I got an e-book reader a while ago. It’s clear to read, no eye strain, good battery life. It came pre-loaded with stuff, and I took it with me on holiday, but all I read was Russell Brand’s Booky Wook, two chapters of Don Quixote, and one poem (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner).
The classics were full of errors – a sloppy transfer. But quite apart from that I simply had no desire to pick the thing up. I got no feeling of achievement, of my bookmark’s steady progress through the pages. It just didn’t feel like a book, to me.
I usually have a few books on the go at the same time, switching between them depending on my mood. If I feel like a change I put one down, pick up another – but if you do that with an e-book, it doesn’t feel any different, as the size, shape and weight of the e-book reader remain exactly the same.
Some books become like friends – they are more than simply words to be displayed on a screen. And although you can personalise e-book readers to a certain extent (change covers, font, etc.) it will never be the same as your own books, with their hidden histories – the corners of pages turned down when you foolishly let someone borrow them, the tear stains on pages that made you weep, the split spines of side-splitting Pratchetts…
E-books do have their uses. They’re certainly more portable than larger books (I’m looking at you, Tale Of Genji!) but I don’t need my entire library with me at all times. I can’t lose it at home, but I could easily leave one electronic gadget on a train by accident (it’s too expensive to leave behind on purpose). And that’s another thing – I used to enjoy seeing what other people were reading on train journeys, but now it’s starting to look like they’re all reading the same thing.
Yes, I know I’m killing trees – but paper can be recycled. A Kindle can’t – and the electricity it runs on has to come from somewhere. I doubt that it’s all from renewable resources. (Anyone else think that Kindle is a strange choice of name? Surely books + fire = bad thing?)
I love cracking open a brand new book. It is genuinely one of my favourite sensual pleasures. I love the feel, the smell of books. I think most people who read a lot do. And publishers are aware of this. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that there are many more books available now with beautiful textured covers. Maybe we’re returning to the times when books were gorgeous things, leather-bound and gilded – but only available to the wealthy.
I suppose one day someone may find a way to add that new book smell (or old book smell) to an e-book reader – though I doubt that the world will ever be ready for a scratch and sniff edition of Fifty Shades Of Grey…