E-books are divisive creatures, no doubt. The reading world is split between those who love the TARDIS-like nature of the Kindle for transporting an entire library in a handbag and those who will die on the point of a sword defending ink-and-paper books. I used to be firmly in the latter camp and now… well, I hover on their outskirts, close enough to hear conversation inside the tents.
I began to warm to Kindles when my granddad acquired one. He was a lifelong technophobe, in his eighties, probably legally blind and with an alarming prediliction for the works of Jeffrey Archer. Three generations of Frosts thought the Kindle would be back in its box in disgust within hours. But he got on really well with it. He could increase the text size to two words per page so he could actually see it, it came with a built-in light and if he fell asleep, it didn’t lose his page. We were astonished.
I inherited the Kindle. It was a book-thing, an electronic-thing and it was unloved and unwanted. Of course I adopted it. I reset the Amazon account, gave it a wash – yes, with water, but very carefully (incontinent 85-year-olds do not leave all their possessions smelling of roses) – and bought it a new cover.
I still don’t have many books on it. But it came into its own at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe over the summer. You spend a lot of time queuing or waiting and I found that the Kindle, minus cover, fitted much better into my little bag than a real book, and it didn’t care one bit if one of its plastic corners got a bit up close and friendly with my wallet or camera. If I finished a book, most venues had wifi, I could download another one immediately.Handy thing.
Having finished watching episode one of the BBC’s new series, The Night Manager, last week, I was seized with a desire to read the book at 11pm on a Sunday. Oh no, the bookshop’s shut and it probably doesn’t have it in stock anyway! No problem for the Kindle.
What about Scott Lynch’s long-anticipated Republic of Thieves, pre-ordered twice because the original listing got cancelled? By the time it was finally released, I could no longer wait the last two or three days for the book to pop through my letterbox. I got a head start with the Kindle. (I do only do this for special books, I don’t make a habit of buying them twice.)
Finally, although I mastered the art of reading books safely in the bath probably before I could walk, I do like the security of slipping the Kindle into its watertight case.
I will always be first and foremost a fan of real books. But I recognise and acknowledge that there’s a place in the world for the digital book as well.