Luddite alert

Posted by Guy Pringle, 20th January 2011

You’d think a gadget boy like me would have jumped onto the Kindle/e-reader bandwagon by now, but no. Anything with an Apple logo on it has me drooling from the mouth and here at newbooks Towers my colleagues are amazed I haven’t found an excuse to buy an iPad yet.


But there’s something about the e-reading scenario that leaves me cold. I spend too long reading computer screens each day to look forward to doing more of same in the evenings.


However, there’s no denying that this Christmas has seen a sea change in attitudes as more and more anecdotal reports find their way to us. Add to that the bullishness of trade releases about the ‘phenomenal’ number of Kindles sold and the ‘incredible’ number of downloads purchased on Christmas Day. (Hardly a surprise - when you’ve got a new toy that you want to try it out, don’t you?)


Anyway, this from Janet Shaw articulates the thoughts of several recent converts we’ve heard from:


Having written warmly in an earlier issue in praise of the back-lit Nintendo and its collection of a 100 Classic Books, I now write in praise of Amazon’s Kindle, given me as an unsolicited present by my son for Christmas.
“I thought we could explore this technology, Mum,””
If you buy a leather case to put it in, it feels just like an open book in the hand: very like the small squarish hard back edition of the The Small Hand by Susan Hill I treated myself to as a Christmas read. (A friend of mine strained her neck holding the latest C J Sansom  - my description of the Kindle sounded very attractive to her!)
The Kindle, unlike the Nintendo, can be read in sunshine: the Nintendo can be read in the dark but the Kindle needs light on it. There is no glare from a stark white page with a Kindle so reading it seems to relax the eyes. The print quality is truly amazing. Yes, the font size and line spacing can be changed which is wonderful for eyes like mine which are developing cataracts.
It does read to you (at speeds you can vary) in a male or female electronic voice - not very relaxing! However it does mean that if you are at an exciting part and want to tackle something in the kitchen or on your cross stitch or at your carpenter’s bench – it will carry on reading to you.
And it is scarily easy to download on to it. What have I put on it?
First of all I bought The Help by Kathryn Stockett as it was so well reviewed and I was defeated by the small print in the library paperback. Then I chose all the Barchester and Palliser novels of Anthony Trollope for under a pound. Why? Because my husband and I have not read them and an evening listening to James Fox reading from  Trollope whetted our appetite. My small font, old, fragile copies take up two feet of shelf space. Thirdly, I chose the King James Bible (free) following our Church House group where one of the men had five bibles on his Christmas black leather cased Kindle. Finally another freebie – some Just William stories after seeing one of the drama series on TV over Christmas.  To tempt the grandchildren is my excuse.
This is just a beginning as there is space for hundreds of books.
It crosses our minds occasionally that we may have to downsize one day and which books to keep from our eight bookcases will pose the main problem. The spines of books which we have read are like photos of old friends and places visited, and glimpses of the spines of unread books give tingles of anticipation. So readers will always want some real books about them.
The ownership of my Kindle means that I store on it all classic authors and poets for a few pennies or pounds and release several feet of shelving leaving me with books which need to be handled or are not available in digital form.
What a relief to know if I have to live in one room, as we did as students, and I am in my right mind, I will have so many places to revisit, so many people with whom to be reacquainted, so many ideas to challenge me and new worlds waiting to explore – all in a wallet-size leather case. A reassuring backup for future reading.
Need we be concerned about the future of books? No- reading friends state categorically, “Soon there will be no such things as books.” The paperback disposable market may be affected but there will be people who always want to handle books. Readers should be thrilled to know that the words in books will be available in different and accessible forms. Reading experience is our interaction with words, and books have provided the main medium. Now we can access this experience in different and increasingly effective ways – horses for courses.
Readers will always keep reading in whatever form makes it easy, feasible, financially viable and pleasurable.
There has been a post Christmas buzz and excitement in the school where I work (teaching reading of course) as Kindle owning teachers share their excitement in the new technology:
“Did you know there’s an inbuilt dictionary?”
“You can write notes you know”
“Isn’t the speed of download amazing?”
“My wife reads a book a day.”
“Let’s order some for the students. Anything to make reading attractive!”
A Kindle Club for young and old!
Finally another comment from my son: “And if you suddenly have to take Dad to hospital again, Mum, you can just grab your Kindle and go.”
I look forward as always to this year newbooks issues. My husband and I are resolving to spend more quality time reading.

Best wishes
Janet Shaw


Difficult to argue with that, isn't it? Think I might just get that iPad after all.


Katharine Parker said...

Janet's comments are spot-on! I am an avid book-lover (the feel, the smell, the look as well as the content!) but I gave in and bought a Kindle at Christmas, mainly because of lack of book shelving. I was prepared to think it was ok, but within an hour I was totally in love! Easy to hold, incredibly clear to read, option to make notes and highlight passages and room for 3,500 books (I'd never get that number past my partner). Already I have nearly four hundred books of which 95% were free and have been able to pass on my old paperback classics and make room for more books on my shelves.

Posted on Fri 21 Jan 2011 @ 09:29

Clare Milne said...

Yes Katharine - this is exactly why I acquired an ipad in September - my bookshelves are already doubled up, which makes it hard to find things and for every new book I have to make a hard choice about what has to go out. Like you, many of my ebooks were free as I've set myself on a path to read a lot more 'classics' as well as new fiction. Plus the continually auto adjusting light levels of the screen mean I can read well into the night... ah, not such a good thing. The ipad is large and heavy but it does so much more eg dotting in and out of Google earth to make more sense of a novel!

Posted on Wed 26 Jan 2011 @ 19:27

Andrea Wheatley said...

I'm so glad to see that other people are 'coming round' to the Kindle. It is a fantastic invention for all the reasons mentioned (ie portability, size, ease of use, speed, book costs etc). The best part is the option to download a sample of the book before buying. I wouldn't be without mine and am never short of a book to read - in fact I am reading stacks more than usual. Plus I don't have to break my back carrying round a hardback/paperback book in my bag. Don't hesitate to try the Kindle out (ps I am not on commission from Amazon just an enthusiastic owner)!

Posted on Tue 08 Feb 2011 @ 11:10

Marjorie said...

I see that Amazon have agreed that their Kindle can be sold by other outlets such as Staples, so you are no longer limited to buying one from their website.

Posted on Wed 16 Mar 2011 @ 21:20

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