Husband ducks away from me down the nearest aisle, nervously flicking through anything to hand, be it the Aga Cookery Book or The Guide to Organic Baby Birthing for Vegans until I’ve finished my little rant.
Recently he’s taken to suggesting that perhaps he might like an eReader, but I know he’s only doing it to start a debate; we like to discuss such things loudly and forthrightly on long car journeys.
So here is my list. Ten things I hate about eReaders. The list has been substantially edited, to preserve sanity; some of my reasons were, if I’m completely honest, bordering on petty. But the ones that remain, I feel, are totally valid.
1. E-readers don’t smell like books.
2. If you leave your eReader on the bus, you will feel very upset and spend hours on the travel hotline trying to get through to lost property. If you leave a book on the bus, you feel mildy annoyed but hope someone deserving will pick it up and read it.
3. You can’t borrow eReaders from the library and return them with curious little pencilled notes down the margin for the next borrower to puzzle over.
4. You can’t visit the home of an eReader advocate and make random, wild assumptions about their personality by looking at the books on their shelves. You would have to pinch their digitized library for that.
5. eReaders give nothing away about the journey you’ve taken with a book. No dog ears, smells or smudges. They don’t express a life shared with a story. In the future, people won’t lovingly pass on the battered books they read repeatedly as kids.
6. eReaders threaten the survival of our little buddy the humble Silverfish, who survives on polysaccharides, paper and glue.
7. eReaders are expensive and perpetuate the advantage of those with money over those without and are being dallied as an catalyst to speed up cuts to library services. A politician interviewed on the radio recently suggested that libraries would become redundant as more people took to eReaders, using this to justify their closures. He failed to see that the whole point of libraries is free access to texts, learning and technology for all. He had the cheek to suggest libraries could be run by volunteers. However well-intentioned and eager, volunteers will never replace our brilliant librarians. I wish I had noted the politician’s name. I would write a twisted little story with his name thinly disguised as the baddy who comes to a slow, sticky end, probably involving a swarm of bees, and stoning with faulty eReaders.
8a. An eReader will break if my cat sits on it.
8b. If I drop an eReader in the bath it won’t be fixed by a couple of hours wrinkling dry on a radiator.
9. You can’t browse for books with an eReader. Yes, I know They say you can. But I like to get off my bum and go to an actual shop and explore shelves of actual, tangible books and I like to actually open their actual pages, and smell and feel...
10. They rely on a battery which is bad for the environment, and impractical for camping / far flung travel / power cuts / if you forget to charge it. And to be honest, I struggle to remember to charge my phone.
However, because writing is supposed to be ‘What I do now…’ I ought to be able to see the other side of the (electronically distributed) story. What if, for example, I have a character who is heavily into tech? And in her hi-spec airport-scattered flat she had replaced all her books with a large projected digital bookcase. She never leaves home without her eReader; she wouldn’t dream of it and doesn’t know how she lived before. How on earth could she read words off an actual bit of paper, placed there in actual printed ink. How did she manage before when she couldn’t change text font to her exact preference? Could I stop my sneering disregard for eReaders from sneaking, commando style, into the text?
So, let’s see if I can present the other side of the argument.
Things that aren’t so bad about eReaders:
1. They save on shelf space.
2. They are shiny and make you feel superior and cool (a bit like that kid at school in the 90’s who got a Gameboy before everyone else.)
3. They don’t melt in the sun and fall apart.
4. They don’t require as many trees to be cut down to make them.
5. Unlike your favourite book, you won’t lend your eReader to a friend (why would you?) then spend the next few years wondering how you can ask for it back without sounding rude and petty, or stealthily sneaking through their book case.
So, they have their place. And I’m going to have to suck it up because I'll probably get given one for Christmas when they get cheaper. I’ll mutter darkly about it, whilst secretly enjoying the eNote-scribble facility or authentic page-turning soundFX.
And, ultimately, if someone published me, and I ended up on an eReader, I wouldn’t be that cross. In fact, I’d probably kiss them. Everyone has their price.