Monday, January 24, 2011

Am I cheating on the book?

Arguably the best gift I’ve ever received (just ahead of the Little Miss Makeup doll for my sixth Christmas and getting my ears pierced at 13), I can already tell my new Kindle is going to change my life. However I am slightly concerned about the impact it’ll undoubtedly have on my bank balance.

Produced by Amazon, the Kindle is an electronic reading device about the size of a standard book and as thick as an Iphone. Unlike a glary LCD screen, the reading technology is called electronic ink, (imagine a more sophisticated version of the magnadoodles we used to draw with as kids) making it super easy on the eye.

Easy to navigate around, even for someone as technically challenged as myself, it’s scarily simple to purchase any piece of reading you desire. Browse the Amazon website and subscribe to periodicals that are delivered to your device each morning, or indulge, and download book after glorious book - all this at the touch of a button that links, most unfortunately, to your credit card.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos says, “our top design objective was for Kindle to disappear in your hands – to get out of the way – so you can enjoy your reading.” The device certainly fulfills that promise. If you want to look up the meaning of a word, simply highlight and the inbuilt dictionary will pop up. If you like a particular quote or passage the Kindle* will save it to your clippings page. It’ll even read out loud to you if you wish.

But the e reader doesn’t have the soul of a well-thumbed novel. The joy of picking up a beautiful book, its comforting weightiness, and the satisfaction of turning each page are glaringly absent with an electronic device. Frustratingly I also can’t judge the cover (however much I’m not meant to) and I can’t lend a great read to a friend! The online store has none of the atmosphere of the traditional bookshop; I can’t get lost in it and spend unwitting hours going from shelf to shelf. I’m also uncomfortable that I can only purchase from Amazon when I’ve always made a point of supporting independent bookstores (thankfully Readings has today launched its own ebook store.)

On the other hand electronic books are about a third of the price, and they’re so much easier to cart around. The number of Kindle sales (USA Today estimates three to four million so far) suggests I’m not the only one who’s being won over. It pains me to think I could be contributing to the demise of the traditional read - I can feel my old-fashioned books staring accusingly at me from the shelf whenever I walk by. But unfortunately the Kindle has become a guilty pleasure I can’t give up and I just can’t shake the feeling that I really am cheating on the book.

* There are of course many other e readers out there and I recommend shopping around before purchasing.

No comments:

Post a Comment