Friday, 10 February 2012

A Traitor to the Written Word

I recently acquired a kindle and have therefore, in the eyes of many, renounced any rights I may have had to call myself any kind of a reader. One acquaintance, when I told him, said mournfully that this was one more nail in the coffin of the book, which rather exaggerates my book-buying levels. A friend announced her disappointment in me and gazed upon me with sadness as if I had been denouncing the evils of the objectification of women and then asked her to wait outside while I nipped in to buy the latest copy of Playboy. And then there was this article in The Guardian which was so snobbish that I at first thought it was some kind of satire. It wasn’t.

In one article somewhere, I read that there has been a big rise in sales of ‘trashy’ (for want of a better word) fiction. This is, apparently, because no-one can tell what you’re reading when you’re using an e-reader. I have to say, I rather like that. I’m rather hoping that this might be the beginning of a resurgence of popular fiction รก la the great days of the pulp magazines, a market so eclectic that it could support at least two editions of a magazine given over solely to stories about pole-vaulting. Honest. And if you look down on pulp fiction mags, remember they did give us Raymond Chandler.

So what’s it like? Well, I can say that reading a kindle is painless, certainly better than reading from a computer screen, and I do appreciate the volume of free material there is available, and the number of gloriously cheap classics. There is also the access of books that are out of print. One of my acquisitions, for a small sum, has been all five of the Dr Nikola novels by Guy Boothby. Written in the late 19th century, they are mad novels about an evil villain (the eponymous doctor) who was stroking a cat while being polite to his victims about seventy years before the James Bond films joined us. The first two books were in print fairly recently, but only those two and I’m not sure if they’re still available new. They are.

As promised earlier, I have not destroyed my existing books and in some cases I read the book at home and the kindle edition while travelling. Kindles are good, but they’re not a replacement for books, yet, and books still hold several advantages over them, the key one being that you do not require a battery to read them. Will they replace books? I honestly doubt it but as so far the effect of them seems to have freed up people to read what they want rather than what they should, increased access to classic literature and given new access to almost forgotten books. And they irritate literary snobs. In my electronic book, that’s always a winner.

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