Friday, March 23, 2012

Not yet kindled...

Joanna Trollope, chair of this year's Orange Prize, has said that she found reading all the books on her Kindle or iPad a most unsatisfactory experience:
The machines homogenised everything. No matter how striking the prose, the little grey screen subdued everything to sameness... The sheer heft of a book in your hand ... is not only pleasurable but informative. You can tell a great deal just by the look and the feel. (Guardian - can't find a link, I'm afraid)
I've so often said that it's the words that matter, not the trappings with which they're conveyed, but now I'm thinking I agree with Trollope about the Kindle. I got mine for Christmas but, although I've done a fair bit of reading to say that I've also been writing hard, I can't say I've used it much.

I must say I had a bad experience to begin with: I downloaded a PDF I needed for research, and it was hopeless: when the screen showed the whole page, the print was impossibly tiny, and zooming in gave me a frustrating section of a page only, whereas if there was one thing I needed to do with this document, which was the report of a tribunal, it was scan whole pages and skip. I ended up printing out the whole hundred A4 pages, which gave me the chance physically to divide it all up, and put together the sections I really needed, and mark bits with different coloured highlighters according to order of importance. Well, that was a PDF, but then when I came to download a novel next, I discovered that that ability to skip back and forth is crucial to my reading of novels, and it wasn't so easy on a Kindle. Get to a point in a novel which refers you back to an earlier moment which you then want to glance at again quickly, and with a paper book you can usually do it in an instant by remembering how far the book was physically open at the time. Try that on a Kindle, and you're pressing one button after another, and your reading experience is suspended and clotted... And I know some people think it's sacrilege, but I like to scribble copious notes in the margins at top speed...

Maybe I'm just not used to it yet, and maybe I'd be thinking they weren't problems by now if most books since Christmas hadn't however presented themselves to me in print form. I've been sent several print novels for review and comment (and offered a sackful more). I read two books for my reading group, but I had both on my shelves already - and only one of them was available on Kindle in any case. I've read a beautifully produced new hardback - just the opposite of an ebook, with its carefully appropriate artwork, and its creamy pages with good black print so easy on the eye - and I've since been sent the paperback edition. I've been working on proposals for drama adaptations of novels: only one of those books was available on Kindle, and I already had a copy of its print edition. As for those I didn't have, I was back in that old sweet-smelling world of the second-hand bookstore, and the joy of the cover artwork of earlier eras.

On the whole, I can say that the Kindle simply hasn't yet entered my life. However, as Joanna Trollope concedes, 'A Kindle is a brilliant tool, a clever adjunct to reading on the move.' I'm going away at Easter, and I've downloaded a novel ready. We'll see...
Post a Comment