The Tyranny of Battery Life

15 Dec

Or, Books shouldn’t self-destruct.

Photo credit to Mike Baird.

The other night I was in a race: me vs. my iPad’s battery life.  And I lost.

I’ve recently discovered reading on my iPad. Now that there’s an app that lets you check out library books pretty seamlessly, I’m hooked.  I checked out (is it really checked out when nothing’s physically leaving the library?) a mystery novel on Monday night, and had since spent almost all of my free time reading it.

An iPad only comes with one charger.  And they want about $30 for a second one.  As I am cheap, I only have one – it lives on my desk at work.  So there I am on my couch Thursday night, way after my bedtime but close to the end of a book – clearly it’s a legitimate excuse to stay up late.

Photo credit to RiverRatt3.

And it beeps and tells me that I’ve got 10% battery life remaining, and then only 5.  And snap, the book’s a race.  I can speed read, and with most mysteries I do. (If you don’t spend the time required to write well, I don’t spend the time required to read well – I’m looking at you, James Patterson.)  But this book is different – it is beautiful and wonderfully overwritten, clearly written by an English major.  It has sentence structure that I’ve never seen before and more m dashes than belong in any piece of writing.

Photo credit to theloushe.

It’s a book that deserves the time, but I don’t have it.  (It’s like I’ve just gotten a note: this book will self-destruct in thirty seconds.  So I’m flying through the book, picking out the subject, verb, and object of the sentence and leaving all the other words behind.  But it’s too late – and I run out.  Desperately searching for a charger that I know’s not there, the iPad dies and I’m left without resolution.  Sure they’ve already caught their guy and know who done it, but it’s that final twist, that hallmark of all good mysteries, where the information revealed in the last few pages makes you think about the whole book in a new light.  And I don’t get to read it.  At least not that night.

Books are meant to be immutable.  They’re not meant to self-destruct.  There’s something about reading that’s completely liberating – you enter a new world, and only leave when you choose to.  There’s a conscious act of leaving, that moment when you lift you head, look around, and slowly close the cover.  But suddenly, I was unceremoniously thrown out of the world that I’d been in.  Do not pass Go, do not collect $200; the book you’re reading, the world you’re in, no longer exists.

Photo credit to Gael Martin.

I’m learning to love reading on my iPad.  It’s great the gym; it’s great to be able to carry a library in my purse.  And you’d think that 10 hours of battery life would be great to.  But, I can lose myself in a book for much more than ten hours.  I can lose myself in a book for a weekend, or in a series for days on end.  And yes, that lovely and beautifully-written mystery novel that I was reading: it’s the first in a series.  So, here’s to many more battles with my battery life.  Wish me luck.

Questions of the day:  Do you have an eReader?  Have you been thwarted by the battery life?  Do I just need to suck it up and buy a second charger?

MaggieCakes is a blog about social media, marketing, culture, and what’s new on the internet written by me, Maggie O’Toole.  Every day (that’s such a lie, maybe once or twice a week) I comb blogs and news outlets for the news about internet culture and social media to bring them to you (with my commentary, of course) here on MaggieCakes. Find anything interesting in the worlds of tech, culture, or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at

11 Responses to “The Tyranny of Battery Life”

  1. KB December 16, 2011 at 1:33 am #

    You do need to suck it up and buy a new charger, but dear god, please don’t fall for those usury prices. Friends just don’t let friends do something like that. Please, let me introduce you to my little friend called eBay along with its’s “But It Now” and “Price +Shipping: lowest first” features:

    Pay attention to where your item is coming from; if you don’t want to wait for it to take a very, very slow boat on it’s way to your iPad, try changing the location to “US Only.”

    Also keep in mind that you sometimes get what you pay for, so you might want to order multiples. Electronic equipment that only costs you a dollar occasionally meets rather than exceeds your expectations. So plan accordingly but also know that I wouldn’t be recommending something like this if I didn’t have a fairly good track record myself.

    Seriously, I’m not sure if we could continue to be friends if I learned that you paid Apple Store retail for something like this. Seriously.

    • Maggie O'Toole December 26, 2011 at 9:04 am #

      Kevin, you comment got stuck in my spam filter – sorry! I guess the WordPress gods thought you were someone trying to sell me his stuff on eBay. Anyway, buying a second charger online is a great suggestion. I’ve replaced camera batteries that way before and has completely forgotten about it as a tech replacement option.

  2. georgettesullins December 16, 2011 at 7:20 am #

    Who would have thought…battery life and books could be in the same sentence?

    • Maggie O'Toole December 16, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

      I know, right? I want books to be free of technological hang-ups. Actually, I want technology to be free of technological hang-ups, but I guess that’s too much to ask for…

  3. John Baker December 16, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    Your “books should be immutable” comment is an ideal that has not been met with “battery free” books: just ask the ancient librarians of Alexandria. Still I feel your battery pain; it’s the Achilles heel of large swaths of our digital world.

    • Maggie O'Toole December 16, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

      Bonus points for too classics references in one comment! As much as the story of the library of Alexandria is sad, it always makes me happy to think that, thousands of years later, people still recognize it as one of the great tragedies of history — that people recognize how much knowledge matters.

  4. cityoflu December 21, 2011 at 6:14 am #

    I really enjoy reading your blog and I’m always curious about how people are getting on with their e-readers…but what I really want to know is this: what was the title of the beautifully-written mystery book you were reading?

    • Maggie O'Toole December 26, 2011 at 8:58 am #

      It was In The Woods by Tara French. After I posted this, I wondered if I should have included that information… The sequel, The Likeness, might even be better. Hope you find time to curl up with a good (physical or digital) book over the holidays!

  5. sharingclosetspace December 26, 2011 at 10:19 pm #

    I was told by the salesman at Barnes & Noble when I bought my Nook that the battery life is 30 days. I totally didn’t believe him. But, I’ve owned the Nook for three months now, and as long as I turn it completely off when it’s not in use (as opposed to just letting it “sleep”), and as long as I’m not laying on the beach reading all day, I found his estimate is pretty accurate.

  6. Stinky Cheese January 13, 2012 at 10:59 am #

    Regarding your question about checking out digital copies of library books, yes, it really is “checked out”. Libraries have to purchase books in quantities they intend to lend out. The same is true for e-books. The only difference is, they are purchasing a license for the book instead of the physical book itself. Given that there is considerably less cost associated with producing a digital copy of a book, licenses tend to be cheaper. Thus allowing libraries to purchase multiple copies of the same book. When they lend you the book, they are actually lending you the license to read the book. If they only have 1 license for a particular book, they can only lend it to one person at a time, just like they can only lend a single copy of a physical book to 1 person at a time.

    As for a charger, doing a quick search on the web, you can get a charger compatible with the ipad for as little as $10. Never pay retail. Retail is for suckers.

  7. JSD January 20, 2012 at 8:42 am #

    I’m using iBooks on my iPad and find it convenient. But I get tired of looking at a screen (any screen) and prefer having a real book in my hands whenever possible. Hope you managed to find a reasonably priced charger.

Leave a Reply to KB Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: