I have been a strident advocate of real books, but Amazon’s relentless Christmas advertising campaign got to me, and convinced me that I needed a Kindle – even though I didn’t actually want one. Add that to my Christmas loot burning a hole in my pocket, and the result was inevitable.
I have to say, it’s impressed me. Beautifully engineered, it is light, readable, vastly more portable than the chunky hardbacks in my library, great for train/plane/long stay in hospital. But it will not replace the paper book in my heart.
Why? An e-reader doesn’t smell right or feel right and has no substance. Reading an ebook is just like reading a technical pdf (and I had quite enough of them in my last job, thank you very much). It’s utilitarian. It has no soul. And I can’t take it into the bath.
Picking up the Kindle is nothing like walking into my library and seeing the rows of old friends on the shelves, each one of which instantly evokes a fragment of the story, or the holiday where I first read it, or the birthday for which it was a present. An e-reader to me is a tool, and as unromantic as a screwdriver.
We all need screwdrivers sometimes, but we don’t keep them on display like the best china. We bring them out when we need them, then put them away again. And so it will be with my Kindle, I think.
I’ve just finished reading my first ebook, and if the author wasn’t a friend I would feel no compunction whatsoever about deleting it from the device. Yet every paper book I’ve ever bought remains on the shelves in the library – even the ones I didn’t really enjoy that much – and anyone who tries to get me to part with any of them is liable to get hurt.
Oh, come on. Which of these two would you rather pick up?