I remember the first time I held my eReader. So overwhelmed was I with the prospect that almost every single book in the world could land right here, in my lap, that I didn’t even care that it was black, plastic and actually rather ugly. It was my own, digital version of that huge library room from Beauty and the Beast, and I span and twirled around it, loading my Amazon cart to the brim with 99p specials.
So enticed was I by the cheap prices and the fact that books could download into my hands at the touch of a button, I manged to fill my library with almost every book on my must-read list within a week. And at first, getting through them wasn’t a problem. I enjoyed the novelty.
But after a while, something shifted. I began finding it increasingly difficult to lose myself in books when reading them from a screen. It was as if there was a barrier between me and the words, stopping me from diving in properly. Books also started losing their uniqueness. There’s something about finishing a paperback and placing it back on the shelf, looking at its coloured spine sitting proudly next to all your other much-loved titles that just can’t be replicated digitally.
Books were no longer precious objects, their words and stories lovingly wrapped in a beautiful cover, but just another few megabytes of data to sit alongside my emails and calendar. Slowly I stopped picking up the kindle, and started returning to my bookshelf instead. I even went back to Foyles and purchased new paperbacks, even though I had plenty of unread titles stashed in my digital library. I just couldn’t do it anymore.
I’ve been using the internet since I was 11 and pretty much everything in my life is digital. But, for me, books are one thing I can’t seem to hand over to the world of pixels and downloads. I feel only a solid paper or hardback cover can really pay tribute to all the lessons and life-enrichment they hold. Plus, books are also a bonding tool – people come over and admire your collection, you chat about your favourites and give them one to read, then they return the favour the next time you see them. eReaders eliminate this part of the reading experience.
So sorry, kindle. I appreciate the way you let people access books so easily as well as your ability to democratise the publishing process. But for now you’re staying in my drawer, and tonight I’ll be leafing through my stash of paperbacks to choose my next read.
Image by Curtis Perry, shared under a creative commons licence.