About Me

My photo
I write well researched but readable historical and contemporary novels and some non-fiction. I live in a Scottish country cottage with my artist husband. I love gardening and I also collect the fascinating antique textiles that often find their way into my fiction. This blog is about all these things and more!

Monday, November 04, 2013

Something Magical About My Kindle

These guys think so too.

Right from the start, let me say that I love paper books. Always have, always will. We have books in every room in the house. Too many, really. Periodically, I'll have a clear out and send a few boxes off to my charity shop of choice, but they creep back in again, especially non fiction books that I come across and know I'll need for reference: illustrated books about textiles and Scottish history and folklore and cookery and gardening books and lots more.

I'm currently reading a big, brand new hardback book. It's an extremely good book, but I'm not going to name it here, because that doesn't matter. It could be the best book in the whole wide world and I would still feel the same about it. How I feel about it is this.

The very peculiar smell of time.
It's a really beautiful, well produced artefact. Contrary to popular myth, it doesn't actually smell of anything at all, other than a faint odour of new paper, (but then so does bog roll). Actually, I think old books smell lovely, but then I think antique paisley shawls smell lovely too, have been known to bury my face in these gorgeous old textiles and breathe deeply - the slightly stale and very peculiar smell of time and use and dust and old scent and ... well, you know. Not everyone feels the same, but I don't care.

Back to books. This book in particular. It is driving me nuts. Not the content, which is excellent, but the delivery system. I keep wishing it was on my Kindle or at least as a nice, soft, bendy paperback. It may be beautiful, it IS beautiful, but it's also big, heavy, unwieldy, spiky at the corners and difficult to handle. The book itself keeps getting in the way of my undoubted pleasure in the contents. I read a lot in bed, but to cope with this one, I have to prop it on a pillow in front of me, and even then it keeps sliding about. The weight of it sets off my carpel tunnel syndrome and I get pins and needles and have to hang my hands over the edge of the bed to recover.

I'll finish it, because it's so good, and I'll treasure it and I may even want to read it again. But as soon as it's available in paperback or as an eBook, I'll probably buy another copy. Wrestling with this object made me think again about eBooks, and the reading I do on my Kindle, made me think about the uses of books and why we might want them in a particular form. As a part time dealer in antique textiles, I'm all too horribly aware of the transience of fragile things, the need to preserve some important or beautiful objects against time and change. Similarly, some books are so crammed with wisdom that you fear for their transience and want to see them in as robust a form as possible, disseminated as widely as possible.

But as far as reading, experiencing, absorbing the contents is concerned (which is, after all, the real purpose of writing and publishing) there is undoubtedly something magical about my Kindle.

In the way that a really good radio play, well acted and produced, seems to be transferred straight from the mind of the playwright to the mind of the listener (and can therefore be uniquely disturbing, when the themes are distressing or highly emotive) - there is something incredibly immediate about the experience of reading a really good, intense, well written piece of fiction on a Kindle or other e-reader or tablet.

Over the past year or so, I've been doing more and more reading on my Kindle and have noticed that the experience can seem more intense and more immediate than anything I've experienced for a long time. Maybe I've been lucky in my choice of reading matter. But it seems to me to have something to do with the medium itself. I can only think it's because there is so little to get in the way of the words and images and ideas. I've found myself more intensely involved with fiction than ever before, even dreaming about the books I'm reading, about the events and the characters - vivid, disturbing dreams in which I'm the character in the novel, or I'm witnessing and participating in the events in the book. It reminds me a bit of the way it used to be when I was very young and stories were so fresh and new and exciting that I felt as though I were completely absorbed in this amazing new world. I love it.

I'd be really interested to know if other readers feel the same way!

2 comments:

Susan Price said...

Completely agree, Catherine! When you say that reading on a Kindle is fresher and more immediate - that's the first thing I noticed when I began using a kindle, and it was quite unexpected. I still find it, even now I've been using a Kindle for two years or more.
I was always an avid reader of paper books, when there was no other way of reading. I put up with their awkwardness because that was what I had to do - but now, if I have a choice, I would always prefer to read on the Kindle.

DawnTreader said...

Very interesting about the experience of reading on Kindle. I've never heard anyone put it quite like that before, but I think I agree. I bought my Kindle a little over a year ago and love it. For me it's been a blessing as I have certain problems both with my neck and eyesight. With the Kindle I've been able to read a lot more than I'd been doing for a while before that. I really enjoy the general convenience of it; but now that you mention it, I think you may also be right about the e-reader bringing its own kind of "intensity" to the reading experience.

The only thing I really miss compared to paper books is that it's easier to browse back and find things in a printed book. On the other hand, sometimes when I read on paper now, I get irritated when I can't just point to a word and get an immediate definition of it! ;) (English is my second language)