Monday, 5 September 2011

In which I star in The Kindle and I


Oh man, I love my Kindle.

As sweeping romantic statements go, it's not quite up there with "shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" or "it's always been you, Rach", but I must stress that I do mean every word. I. Love. My. Kindle.

It wasn't love at first sight, mind you. For at least a year I was firmly in the paper-fancying, 'it'll never replace books' club. "A screen doesn't feel the same!" I would squawk. "You can't annotate them!" (You can, and I don't anyway). "You can't read it in the bath!" (I haven't had a bath since 2004, and only then because the shower was broken).

But then I reached a turning point, and began to see things differently. That point was: I started reading Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna, and I had to buy a bigger handbag. "Hmm," I thought as I was stood in Urban Outfitters cramming the tome into each bag in turn and trying to do the clasp up. "It sure would be useful to be able to carry this book around in a smaller format. A flatter one. Possibly a flat, grey, digital one, like a big phone… with a book on it." 

After this thought had blossomed, other thoughts joined it. Thoughts like: it would be nice to turn the page on this weighty volume without taking my hand off the tube pole and risking toppling onto a greasy commuter. Say, via a nifty button.

Or: sometimes I'm not in the mood for the book I have in my bag. I'll be in my wry '30s comedy satire mood and I'll be carrying a vaguely political South American saga. Or I'll want slightly confusing magical realism and be carrying a boarding school story I last read when I was 12. Sometimes I just want to read the last two chapters of Bridget Jones's Diary repeatedly until I fall asleep on the night bus, and gosh darnit I don't want to be denied that option.

So, I got a Kindle.

I loved it from the off, in the coy way one fancies a complex, aloof, beautiful boy who ignores you. But the affection only grew stronger as it proved itself an indispensable force for good in my life. I was freer, more educated, more alive. I cemented the relationship a few weeks ago, when I realised I had inadvertently matched my nail varnish to it. I'd thought it was steely storm-grey, but no. It was Kindle-coloured.

But let me not appear blinded by love - I am fully ready to admit that the Kindle has flaws. More precisely, it has two.

Firstly, when it falls onto my face after I've nodded off reading it, it really clunks my nose. Books never clunked, only softly enveloped my schnoz with a blanket of softly fluttering paper. I miss that.

Secondly, nobody can see what you're reading on a Kindle. This is a good thing, of course, on some occasions. The week I read Lady Chatterley's Lover, for example, was a stressful exercise in jacket-bending and concealing-inside-newspapers lest elderly bus users see it and fall down in horror. On a Kindle it would have been fine.

But this does mean you lose the other side, the camaraderie of books. Reading One Day wouldn't have been nearly so enjoyable were it not for the armies of commuters toting the same orange cover round with them, beaming conspiratorially and sharing tissues when they get to the end. And I am not, I'm sure, the only lady to have harboured the Match.com-style fantasy of spying a gentleman reading the same well-chosen, intellectual yet not pretentious, novel that you just happen to be reading too.  Then you fall in love.

Plus, what's the point of reading Ovid or Proust or something, if nobody sees it and thinks 'ooh, get you'? I mean, really?

So in future, I'd like Kindles to come with an optional back screen that could display the book you're reading to the rest of the tube carriage. Or, even better, the book you'd like people to think you're reading. Proust on the outside, Bridget on the inside. That's an e-reading device I could possibly marry.

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