For some time I have hovered on the fence regarding e-readers versus print. Well, ‘hovered’ may not be quite the correct term. I have always believed and still believe that the hard copy book beats the e-reader hands down.
I mean, what can possibly replace the feel of a good book in one’s hand? What can emulate the pages that waft excitement as you turn them and allow one to breathe in the aroma of crisp print-on-parchment? (I get fanciful now). Furthermore, a hard copy never needs re-charging and sits, tantalizingly inviting, on the bookshelf, begging to be read.
Despite this love of the printed material, I do possess both an iPad and a Kindle. iPad has a nifty way of mimicking the turning of a page but fails to perform outdoors in the sun. In fact, iPad burns up and turns off if exposed to the heat of the sun, British or otherwise. (I speak from experience) It does perform well in the dark of course, being backlit. iPad holds illustrations and can handle colour. Its bookshelf is reassuringly real and presents itself as a library of the old order.
Kindle on the other hand, has a screen that can be read in any light – though a light is needed it must be said. The screen cannot be brightened and the pages do not ‘turn’. Instead, a click of the sensitive button on the side of the device allows one to move forward or backwards through the book. The font can be enlarged just as it can with the iPad – a bonus for many people over forty. Its library is in the form of a list of contents and selected by the up, down and across arrows on the main button. The black and white format is set. There is no colour, no illustration. This is a device for reading, pure and simple.
With both devices, ordering a book on-line makes it instantly available on the Kindle or iPad of choice.
Now, what has happened to change my perception of these devices?
I have just spent a relaxing few days on the Isle of Wight. Part of my relaxation routine requires a good book, if not more than one. I was given several books at Christmas and still have a few to read. I chose one that at first glance looked promising, and packed it. One book, I reasoned, would be enough. Memories of stashing seven books in my suitcase on our holidays to France each year, sprang to mind but common sense surfaced. I would not be reading the entire weekend. I just wanted a book to turn to now and then.
Old habits die hard.
At the last minute, I grabbed my Kindle, sadly underused but containing a selection of books, purchased as try-outs, all the same. I pushed it into my bag and forgot about it.
The paperback I pulled out to read on the first night, when presented with a gap in engagements, did not begin well. Claiming to be written by one of the Sunday Times’ top ten best selling authors, who shall remain nameless, the narrator exasperated me at the start by talking to me as though I was a child. The sin of ‘Telling not showing’ being committed over and over again, finally overcame my desire to read any further. This, coupled with stilted and unbelievable conversations introduced for the sole purpose of filling in gaps in the backstory, did nothing to encourage me to persevere.
I was now presented with a dilemma. Should I go out and buy another book or should I pull out the Kindle and see if I wanted to read one of the several books I have downloaded?
“You can read my book if you like, it is very good,” my friend offered, waving a hard backed copy of her novel in my face. The book looked good. However, share a book? I had a better idea. I downloaded a copy to my Kindle.
Oh bliss! Suddenly, thanks to the recommendation from my friend, I had a book that grabbed my attention and kept me reading to the last, er, page.
I forgot the words were appearing on an electronic device. I forgot I was clicking to turn a page. It made no difference. When I had to put it down I did not lose my place, I did not need a bookmark and I could enlarge the type when my eyes were tired. Perfect!
I finished the book this afternoon and have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. In my normal style, I read and read at every opportunity but saved the final few pages until I got home so I could savour the ending.
The Kindle asked if I would like to tweet about it if I had enjoyed it. I did. The book? Kind of Cruel by Sophie Hannah. This author is also on the top ten list of Sunday Times’ bestselling authors.
You may be wondering who wrote the book I disliked so much or what it was called. That I will not divulge. As we all know, one man’s meat is another man’s poison and it may well be that the book in question has delighted readers world-wide. I am not about to besmirch another author’s work on a whim. I am, of course, delighted to promote the book I did enjoy and leave it to you to make your mind up about it, whether you read it on traditional paper or electronically.
Meanwhile, I confess to being a convert to the Kindle, if only because it rescued me from a dire situation – book drought!