But before I engage the wrath of the booklovers brigade (that’s me too, by the way), I’m not advising you to “buy one”; I’m simply saying why I was converted. It’s a personal tale. And not entirely serious, either.
The turning point for me was the realization that I could take as many books away on holiday as I liked without challenging the idiocy of Easyjet’s baggage restrictions. All my excess weight from now on would be on shoes, just-in-case jumpers, and assorted chargers. And although I thought I’d miss the density of a book, the feel of a page, and the loss of a tradition. I don’t. I love my new tablet, but – and here’s the thing – not for the reasons I anticipated; and, similarly, I dislike it for oddities that I could never have foreseen.
Things I like? Reading a book review and purchasing impulsively (and then forgetting about it); on the home page, the permanent list of all the books I have read and am about to read; the ability to see the screen in direct sunlight. And it’s nice how you can change the size of the font, but better still is feeling smug that I can read a smaller font size than some of my peers (that’s Laser surgery for you). Oh, and let’s not forget my lovely pink fabric cover.
So what do I dislike? That said marvellous list on the home page is rendered meaningless as I don’t recognize any of the titles or authors. It draws attention to the fact that book titles, with the odd notable exception, are dull and unrecognisable. Three word titles are usually interchangeable. And longer, cleverer ones are annoying and cumbersome.So now, when I want to look back on something I have read, I go to the home page, click on the book in question, then navigate it backwards and forwards to get to the first page, before re-reading until it is familiar. Not for the Kindle user the usual easy pointers: the cover (pretty much telling you all you need to know about the substance), the notes on the flyleaf, giving you a key into what other people think and what the author has done before, nor the all important synopsis that gives you some idea of what it is you are reading. How often do you flick to the summary on the back when you have lost the plot? Or it is just me who likes to double check who’s who as the story unfolds? No longer though; the Kindle gives nothing away except the page you are on. Definitely a weakness.
Then there’s the issue of percentages, not pages. Apparently, you can change the setting but I don’t know anyone who has done it. And also there’s a bit of a thrill announcing that you are already 3% in and there have been two murders, or that you can’t answer the phone as you are up to 98%. With a real book, 1200 pages is a big deal, a commitment you take on from the first (similarly, 120 pages is a hop and a skip to finish before you get off the tube). But with the Kindle, all books are 100% and you only know what you have taken on once you have done a week-long commute into town and only got in 7%.There’s no skipping to the back to see what happens (this is both good and bad). No lending, either: a sadness, particularly in my family that has a slightly dysfunctional book club of my daughter, my sister, my Mum and me. My daughter and I tried swapping Kindles on holiday, and it kind of worked. But as hers is full of her university curriculum, it wasn’t exactcly a bundle of laughs. Although I did read Dracula which should, I now believe, be compulsory for all pre-pubescents who think Vampires are glamorous.
Finally, there’s no recycling. Gone are the days of leaving your battered paperbacks with the glueless pages for future sunloungers. And what about Charity shops? (OK, I guess there are enough books still around for now).
I once was told that Robert Palmer (God rest his soul) used to see a woman on the Northern Line every morning. He liked the way she looked, the clothes she wore, and the books she was reading. He finally talked to her and married her. Regardless of the leggy ladies in the later videos and his ultimate playboy lifestyle, this story gave me hope and restored my faith in boys.
With the Kindle, this pulling opportunity will be lost to us all.
Words: Susie Innes