I’ve never hankered after an electronic book reader before – this will be my first. Partly it’s the price – a sense that, like my Nikon D40 camera and my Lenovo S10-2 netbook, ‘at that price it would be rude not to’. Partly it’s the free 3G aspect. Partly the technology – the idea of this gizmo with electronic ink that consumes so little power. And partly it’s because it’s not made by Apple, and I feel I am sticking it to The Man – The Man in this case being Steve Jobs, whose empire is becoming increasingly cult-like in its marketing and whose beautiful toys are just too eye-wateringly expensive. (Disclaimer: I do own an iPhone 3GS – which I love and use all the fricking time.)
Also, I read a devil of a lot more nowadays than I did even five years ago. I’m not sure why. But physical books are swamping our house again, and I can never bear to part with them. I box them up to sell at boot fairs, and then end up picking out half deciding I want to keep them after all. And I always buy more books at boot fairs anyway.
Yesterday my sons and I got a handful of Charlie Higson books signed by the author at Foyles bookshop in London. Charlie pulled a copy of his new book, The Dead, out of a tank of rather shy piranhas. It was a nice event and, as at Camp Bestival, he took loads of time to chat to everyone and sign anything they brought along, and pose for photos.
I asked him “do electronic books spell the end of book signings? Would you sign my Kindle?” He said no, he thinks people like a physical object, physical books will survive. The lady from Foyles joked that when they had Stephen Fry in, they thought they might have people wanting their iPads signed, but she thought as well that events like book signings will help keep the printed word alive.
I’m not so sure. Music and photography have almost entirely ‘gone digital’ now, and as electronic book technology improves – and the new Kindle is the first one that comes up to snuff as far as I’m concerned – wouldn’t it be a foolish person who didn’t bet the farm on the written word eventually going the same way?