Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Confessions Of A Paper Recidivist

I've gone and done it again. I keep saying I have stopped, I keep putting an end to that extravagant habit that seems to have blighted most of my life. I keep making those resolutions to overcome temptation and and yet, like the recidivist I am, I have gone and done it again - I have bought another book. And let me point out at this stage, by book I mean one of those things printed on paper and sandwiched between cardboard covers. One of those things that consumes a forest of trees, which takes a tanker full of scarce fuel to transport around the country and which occupies precious shelf-space in shops that could be better given over to useful products such as ornamental toilet-roll holders or fluffy rabbit shaped cushion covers. As I have said before in this column, those old-fashioned book things can't be acquired in a wifi microsecond. They can't remember how far you have read, they can't look up the meaning of "recidivist" for you, and they can't put themselves to sleep ten minutes after you have re-read that final paragraph a third time. For that you need an e-Book, a magical walking, talking, library that can accommodate all the accumulated knowledge of mankind in a thin tablet the size of a cigarette packet. Whenever I fall off the eBook wagon I quickly finish up with a fatal mix of wrist ache and confusion (try propping one of those real books against a pillow and tapping it to turn the page). I vow to stick to eBooks in future but then temptation creeps up on me - either in the bath or in a "bookshop". In the bath I live in fear of dropping my Kindle in the water in case it somehow electrifies the entire bathtub. And in the bookshop I am driven wild by those temptresses, stacked seductively on shelves, displaying on their lurid covers all the joys one might find inside if you were to simply pay the going fee.

I used to have a similar relationship with music : loving the convenience of MP3 tracks whilst longing for the old-fashioned solidity of a real disc - be it shellac, vinyl or optical. I was eventually rescued from my paradox when a lifeboat called Autorip came gliding up the River Amazon. The idea was simple ; buy the CD (or in some cases the vinyl) and they will give you an MP3 download of the same material free of charge. All that was needed was to extend this beautifully simple concept to books and all my troubles would be behind me. I could browse around a real bookshop, buy a real book, get the digital version downloaded to my e-reader, read the paperback in the bath and fall asleep with the e-version in my arms. And now that mighty South American river has announced just such a system which, I believe, is to be called Matchbook. I think it is already in operation in America although I have yet to see a date for it to be launched in this country. When it is, I will be one of its first customers.

And just in case you were interested, the book I bought was the excellent "The Secret Rooms" by Catherine Bailey (in both paper and electronic versions). But that's another story - and another post.

10 comments:

  1. I have yet to succumb to an e-reader and continue to stick to the high ground of real books of paper and ink regardless of what the cost. Never the luddite in other things electronic but always so in things that truly matter--the book. It is a sad situation.

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  2. I don't take my Kindle Fire anywhere near the tub...I have dropped way too many books in the water when I got sleepy:)

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  3. E-books don't look, feel, or smell the same; you can't walk into a room and feel next to knowledge (even if little of it rubs off on you). A Bit About Britain does rely on them, though. Mind you, I feel a cull coming on soon; will I EVER read that first edition again? My wife loves her Kindle and I confess that it is convenient, and great when you're away. I knew someone that liked them so much that they bought a whole shelf full.

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  4. Couldn't get used to e-books. I like a nice library that I can pass on to the kids without them needing my password. Also, whereas a book sends me to sleep in 20 to 30 minutes, an e-book does it in a few seconds.

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  5. Love your story telling. At least we have choices now.

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  6. I haven't gone in for ebooks. I can see the advantages if one is travelling for a long time and won't have access to getting books, but otherwise I like the whole experience of a real book too much.

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  7. I am a confirmed Kindle user; all novels go on the Kindle, many history books also. However, if it is a reference book, or one that I feel I will need to keep going back to, then it's in paper form. Has made a big difference to the number of novels that are read once, put on a shelf and take up space for years.

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  8. I didn't think I would like reading on an IPAD as much as I do. Sometimes I feel guilty.

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  9. I have re-posted a cartoon apropos to the subject on my blog. . .

    http://loghead1.blogspot.com/2014/04/because-alan-brought-up-subject.html

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  10. I can't help it, I'm addicted to books; real books, not the electronic substitutes. My solution for too many books in the house? Buy another large bookcase!

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