Monday, 30 April 2012


For my birthday I jumped on the e-reader bandwagon and bought a Kindle Touch.  I was quite excited when it arrived - a new gadget to play with is always fun - and it turned out to be very easy to set up. 

 I love books, and always have.  I feel a great sense of loyalty to real, printed books, and have been sceptical about having an e-reader. I was attracted, though, by the idea of not having to store books I know I won't revisit, and by the ability to access self-published books, whether mediocre or not. (I'm told you can learn a lot from a badly written book, too).

So I held my shiny new Kindle in my hands, and deliberated on what to buy. With my first ever wage from a Saturday job, I bought two books, which I still have and treasure - a dictionary and Birdsong, which I had coveted for months. (If only I had known what a beautiful book Birdsong was, it would have only increased my anticipation). In the end I bought a famous book I've never had the slightest inclination to read before, which was only 49p.  And then I began.

And instantly fell out of love with my Kindle. For all the times I'd worried I'd miss the physicality of a real book, I hadn't fully appreciated what I would miss until it wasn't there.

I missed seeing the cover. I missed hefting it in my hands, and feeling how slim or thick it was. I missed being able to savour the moment before you begin, when you read the blurb, and drink in the individuality of the thing. (Every book has its own identity.  Even different editions of the same book 'feel' different. But I hadn't realised that without a hands-on experience, I wouldn't be able to discern any identity. It was like trying to strike up a relationship with a robot). I tried fiddling with the font size, but it messed up my sense of the page.  I felt cramped trying to read, as if I was being forced to take in a panorama by peering through a letterbox. I hadn't realised before how much of my reading is not word by word, or even sentence by sentence, but is page by page - how I like finding my way through paragraphs I can see, and being able to chart my own progress across a two page spread, instead of hopping disfluently across a fragment of a page. And you can't tell how far through the book you are. Or flick back to check on a fact you didn't take in as well as you ought, finding your way through knowing what the page looked like, and which side the information was on.

I was sorely disappointed.  I mentioned it to two friends on the school playground as we waited for our children, and one, a convert to the e-reader, suggested that I read a familiar book first, and give the one I had bought a miss, for now.  It seemed like a helpful suggestion, to lessen the unfamiliarity of the medium, so I'm now reading Pride and Prejudice.

It is better than my first experience. It isn't, somehow, as satisfying as holding a book (give it a bit longer). I especially dislike the way that words which ought to be italicised are capitalised instead - it feels like being shouted at. Do all e-books do this? And the proof-reading hasn't been done as well as you usually find in printed books. But it's easy on the eye, and, as my converted friend says, no-one will ever know if I'm reading trash.

I'm going to withold my judgement for now.

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