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.