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Following Emily Roberston’s article in the last issue on the Amazon Kindle (Kindle doesn’t make a good present for a Literature lover, does it?) I’d like to step up to the plate and speak out against this condemnation. While I don’t own a Kindle myself, I do firmly believe that the Kindle is not just an inevitability, but a valid contribution to how we read books.
The 21st Century has brought with it a radical technologisation of essentially every medium we have. We listen to music on our iPods, play games on our iPhones and DSs, and watch films and TV shows on our games consoles. Emily pointed all this out, but why shouldn’t this have happened to the world of books? Physical books can be expensive. If you’re like me, with an obsessive requirement with keeping your books as neat as possible, spine creasing and dog-earing some of the biggest bugbears. From this angle, books become a high-maintenance antique, their purpose in direct conflict with wanting to preserve them. We want to enjoy literature without subjecting it to the trials and tribulations that are wear and tear.
Of course, you can order books online just like anything else. But delivery takes a long time (or it can seem like it does if you’re an impatient soul like me.) And often, through no fault of the delivery process, books arrive scuffed and creased. And then you have to find a place to put the damn thing. Ebooks offer a convenient solution to this obstacle course of book buying. Why wait 2-3 business days for delivery when I can download the book I want today? Why play Tetris with the contents of my bookshelf when I can have an entire library in my hands? We lose the new book smell and the delicious papery texture, but we gain ease of use and portability.
Of course, the Kindle cannot scratch all our literary itches. It is never going to offer every conceivable book, and this means that second-hand bookshops, libraries and charity shops open up a hidden world for us to explore. I would never have read Watership Down, The International Gooseberry or Matrix Warrior without encountering them in shops first. Sometimes a row of books on a shelf opens up more opportunities than the internet ever could.
While the physical media will always offer new and unexpected surprises, the ebook embodies the convenience and accessibility the 21st Century demands from our entertainment. Ultimately, reading is about the words rather than what they are written on, and the Kindle aids that in the inevitable way we demand from the modern world.