You could say that I love my Kindle, in fact I have several of them dotted around the house. But despite a virtual stack of ebooks, virtually piled up in my virtual Kindle library, I still find myself unable to resist collecting more paperbacks. Whether they are going cheap in charity shop or cast-offs from friends and family, I acquire them, and they form real piles in my real house.
But I still keep buying ebooks. They are convenient, I can pick up the book I am reading on any of my Kindles, smartphone or iPad, and, via the magic of the cloud, the device will remember where I am in the book; jolly clever. If it is a book I am turning into an audiobook I can make electronic notes to help me voice characters or remind me who is speaking etc, and those notes will synchronize across all my different machines.
It might be that I have slightly trapped myself. Having invested time and money in setting up my little ebook network, I feel a little guilty opening a wood-pulp based device. Am I wasting my fancy equipment by spending time leafing through paper? Am I being unfaithful to my little electronic friends?
Perhaps I have found a compromise.
In my experience no matter how bad a book seems, or how little it grabs me, it is worth persevering with the first 40 or so pages. It can take that long for a book to get going, or for me to ‘get into it’; for my mind to mesh with the author’s; for the characters to become real and interesting. Why not use the cheap or free paperback to make it to that decision? A couple of years ago I was loaned ‘The Day of the Jackal’ by Frederick Forsyth, one of those books I had always meant to read. I put off reading it, but, as the lender quite naturally wanted it back, I thought I had better actually read it. After the 40 or so pages I was really enjoying it, the mix of intrigue, French history and drama, combined with great characters, had really chimed with me. So I bought the ebook and returned the battery-free version! Now I can enjoy the ebook, sure that I want to read it. Is that the answer; pick up interesting paperbacks then get the ebook if they grab me?
Somehow I am still uncomfortable with this solution. Why can’t I just enjoy a paperback for what it is? Why do I feel the need to make my ebook devices feel useful?
I wonder if it would be different if ebooks could be bought and sold second-hand; picked up in some sort of virtually dusty, cosy, corner second hand shop.
Mmm. Think that is a topic for another day.