I was wondering who’d gotten a new Kindle as a Christmas present. And then I remembered a funny story about David Letterman. Nearly two years ago, he showed off his tablet on his late-night talk show — and he seemed confused about whether he’d bought an iPad or a Kindle!
LETTERMAN: For Christmas, I loaded up — I had one of them iPads, and they put a book in it. You know you can do that now?
PAUL SHAFFER: Oh, yeah. Sure…
LETTERMAN: And so I’ve been reading this book in this iPad thing, and I’m reading and I’m reading and I’m reading. And as you know, you don’t turn a page, in — when you’re reading on the — what do they call them, the Kindles or something?
PAUL SHAFFER: Yeah… They’ve got that, too, yeah. (Audience laughs)
Letterman was probably reading with a “Kindle for iPad” app. (Earlier that week, Amazon had pointed out that it’s one of the top 10 best-selling apps among iPad owners.) But as their conversation went on, Paul Shaffer (who conduct’s the show’s band) gently tried to correct Letterman’s confusion as he explained how you turn pages.
LETTERMAN:And so you just — you just kind of do this with your finger.
PAUL SHAFFER: You flip that. Yeah.
LETTERMAN:And the thing’ll…
PAUL SHAFFER: On the iPad and the Kindle…
Letterman was playing up his reactions as a technology curmudgeon — but he was building up to a complaint that I’ve heard before. But the punch line of the bit turned out to be that it was bandleader Paul Shaffer who had the perfect answer
LETTERMAN: And I’m reading, and I realize: something’s wrong here. Something’s desperately wrong. There’s no page numbers on my book!
PAUL SHAFFER: Right. No, well, there can’t be. There can’t be, because you can change the font, and if you have a larger font, then you’re going to have fewer pages and therefore you can’t possibly commit to a page number because as you electronically alter the page you number, you are going to have to change as well the number of pages that you have at your disposal…(Audience applauds)
LETTERMAN: Thank you. Thank you, Steve Jobs.
It’s nice to remember that story, as a reminder of how things have changed. (Amazon eventually found a way to add page numbers to Kindle ebooks, so maybe Letterman is happier now.) But I still always smile when I remember how skeptical he’d been about the iPad — even in earlier shows. When the device was first released, he’d showed one to his audience, then joked “The radiation this thing gives off is incredible. You’re supposed to wear a lead apron when you operate it.”
But it was especially interesting in light of a research study by J.P. Morgan. Back in early 2011, they determined that 40% of the people who own an iPad also own a Kindle — and that another 23% of them plan to buy one within the next 12 months!
It’s a hopeful sign that all iPad owners aren’t as confused as David Letterman! But I still would like to drop his comments into a time capsule. Even if books are all someday replaced by digital readers, it’ll be worth remembering just how uncomfortable some people were with the change.
LETTERMAN: But see, and then you just — you just whisk it away like that, and then — but look. What do you see? Do you see a page number?
PAUL SHAFFER: No….
LETTERMAN: No. You don’t see no page number.
PAUL SHAFFER: No. There isn’t…
LETTERMAN: How do you know when you’re done, is what I want to know? Or if somebody – somebody asks you, are you reading the — the book? And I say yeah. “What page are you on?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know what page I’m on.” For example, this — I’m reading now the Alex Trebeck story, and I have no idea — uh…No, I can’t help you. Sorry.