Had an interesting chat, yesterday, about kindles vs books. My friend, who has spent years teaching reading, said she wondered whether our brains were wired to cope with only reading something off a screen. She did concede she might be influenced by her bias towards the traditional book, and her struggle to fully take in all the information presented on a computer or phone screen. Perhaps the younger generation, with their i-phones, i-pads and i-pods permanently attached to their eyes, ears and hands, may not have the same struggle.
I think there’s something about the delicious tactile sensation of opening a book that just can’t be duplicated by a machine, no matter how technologically advanced it is. I love the way a brand new book creaks as you open it up for the first time. I love the feel of the pages between my fingers, the smell of the paper, the crispness of the print, the weight of the thing sitting in both my hands like a literary Big Mac.
I don’t enjoy the flick, flick – “work you dagnabbing thing” – of the teeny phone screen. My finger and or thumb is too fat and I keep hitting the wrong thing. I guess the larger i-pad is more user friendly but it’s still a thing of perspex and plastic and therefore no soul. (Yes I’m a grumpy old lady who is seriously biased! Deal with it.)
I can see how it’s a useful thing to have almost your entire library in something you can fit in your handbag. It’s definitely more portable. But it’s not often that I need to take my entire library with me. I like my big book-cases filled with books of different sizes and colours. They start off lined up like little paper soldiers but as more and more join them (and before the ten-year great cull), they end up lined up, stacked up, shoved in and higgledy-piggledy. “Dive in,” they say, “you might discover something so absorbing, so exciting, so intriguing, so mind-blowing, it’ll change your life forever.” On the other hand the i-machines say (in a voice reminiscent of a dalek), “I am efficient. I am clever. You will be like everyone else. You will never look up in a train, bus, airport, restaurant or shopping mall ever again. You will never converse with a stranger about your reading material. You will never talk with your friends or family; you will text them instead.” I shiver.
From the little I’ve read about the phenomenon, it seems that the biggest book sales on kindle are books that have already been published in print. That strikes me as a little ironic. I remember when movie videos first became popular. (Yes, I really am that old!) The catch-cry was that it’d be the end of movie theatres. Yet, just this week I and many others were happily sitting in a movie house, eating our choc-top icecreams and laughing as we watched a movie – together. Perhaps books and kindles/e-books will also learn to co-exist. What do you think? It’ll be interesting to see what happens.