ever will. But I have considerable admiration for those who do. I’m passionate about motor racing, and motorsport of any kind. Bullfighting is certainly something I will never do! But I hope one day I’ll have a chance to spectate.
In my early twenties my bedroom walls were covered in bullfighting posters. Looking back, I have no idea where they came from. But they seemed to add a degree of excitement to my life. Perhaps when I’m done with Thailand, or Thailand is done with me, I’ll find myself living in Southern Spain (the warm part) and I’ll spend my afternoons at the local Plaza de Toros shouting “Olé” at regular intervals while spilling dry sherry down my Manuel Benitez t-shirt.
And I know a lot of you are shouting at me for supporting such a cruel sport. Well, the way I look at it, there’s lots of ways to die; many of them are inhumane, many are cruel and many are painful. But if you gave me the choice of dying a slow painful death in a hospital bed, or having a few spears stuck in my back and then being stabbed in the head to end it all, I’d happily pick the latter. You have my permission to chop off my ears to signify the fact I put up a good fight, and should you choose to fry up my testicles for supper (which apparently is what Toreros do) that’s your right. But I’d suggest you order a large dessert!
None of which has anything to do with links…
Yesterday I was reading an article in New Scientist magazine, which tried to persuade me that reading anything on a tablet computer would result in me absorbing less information than reading the equivalent in printed form. There are too many distractions, the article said. A computer is a less convenient medium, they claimed. Well, I couldn’t disagree more.
Let’s start with the last point. I wrote a while ago about one of my tablet computers, the Lenovo Yoga 8. The article is here. I haven’t changed my mind. Although my iPads get good use, it’s the Lenovo I pick if I want to do any serious reading.
I don’t have sensitive weigh scales, so I can’t directly compare the Lenovo with a paperback, but subjectively I’d say there’s little difference. My only weigh scales are the type that say “You still need to loose three more kilos you great lump.” Okay, okay, one day!
Reading a book on my tablet doesn’t need light. And yet, even if there is bright sunlight I can adjust the screen to make everything clearly readable. I can change pages easier than a book, and I never accidentally flip more than one page. I can’t lose my place. Whenever I re-open an e-book, the software automatically takes me to the page I was last reading. The article tried to claim I might stop reading if I didn’t know how far I was into a book, which is plain daft. I can tap on the page, and a bar at the bottom shows me page number ‘x’ of ‘total’ plus the percentage read. Just like a real book – NOT!
But the big reason I think an e-reader is better than a book is the main reason New Scientist claimed they were bad. It’s the huge number of resources that are built into a tablet computer.
If I don’t understand a word, or want a clearer definition, I can hold my finger on that word and then automagically have it appear in a dictionary. I can swipe a section of text and cut’n’paste it somewhere else if I want to keep notes. I can tap on someone’s name and find out more about them by automagically opening Wikipedia. For me, an e-reader is a wholly better experience than a book.
I’m currently reading Gandhi & Churchill: The Epic Rivalry That Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age by Arthur Herman and am finding the links to external information to be invaluable. To be honest, I can’t quite believe I’m reading a book like that. In school my least favorite subjects were History and English. And yet, here I am, writing in English about History! Bizarre.
But, I think history was badly taught, and probably still is. Not the fault of the teachers. They were told what to teach. But face it, did I need to know the names of Henry VIII’s many wives, when they were born and when they died? It was just a bunch of meaningless numbers. It might have been interesting to know something of their lives, and why the King decided he should get rid of them at regular intervals.
Wars were covered with a similar lack of detail. We learned (or were supposed to learn) when they started, when they ended, and who fought whom, but never why. So, I guess I’m catching up on the things I might have wanted to know as a teenager, but was never taught.
Just last night, while reading the Gandhi/Churchill book, I spotted the name Arnold Toynbee. Hmm, I thought, Toynbee is an unusual name. I wondered if Polly Toynbee is a descendent. Now, if you have no links to the UK, you probably don’t know she is a columnist for the Guardian newspaper.
I wouldn’t have known either, but I regularly watch the BBC’s Dateline London program. It’s basically an open discussion of current affairs by journalists “posted in London.” Every time I hear that phrase I think “They must have needed a lot of stamps.” Anyhoo, it took very few taps to learn that Arnold Toynbee was Polly’s grandfather.
Now, you may argue – Did you really need to know that? No. Maybe it’s a bad example. But there is a huge amount of supporting information that you can very quickly find, just with a few taps, that brings a new dimension to reading a book.
So, you will never never convince me that printed material is better than the digital equivalent. I dumped just about all my real books before I left Malaysia. I don’t miss them. And I’m wondering why I kept any since I can no longer figure where to put the batteries!