I feel guilty. I feel guilty because I’m currently reading The Snowman by Jo Nesbo (supposedly the next best thing to Steig Larsson). I feel guilty because I’m reading it on a kindle and not in paperback. And I feel even more guilty because I’m enjoying reading it this way.
I never thought I’d be able to abandon the good old paperback for an eBook. Reading on an electronic device just never appealed and can’t replace the real thing, the smell of a new book, the dog ears as you create as you work your way through it (yes, a bad habit but I like my books to look read) and placing it on the bookshelf when you’re done, creating another addition to your own personal library. I’m proud of my bookshelf, it’s a history of what I’ve read and says a lot about me.
With eBooks there is no smell, no dog ears and when you’re finished no one need know. But it’s not all bad. Certainly not for Amazon who report selling more Kindles than paperbacks during the backend of 2010.
So, a couple of weeks ago I downloaded the Amazon Kindle app to my iPad and bought The Snowman. It cost me all of £2.92, a tiny saving of around 50p on the current listing price for the paperback version but it was available to read within a few minutes; no going to a bookshop, no waiting for an Amazon delivery. I could start reading straight away. I began reading in bed and find it much easier to hold an iPad comfortably than a book; in fact I can read it one handed (no traditional page turning required) so can snuggle further under the duvet when it’s nippy.
Whether I bookmark my page or not, the Kindle remembers the last page I was reading from so there’s no ‘I’ve dropped the book, shit, which page was I on’ business and I can change the font size for ease of reading. As old age encroaches (I’m all f 31 you know) I find really small type off-putting so making it bigger is a bonus. I can change the screen brightness so I don’t get bedazzled and I can make notes if I want to (good for research when I get back on the novel-writing trail) or link straight to an online dictionary if I want to look things up. I can also pop it in my bag, along with my emails, favourite social media tools, my blog and the wider web, all in one device. And I can see it will be really handy on holidays – no more packing three heavy hardbacks and lugging them around an airport, I can pop them on the Kindle and if I run out of books to read I just download another one without even needing to move from the poolside.
All that said, I do feel guilty. I love books, I love book shops and I love adding to my little library of literature and hope one day to have a home office lined with shelves housing all the books I’ve read. So to say goodbye to books, the real thing at least, is a bit sad.
I’m far from saying I’m ditching paperbacks altogether but I’m going to give this Kindle business a try. I’ve yet to finish The Snowman and, in fact, have no idea how close to the end I am because I have no dog-eared marker to tell me as I would with a proper book. But technologies move on, times change and I’d like to be at least trying to keep up. My main concern was that I’d want a break from staring at a screen all day but so far, this hasn’t bothered me; time will tell, I’m still only on my first eBook.
As I said in my last post, I think library closures are a sad but probably necessary thing in these cash-strapped times, but I’d be incredibly sad to think I might read to my children (if/when they appear) stories off an iPad. I want them to experience real books, to carry them to school in their backpacks and keep their favourite ones on their bedside table.
Are we looking at a future without books as we know them? What do you think? Vote in the poll: