Thursday, January 31, 2013

I Have Seen The Future And It Downloads Rather Well

It is the classic dilemma : I like the convenience of eBooks but I love wandering around Bookshops. My adoption of eBooks was a bit of an accident. Convinced that no digital download could ever last a round in the ring with a "proper" paper/cardboard/leather - bound book, I undertook an experiment about a year ago in order to prove that Kindles couldn't hold a candle to a real book. I got myself a Kindle and made one of my famous resolutions to abandon paper books for three months and live entirely on a digital diet. At the end of the three months I rushed back into a bookshop, bought a pile of real books and wrote a post in praise of paper. It was, however, what happened after the experiment was over that was interesting. Within a week of holding one of those semi-obese volumes in my aching hands whilst trying to drop off to sleep, and within a few days of carting around a book the size of a brick, I had arthritis in my hands and a dislocated shoulder joint. I longed for the days of my feather-like Kindle that could carry a library with the lightness of a Victoria Sponge. I dusted the Kindle down, consigned the heavy tomes to the bookshelves and haven't looked back since.

Although I can be easily persuaded to abandon paper and board in favour of paper-white screens; book shops are a different matter. Show me a man or woman who claims that browsing the Amazon on-line book-store is a pleasurable experience and I will show you a scoundrel. You can't pick things up, flick through the pages or come close to absorbing the very soul of a book by viewing the subliminal pattern of black type on white page. You can't discover a new author, a new hobby, or a new life-partner by accidentally skipping to the next row of the Dewey Decimal bookshelves. And perhaps most importantly of all, you can't guarantee that some silver-titled bargain is not a piece of self-indulgent plastic fronted drivel : the literary equivalent of singing an aria in a bath. So I was reduced to doing what so many of us have probably done (and been ashamed to confess it), I would browse around bookshops, locate the book I wanted, and then scurry away like some adolescent felon and buy it on-line. After a few months of this approach to book-buying I carried a mild form of guilt around with me, and although this might not have been as heavy as an unabridged version of David Copperfield, it was a debilitating weight on my conscience.

It was therefore a delight to discover yesterday, as I surreptitiously crept around my local branch of Waterstones trying my memorise titles and authors for later ordering on-line, that they have embraced changing technology and come to terms with not only the e-Book, but also the Kindle hegemony. Notices announced that I could now use their in-store WiFi to order Kindle copies of books I saw on the shelves which would be downloaded there in the shop. You got the books at Amazon prices and the bookshop got a cut of the profits. One of the bookshop assistants talked me through the ordering and download process - which was both simple and very quick - and my residual guilt evaporated like a Spring morning mist. By the time I had left the shop I had added three new volumes to my digital library (the titles are being used to illustrate this post), and I could stroll back to my car without a weight either on my arms or on my conscience. I suspect I have seen the future, and it downloads rather well.


9 comments:

  1. I concur on all counts.

    Ah, John Harvey! Does Reznick still eat his bizarre sandwiches and share his home with a cat?

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  2. Love the post title. E books are convenient. Still buying the real thing for the most part.

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  3. Well, I'll be darned. You may have convinced me and I never thought it possible. I love the idea your bookshop has offered. It would solve my dilemma if I could talk the local shop to do likewise. We shall see... Love your title.

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  4. Sounds like your bookseller has found the business model of the future. Now how does one go about setting up a digital used book store?

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  5. You're a wealth of information today. I think that ebooks will be the ticket in the future. I'm sure they'll devise some way for us to browse though a book.

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  6. Even though I bought the wife a Kindle, and it has become a permanent attachment to her person, my problem is when she cannot get it work as she wants. There is more flap than a 1920's Ballroom - and, by default, it is somehow my fault.

    Give me the musky, dusty smell of gentle (or genteel) decay of the second hand bookshop where I can loose myself amongst the unwanted and obscure.

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  7. I like my Kindle..I basically read the free classics and whatever else I can find for free. There is a Facebook site Free Kindle books and apps..it works great for me. I still hoard real books..just incase:)

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  8. I am a full convert to the Kindle too. I have also the same frustration with Amazon and bookstores. My compromise has been our state's digital library which has a growing collection of eBooks. The selection is limited and they force the eBooks to be checked out as if they were real books, so if one copy is out you have to wait just like at the library. But it is FREE.

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  9. Well I still prefer real paper books and always will I suspect, but of course an e-book by say, Me, can be gifted to a friend, ie You, which hopefully gives us both pleasure without physical discomfort or inconvenience.

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