As many of you will already know, I’m fond of technology — especially technology that enables me to do things I wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. The Internet was a real groundbreaking development for me — enabling me to interact and work in a whole new, liberating way. Voice recognition software, although I fell out with it for a while, now allows me to get through vast amounts of work in a fraction of the time it would otherwise have taken. As well as the laptop before me, I also have a PDA and smart phone within reach, and another PDA in the drawer a few feet away. I have in total four different devices which have hard drives, and all of them get used (for storing TV programmes, movies, music, photos — all the usual stuff.) Something new comes on the market that I feel I might benefit from in some tangible way (I don’t believe in wasting money — especially money I haven’t got!), I get it when I can afford it.
One aspect of technological development that I have not as yet embraced, however, is the e-book. I’ve had hand-held devices for many years and was aware of Project Gutenberg from the time of its inception. I’ve tried various formats, and I have to say it will probably be a very long time before I give up traditional books — hardback or paperback.
Why? Well, this is the point where most traditionalists will trot out the standard response of “reading from a screen is harder on the eyes”, but that argument doesn’t really hold water any more. E-book readers are now available which convincingly reproduce the effect of ink on paper. Far better on the eyes and comparable to the real thing. So that isn’t it — for me, at least. No, my reasons for preferring traditional books centre around the tactile experience of reading — the individual feel and look of each book, the smell of ink on paper, the texture of the page, all of it. Fill your e-book reader with e-books and each and every one of them will look the same when you come to read them. By this I mean the e-book reader will not look any different, no artwork on the cover, no crinkled pages, no pencilled notes in the margin, just data on a device that you could all too easily mistake for someone else’s.
But of course, the content is what matters, isn’t it? If the book’s good, you’ll forget about how you’re reading it, right? I wish I could say that that was true, but in my experience it simply isn’t. A few years ago, I tried reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula on a PDA and, yes, it worked well enough but… I just couldn’t help feeling that I was missing out on something. It seemed somehow too clinical, too removed. The PDA kept me at a distance, it seemed. Getting beyond it and into the story seemed much, much harder than I had previously expected.
So for the foreseeable future I’ll be sticking to books — the old, tried and tested kind. At least until they come up with an e-book reader which replicates the individuality of each book to such a degree that it is indistinguishable from a real book.