Pages of hurt: reading a printed book

Posted on by Mike Evans

It had to happen. After 18 months of reading only ebooks I've had to open a "real" book for the first time. And it isn't a pleasant experience, I'll tell you.  This was unavoidable. Last month I got hooked on Alexander Kent's naval history novels featuring Richard Bolitho. I like the genre and have been captured ever since I read Patrick O'Brien's gripping Aubury/Maturin novels some years ago. Kent wrote some 28 Bolitho novels and I read the first few on my Sony Reader, courtesy of Waterstone's ebook store. But then I discovered big gaps in Waterstones' repertoire and I got completely stuck. I wanted to maintain the chronological series and couldn't. The list of ebooks at Waterstones was annoyingly incomplete and I had to resort to buying this rather grubby, musty 1979 copy of "Command a King's Ship." 

What an deeply unpleasant experience it is. Even without the mustiness, handling a paper book is a pain. I had almost forgotten. After the pleasure of ebook reading, a "real" book is a disaster. I can't change the font size to cope with differing light conditions; I can't plonk the book down on a restaurant table and expect it to stay readable without the weight of a pepper pot; and I'm always losing my place. What's worse, if I finish it while out for the day I have to wait until I get home to dial up a next read.

There are people, undoubtedly, who would never read an ebook. They probably still buy CDs or even vinyl LPs. They probably persist in watching live television. But the inefficient, costly and inconvenient printed book is going the way of the cassette tape, the dodo and the CD. Bookshops are imploding daily, just as record stores did last year. Soon it will be peace on the dining table with the Sony Reader, the Kindl or Apple's new iSlate/iPad taking the strain. No more pepper pots. 

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