Article published on March 22, 2017.
Gill Chedgey is plagued by self-doubt . . .
Not a new debate by any stretch of the imagination but one that has been waging a war in my head and my heart for, digitally, ages. I’m going over old ground here to a certain extent but it helps to clarify things in my head.
Let’s examine the benefits of e-books and e-readers.
• Space: if all my physical books were stored on an e-reader I could take in lodgers with the space that action would free up!!
• Travel: no more need to fill up a suitcase with enough books to keep you going for a fortnight away. Carry them all in one place.
• Convenience: just whip it out of your bag wherever you are and carry on reading where you left off.
• Immediacy: fancy a book? Get it right away and start reading, no trips to the bookshop or library, no waiting in for the postman.
• Physically challenged: e-readers weigh very little, no strain on wrists, arms and shoulders.
So why do I loathe them so much? I love physical books. I love the smell, particularly of a brand new paperback. I like the feel in my hands, the weight feels substantial, worthwhile. I love my books arranged around my room. I feel safe and comfortable being surrounded by books. I feel rich, privileged when I scan all the titles. I feel less alone, surrounded by ‘friends’. I love carrying a book around with me from room to room, place to place so if there’s an opportunity to read I can. I often refer back in a book to check something, particularly if I’m reviewing it, I like to find and reread an especially evocative passage, investigate maps and family trees. I like to mark the place with a book mark.
But, here’s my conundrum. Do I love reading? Or do I love books? Emotionally, I want to say that it’s reading I love. But if I really, truly love reading should it matter how I read? It has become a cliche for people to say they are so passionate about reading they will read a cereal packet rather than not read. And I have done that myself. So why not an e-reader? It bothers me. Maybe I’m not a reader at all? Maybe I am only a collector of books? But I’m not happy with that. It doesn’t feel right to say it. And I don’t believe it!!
The only consolation I can think of is that, conversely, there are people within my circle who will only read on an e-reader. And those same people will describe themselves as readers, loving reading. I can throw my conundrum back at them, if they were really readers and really loved reading they would read real books too – wouldn’t they?
There is no answer, I guess. And maybe there doesn’t need to be. Suffice to say that if Fahrenheit 451 became a reality I would turn to an e-reader if that was the only way I could read. And maybe that is an answer in itself?
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