In an article entitled "Gadgets you should get rid of (or not)" in the NYTimes today, Sam Grobart gives a list of gadgets you should dispose of (desktop computers, point-and-shoot cameras, ipods among them) or hang on to (alarm clocks) and has this to say about books:
"BOOKS Keep them (with one exception). Yes, e-readers are amazing, and yes, they will probably become a more dominant reading platform over time, but consider this about a book: It has a terrific, high-resolution display. It is pretty durable; you could get it a little wet and all would not be lost. It has tremendous battery life. It is often inexpensive enough that, if you misplaced it, you would not be too upset. You can even borrow them free at sites called libraries." (So far so good, I thought, clever little para, must link to it on my facebook status. But then he goes on:)
"But there is one area where printed matter is going to give way to digital content: cookbooks. Martha Stewart Makes Cookies, a $5 (now $3.99) app for the iPad, is the wave of the future. Every recipe has a photo of the dish (something far too expensive for many printed cookbooks). Complicated procedures can be explained by an embedded video. When something needs to be timed, there’s a digital timer built right into the recipe. You can e-mail yourself the ingredients list to take to the grocery store. The app does what cookbooks cannot, providing a better version of everything that came before it. Now all Martha has to do is make a decorative splashguard for a tablet and you will be all set."
This of course is the biggest problem with the technology. As we all know from the cookbooks on our own shelves, a cookbook has to be on the bench, and even more so with these apps which have built-in timers and videos etc. A splashguard is also not going to protect the gadget from a major spillage which may wrinkle or even ruin a $40 cookbook, but will kill an $800 Ipad. Another problem with them is that for $3.99, this application provides 50 recipes for cookies, and by the time you've bought applications for all the things you might want to cook, you could end up spending significantly more than for a cookbook with hundreds of recipes. Of course there is also the fact that for every gorgeous app like this or Nigella Lawson's Quick Collection ($9.99 for 70 recipes) there will probably be as many dodgy collections you will never use. I have the epicurious app on my iphone which allows you to search the almost 30,000 recipes from food dite Epicurious.com. I find it incredibly useful if I'm out shopping and can't remember the ingredients for a particular recipe. It's also great if I'm at home and need a recipe for something unusual ( like Shrimp and Grits I made last week) and I don't want to have to go down to the shop to look one up. However while I am going to buy an Ipad, and will probably download lots of apps to do with food and cooking, and will use it in my kitchen, I am almost positive that it will never be able to replace a lot of my vintage favourites like Miss Drake. It certainly will not allow me to browse through a 19th century Mrs Beeton for inspiration for my 19th century dinner, and it won't look as good on my shelf!