Tuesday, November 29, 2011

E-Readers & Airplanes

Last week as I flew south for the Thanksgiving holiday, I discovered a clear disadvantage of e-readers. Unlike a “tree book”, as BethTribe describes printed books, an e-reader must be turned off once the plane leaves the gate. It may not be turned back on again until the plane reaches 35,000 feet. Similarly, as the plane begins its descent, the e-reader must again be shut down.

This is a problem. As soon as I settle in my seat on a plane, I pull out my book. Sometimes, if the book is really good, I barely notice when the plane leaves the ground. My colleague TW says he does the same thing. “I like to establish right off to anyone seated next to me that I’m not looking for conversation,” he told me.

Staring at a blank screen during these critical initial strapped in moments may leave you vulnerable to chatty chap in the adjacent seat. “Say, is that one of those e-readers….”

It’s time for the airlines and the FAA to take another look at this. In his column in The New York Times, Nick Bilton suggests that “maybe it’s time to change these rules.”

“Michael Altschul, senior vice president and legal counsel for CTIA, the wireless industry association, said a study that it conducted more than a decade ago found no interference from mobile devices.”

In fact, the current rules that have everyone turning their devices on an off again may actually pose more of a hazard.

“The government might be causing more unnecessary interference on planes by asking people to shut their devices down for take-off and landing and then giving them permission to restart all at the same time. According to electrical engineers, when the electronic device starts, electric current passes through every part of the gadget, including GPS, Wi-Fi, cellular radio and microprocessor.

It’s the equivalent of waking someone up with a dozen people yelling into bullhorns.”
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