Track 33

Call it the digital revolution. Call it the advent of labor-saving technology. Call it quits, however, if you are 72 years old and electronic devices have you at the end of your so-called wits.

Britons are often heard to lament that this or that will “drive me round the twist.” In this our digital era, I fear that something will “twist me round the drive.” The disk drive, of course. Which is itself an outdated term. There haven’t been discs around for a long time. And, no, up-to-date people do not even refer to them as drives.

It all started with a missing book. I bought the book, oh, two weeks ago. And since Jane and I are going on a week’s vacation, it seemed essential to bring the book along. Of course, the book happens to be an audiobook. This one read by the incomparable Allan Bennett. Unfortunately, I made the purchase on my desktop computer, foolishly believing that the copy would automatically copy itself, sending digital clones out to the four corners of cyberspace. The latter being also an outdated term.

Thing is, who wants to read a book, and especially hear a book read, sitting at a desk? No, this is an experience for sitting up in bed. Or lounging somewhere else. So it wasn’t exactly outrageous to expect to find Allan Bennett on my iPhone, my iPad. But, no. Bennett was either holed up at his London home, visiting Hull or otherwise occupied.

Rather than going into the boring details, it turned out that a forcible updating of my desktop Apple took care of the problem. Now the silly book is on my phone. I have no idea if it’s on my iPad. Probably. But even possibly will do. What I really object to is the time involved. I tried everything. After all, there is an essential illogic behind the purchase of what Apple terms its “content.”

The first Allan Bennett audiobook I purchased turned up in my iPhone under ” Music, Recent Purchases.” The second, acquired a few weeks later, turned up under Books. Lost content, if there ever was any. And, of course, something ever so slightly illiterate underlying the whole experience.

 Which, brings me to the only other audiobook I have ever bought from Apple’s iTunes store, a rather beautiful reading of Middlemarch. The only thing that detracted from its beauty, was the confusion the audiobook generated in what’s left of my mind. The normal bookmarking procedure that works so nicely in, well, a book…had no digital equivalent for Middlemarch. There was no tearing a subscription card from the nearest magazine and shoving it between a couple of pages. ITunes had cleverly arranged the entire novel as it did any music album. Track 1, track 2, and so on. Which makes for havoc when you are wandering through the nineteenth century, and maybe take a day or two off, only to discover that what you were certain was track 33 must have been track 43. The tracks of my tears. Apple would have had no trouble classifying that one.

Of course, there is a reasonable argument that being forced to keep up-to-date with assorted technologies can only do some good. It keeps one in mental shape. It certainly keeps one at home. It also keeps one up at night. Onward.

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