A nice cup of tea and a sit down with a good old (digital) book

08-Jun-2012

Having made my way into digital publishing it’s only natural that I am lover of all things digital. I have a computer, an iPod touch (which I won) and a smart phone (which freezes a lot). OK, so I’m not ‘up there’ with the gadget kids but I am interested in the technology and want to move with the times. I like to read so an eReader is next on my must-have list. A Kindle, probably.

With all the advertising for various eReaders at the moment and the huge digital presence at The London Book Fair this year, I was extremely surprised to find out that I wasn’t the only person without one. I discovered this recently when I had to carry out some research for a publishing course I’m studying for. I needed to find out which types of eReaders people prefer, and where they source their eBooks from. I thought this would be easy; everyone has an eReader, don’t they? I was quite wrong and my questions were met with outrage.

‘How preposterous’, the people said. ‘I spend all day in front of a screen, why would I want to read a book on a screen?’

I tried to explain that it wasn’t a screen like a computer or phone screen¬ – there’s no glare, it’s not shiny or fuzzy and it doesn’t hurt your eyes. But they weren’t convinced. ‘I like to hold a book in my hands,’ they continued. This made me wonder if a Kindle was actually invisible or not really shaped liked a book after all.

I was confused. We are prepared to do almost everything digitally these days, chatting to friends, dating, checking the news, looking at photos, even tennis and bowling on a Wii. But we don’t want to read a digital book?

And then I got to the crux of the issue. It was all about the paper. Readers like to physically turn the page, they like to feel the paper between their fingers, and they like the smell.

Well, I can partly agree on smell. There is something about the smell of a bookshop that makes me feel at home. I confess to occasionally sniffing books and inhaling deeply, but not once the paper has started to decay – which it inevitably will.

But turning pages? This is the one annoying thing about books. You need two hands to do this. I like to curl up on the sofa and read with a cup of tea in hand and I’ve had some scary moments when I’ve tried to balance the cup somewhere just so I can turn the page. With an eReader you can do everything with one hand (or an elbow), leaving the other one free to drink tea, or whatever else you may do when reading.

I have to admit it’s taken me a while to even consider using an eBook. I used to be one of those people always muttering on about paper. One of the things I love about books is being able to look at them when I’m not reading. I like to glance across at the bedside table and see the bookmark poking out of my latest read, signifying that I’m already two thirds through. And I can’t quite explain the feeling I get when I look at my many bookshelves bursting with paperbacks and hardbacks – all the books I’ve read, and all the ones I’m going to read. Satisfaction and lots of memories. I’ve even spent many hours arranging them and rearranging them, wondering how best to categorise.

But I can’t take all these books with me wherever I go. I don’t know what I’ll be in the mood to read when I leave the house and for this an eReader is very handy. If I come across something I want to read, I want to be able to read it then and there. Now. Yesterday. I simply must have that book. At the click of a button I could have any book I want immediately. I could even delve into a cheesy romance and no one need ever know.

Having said that, if I ever get around to reading War and Peace I want people to know I’m reading it! So I’m not shunning the paperback just yet. I think there’s room for both in my life. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, or read a book.

I have the movie channel but it doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally dip into my DVD collection. I check Facebook on my phone but that doesn’t mean I don’t ever browse the web on my computer. Even though I’ve hopefully dropped enough hints to loved ones to receive a Kindle for my birthday, thanks to the bargain basement of a certain Swedish store I also have another floor to ceiling bookshelf to fill.

Sarah

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