If you describe yourself as a book lover, you probably mean not just a lover of reading, but a lover of the tactile activity of reading an actual book, feeling the pressure of the spine trying to close against your hand, handling the pages, enjoying the typeface and layout, the drama of the cover, the smell of the paper …… it’s a sensory pleasure as well as a cerebral one.
So what is the appeal of these new e-readers (Kindles, Kobos, or just reading off your laptop, tablet or smartphone)? I count myself as a book lover, enjoying both the sensory pleasure of reading a physical book, as well as the cerebral enjoyment, but I’m also a bit of a geek, and love a bit of technology, so recently I was tempted to buy an e-reader.
So how’s it going? Well, I’m more impressed than I thought I would be – in particular, I’m reading a lot more. Keen readers will know the practice of having several books on the go at once, which one you pick up will depend on your mood, your location, the time of day, the time you have available and many other personal preferences. But that means, if you are taking a train journey, or going on holiday, you have to make your book choices before you go. Whereas with an e-reader, you can carry your whole e-library around with you in just one small, light device. You can change book as simply as making a menu choice.
Also, there’s no needing a bookmark or folding down the corner of the page (sacrilege!) – an e-reader simply opens at the page you closed it at. Now that might only save a few seconds, but I certainly found that it made me much more likely to try and read during gaps in time where I wouldn’t have tried with a book (a few stops on the underground for instance).
Does it suit some books more than others? One early book I read on the e-reader what What Are You Looking At? by Will Gompertz. It’s a book about modern art and how it developed over the last 150 years. I thought it was fantastically well written, but unsurprisingly, not really suited to an e-reader where, although some can show pictures, not well. I went out and bought the real book! But detective stories, historical novels, sci-fi – anything that you can dip in and out of, stop and start, I’ve really enjoyed.
Bookbub – one great addition I found out about – which has definitely contributed to my e-reading is a website called Bookbub. You sign up, and tick from a list of about 20 genres, which sort of books you are interested in, and then every day Bookbub sends you an email with offers. I was very sceptical about being spammed, but actually, I get one email per day, at about 3.30pm, which gives me 2, 3 or 4 offers, prices nearly always Free, 99p, £1.99 or £2.99 for e-books from the genres I selected. There’s a good mix of new authors and well known names. Of course, I’ve read a few, enjoyed them greatly, then realised that it’s the first in a series and the rest of the series are at full price, but then who hasn’t done that in a real book shop!?!
So, my conclusion is that e-readers are a different experience to reading a book, but still fun, and above all, still reading, with all the intellectual enjoyment that brings.