It seems that Amazon are threatening to release their dismal Kindle e-book reader in Europe. Yeah, well, good luck with that. And some jerk in the Guardian said he’s sooner read books on his iPhone, which I find stupid beyond belief – what sort of dork wants to read books on a screen the size of a packet of fags?
I have something over 2,000 books, every one of which has been read and cherished, and added to, with increasing pleasure, on a regular basis. Currently, I’m re-reading my paperback copy of The Lord of The Rings, which is 30 years old (and my fourth version – one read to rags, one lent and never returned, and the centenary edition, which I still have but which is too heavy to read). Every scuff-mark, nick, scratch, crease and softening of the page edges fondly recalls all the previous readings (I’ve read LOTR about 30 times over the years). Will a Kindle still be running in 30 years? Or 100 years in the case of some of my books? I sincerely doubt it – how many generations of Kindles would I need to replicate the longevity I have on my shelves?
I can take a book to the pub, without worrying about spilling beer on it, or someone nicking while I’m in the toilet, or read it on the bus or train, without worrying about leaving it behind, or drop it on the floor with impunity, or throw it across the room (don’t ask) – not so with a Kindle. I sincerely doubt they’re beer-proof, but they are eminently stealable, and breakable. Kindles and their ilk simply don’t have the versatility or the tactility of paper, and a download just doesn’t have the multi-faceted pleasure of browsing a bookshop and buying a pristine new, book (even if that bookshop is online!).
All things considered, I don’t have the slightest desire own a Kindle, or any e-book reader. Hell, just think how many real books I can buy for that money – books from which I’ll still be deriving pleasure long after a Kindle, bought at the same time, will have been consigned to landfill, or to the cupboard to keep all those fondues sets, food processors and bread machines company, or WEEE’d into oblivion.
And before someone calls me a Luddite, I’m not – my life is dominated by electronic devices, not least by my computer, without which I simply couldn’t function, and I even have a few e-books on my hard drive, but the pleasure to be had from reading them is zero.
Anyone really serious about reading is serious about books, and anyone who thinks reading on a Kindle or, ffs, on a mobe with delusions of grandeur, is in any way desirable, is geeky beyond all hope of redemption. I can see many professional applications for e-book readers (not least civil servants leaving Kindles loaded with confidential documents on the train), but, for the sensory, literary and intellectual, pleasure of reading, give me paper every time.