The Pages of a Book. 24 May 2012 The tale of one man's resistance to the electronic book reading experience

'We had been away for a few days. Time for eating, a lot of eating, time for sleeping, time for walking and time for reading......'

 

For the first time in my life I had been reading a book on an iPad. A very dear friend of Clair's has recently finished writing her first book. It is an extraordinary achievement. 450 pages of tight, tense detective novel, that has had me gripped from the first chapter. However, I have a problem. It does not feel like I am reading a book.

The strange glow from the ipad screen and the odd sensation of turning a non-page with the swish of my finger are somehow diminishing my 'booky' experience. Our friend wrote this, poured her heart and soul into it, spent ten years of her life crafting and shaping it. It seems somehow reduced by existing as only a file on a computer.

Don't get me wrong, I love iPads. They are one of the greatest inventions of my adult life I think. It still freaks me out that there are no buttons. (How does that work?) But what this thing is not, is a book. It delivers none of the physical enjoyment I get from the process of reading a book.

Firstly there's the choosing and buying part. The person that says they don't like taking refuge from the high street in a slightly dark bookshop to silently shuffle about picking up affordable items of joy, is either lying or iliterate.

Then there's the smell, a new book - and by that I mean new to you; old books smell great too - has a whiff all it's own, full of possibility and promise.

Then there's the heft and feel of a book, from the light and portable much thumbed paperback, to my own favorite, the brand new hard backed first, preferably US, edition, with the crinkle cut pages.

Nothing can beat the turn of the first page.

This physical enjoyment continues right through to the moment where you get to close the final page with a satisfying snap.

So yes, the iPad is cool, and I expect the kindle is terribly portable and convenient, but I can assure you that when I pack my suitcase for the summer holiday this year, I will have a good solid layer of real, honest-to-goodness books at the bottom, one of which I very much hope will be the first edition of our friend's newly minted novel.  I am looking forward to reading it again. This time for real, with the whole 'booky' experience intact.

Ben Chamberlain


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