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Friday, May 20, 2011

It is the future Jim, but not as we know it

As a Star Trek fan I am familiar with the paperless books that often feature on that show. Effectively, they invented the concept of the Kindle. However, as an essentially old fashioned sort of guy I am stll clinging to paper in the face of advancing science.

That is why I am inundated with piles of books I have no time to read and no doubt will add to when I go to the home of the book later this month, the Hay Festival. I also have more cassette tapes than CDs and an ipod, which I rarely use.

It is disturbing therefore to read in this morning's Daily Telegraph that online retail giant Amazon has said that sales of digital books for the Kindle electronic reader have surpassed sales of print books for the first time. I feel the need to go online and correct the balance, except that I have nowhere left to store any more unread books.

Is the book going the way of vinyl records and video recorders? Will we have to visit antique shops or quirky back alley shops to buy books in future? I am sure that the Kindle is very shiny and convenient, but you can hardly leave them on a sunbed by the pool whilst you go and get a cold beer or an ice cream. Nor can you show off your book collection in antique bookcases if they are all stored on-line?

And how can you pose on a train, smugly cradling a highbrow masterpiece when it is on a Kindle, and nobody can see what you are reading because it does not have a high visibility cover to display to all and sundy? Surely this Kindle thing will never catch on.
It may transpire that the 'Book' will acquire a higher status in the future than the e-book.
As long as it's on recycled paper.
I use a Kindle for bedtime reading and a proper book at all other times. This arrangement works for me and is encouraging me to get rid of a huge surplus of books that are simply sitting around on shelves gathering dust.
Perhaps the next advance will be a dual-screen Kindle, so that you can read what's on one side and everyone else can see that you're reading War and Peace

... or that you want them to think you're reading War and Peace.
Hmmn. If people use kindles instead of their local bookshops, where are they going to go for the pleasure of browsing shelves when the bookshops have gone?
Books will always have a more personal touch. The tactile qualities of old books with thick paper or leather fronts and backs.
You can also sign a book you give away as a present in your own handwriting.
I have a leather backed bible which dates from 1680 . With ink inscriptions.
If the paperback you are reading is lost or stolen you have lost a book. If the same thing happens to your kindle you've lost a library
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