I was talking, with a group of kids, to a librarian the other day, and the issue of ebooks was raised. Are they the future? Will there always be a place for print books, or are we going to see a gradual decline?
Given that I’ve had my Kindle for a few months now, I feel I know enough to weigh in on the debate.
Last week I bought the first book I’d bought for myself in probably about a year. As I’ve explained before, this is not because I pirate books (I would never) nor because I’m exceptionally cheap (I am sometimes, but not with books.) It’s simply because, in my capacity as a reviewer, I get a lot of books for free – even more so now I can access NetGalley more readily with my Kindle. I also have ready access to a very good library at work, from which I’ve borrowed many excellent titles.
Even in my new house I have limited space for books – one bookshelf in the bedroom, which is full, except for the bottom shelf which is in perpetual flux with the various books I borrow or review. I’ve had to donate loads of books to charity shops to free up space. The Boyfriend’s books, along with a complete set of Harry Potters, are in a box under the bed because they still won’t fit on the shelf. This means the space is reserved for the books I really love. I’ve taken to chucking out anything that I read and don’t immediately want to read again.
The book I bought was Reckoning by Lili St Crow. I bought it because I love the series, because I have the other four, because I wanted to have it on my shelf. It was a reward for finishing one of my New Year’s Resolution writing targets.
I will always buy books by Kate Griffin. I want to finish off my Forest of Hands and Teeth and Seven Kingdoms series. I will probably one day complete my Women of the Otherworld collection.
But I think many books I buy and read in the future will be on Kindle.
Once upon a time I had my bag searched in the airport on my way to Greece for a week. I don’t know what they thought was in there – it was full of books. The person checking it had a good laugh at my expense. I told him there weren’t enough books, but I physically couldn’t carry any more. With the Kindle that’s no longer a problem. On my last holiday (when I received the Kindle as a much appreciated hand-me-down present) I was able to devour more books than I could have carried with the limited baggage allowance. With cheaper flights with baggage charges, it’s even more valuable – a library you can slip in your handbag.
I also find it great for reading on the go. I often have it propped against the window as I do the washing up, or as I eat my lunch – because it doesn’t require holding open, it’s much easier to manage when doing something else at the same time.
It also saves on a lot of printing when you want to read something you’ve written – or to enable someone else to read what you’ve written without sending them a tedious PDF file. A couple of free tools from the internet can convert almost any file for Kindle format.
So, is it the future? Yes. Will print publishing become obsolete? I seriously doubt it. For me, there is still no greater pleasure than curling up with a book. It’s a multi-sensory affair: the smell of it, the tactile pleasure of turning the pages, the beautiful front covers. Kindle can give you the words, which most of the time is enough, but it can’t emulate the whole experience. And for my favourites, I’ll always want the whole experience.