Do you Kindle? I do. There are several reasons why a Kindle, or some other eReader, is indispensable and the first of these is travel. Books significantly add to the weight of your luggage. You don’t want to be paying excess baggage on a plane, or struggling with an obese hold-all down the corridors of a packed train. Public transport can be grim enough without your sustaining a dislocated shoulder in Coach D. And why should you when you can carry a whole library in your featherweight gadget?
Then there’s the reading experience itself. Open where you left off without fiddling with bookmarks. Highlight your text or make notes without defiling (and devaluing) your precious book. Tired eyes? Enlarge the font – or change it – (but not to Comic Sans, unless you’re a reception class teacher). Try a restful sepia background or even nocturnal white on black. Enjoy the virtual page-turning effect.
But you know all the time that you’re fooling yourself because there is no way to replicate handling a book, especially a large one. Think of cupping the corner then turning the whole page with your palm. And the smell – breathe in the good smell of a real book – beats your sterile iPad, doesn’t it?
I wouldn’t hesitate to highlight or make notes in a paperback though the habit can sometimes come back to bite you. Who else has an A level text with ‘irony’ scrawled in the margin when the irony is as vastly obvious as the Emirates stadium or the Eiffel Tower? Hardbacks are sacred though. As for bookmarks, I collect them. They are things of beauty in themselves. Most of mine are from English cathedrals. My favourite is a purple one from Durham.
Then, of course, ‘books do furnish a room’. I have five large bookcases, my favourite is a rotating one which is surprisingly capacious. I have no room for any more and will have to do a book cull soon. There will be tears.
In my youth, I had the privilege of researching in the Rare Books Room at Cambridge University Library and in the beautiful Reading Room of the old British Library. Just occasionally I would be brought an old volume only to discover that some of the pages were still uncut. I would have to ask a librarian to cut them for me. Imagine the thrill. Here is a book published in the reign of Queen Anne and I am the first person to read these pages. It is also just possible that is the only remaining copy in the world.
So, on the whole, despite the wonderful conveniences attendant on Kindling, I would prefer to handle the real thing and I also have to agree with Cicero: ‘A room without books is like a body without a soul.’