Quite by accident I read Wuthering Heights on my iPhone on Friday. I didn’t plan to. I was looking at apps and updates and I managed to find myself looking at a particular app I installed a while ago. I don’t actually know what I did but I navigated myself on to the first page. It’s a long time since I read Wuthering Heights.
This made me think about the e reader phenomenon. I have looked at it and as a computer illiterate I left it at that. My friend wants one. He is a computer genius and loves gadgets so much that when he finds a new one he buys one for himself and one for his girlfriend, regardless of if she wants one or not. He is waiting to buy an e reader, as he reckons the price will go down. He also reckons that as well as a price drop a few other things will get tweaked and then they will be an amazing piece of kit.
It’s a funny one, the e book thing. It seems that some people are embracing it with literally both hands. Some of us know the technology is there but it’s for computer lovers and not us just yet. And then there are those who will never go for an e book no matter what the deal is.
E reading has its plus side. First there is the price difference. E books are less expensive. Then as was the case with my Wuthering Heights I didn’t have to pay anything. The app is free and because the book is out of copyright I can download and read for nothing. There is a second app I have installed which was also a free app so I have plenty of free reading
The environmental issue comes next. There is no paper used or glue or ink so it is clearly greener. The only energy requirement is electricity to charge the reader. The charge isn’t that much so that’s all good.
There is a convenience factor. An e book can be bought and downloaded pretty quickly. From my limited knowledge which was gleaned from a talk at the Writers Centre Dublin,
http://www.writerscentre.ie/, a lot of e book readers buy their e books for the speed of access to their purchase and one woman, described as mature, apparently buys a couple of e books a week.
Next has to be the ease of travel. The difference in weight in your bag between War and Peace in paperback or on an e reader is quite significant. It would be the difference between having a sore shoulder or not. A school in the West of Ireland are bringing in a scheme where iPads will be used with the School books loaded on to them from the next academic year. The local credit union are offering loans to parents for the scheme as it will cost €700.00 for the package. The kids interviewed were thrilled. Especially as the current schoolbag weighs the equivalent of a two year old child and this weight is carried by 13 year old children.
Having said all of this the paper book is still a thing of beauty. There is something so cool about walking into a proper bookseller and browsing around. What do I mean by a proper bookseller? It is a proper book store, owned by a book lover and staffed by book lovers. Instead of these big outlets with top sellers pushed at you with offers and discounts and staff who are only there to move units and as fast as possible, you get a piece of tranquillity in a small corner of book heaven.
You feel the calm energy as you walk in. Other customers are in their own place seeking the pleasure of their own favourite genre and there is no rush or hurry, no music or narrow aisles forcing you to grab and get out. These booksellers know their people and often know what you are about just by looking at you.
Very often a beautiful pearl is to be found in these places. You are wandering around and there is a book you never knew existed. A single little gem waiting for you. I never fail to go into one of these wondrous places without finding such a book.
There is a lovely feeling to walking in and finding a lovely new book, paying for it with inked paper and opening it in your reading place. There is the smell of new paper and fresh ink the feeling of this new piece of art in your hand. It’s the curling up on the sofa comfortably with the book of the day, your new best friend. It feels like a unique human experience, sharing Authors thoughts and being part of that journey from the author’s imagination to the physical presence of their work in reality.
Even a second hand or used book has energy of its own. As well as the authors energy there is the previous reader’s energy coming from the pages. I even like marks notes in margins and underlines. It brings to me how this book was part of someone else’s life for a while.
Am I anti e book? No.
Am I unimpressed by the e book phenomenon? No.
Has it a place in the joy of reading? A resounding yes.
However the written word gets to people so they can love it, hate it, discuss it, debate it, recommend it, is all that matters. I will probably be reading more on the iPhone. I will still be hanging out in my favourite booksellers promising myself I will only buy the one book this time and never quite managing it. I will always find the little booksellers gem that is place on the shelf just for me. I could still find that gem in the e book store on line without a doubt. As long as writers write and readers read there is room for all formats.