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Saturday 28 May 2011

In Praise Of Adaptability

My father loved books not only for their contents but also as objects. He loved the smell of new books. He could also love some productions that were so old the insects that had once lived in them were no more than stains – but the content, Erasmus’ In Praise of Folly, or Bacon’s Essays, for example, had to be strong enough to bear the ageing of the book. At one time he regularly used petals as book marks.

I never quite shared that enthusiasm for the book as an object, but yes, there are some beautiful, even sumptuous productions. One childhood favourite that I remember was a large illustrated edition of A Thousand and One Nights.

But when words alone are involved I only want something clear and clean to read.

Now, for my birthday, my very amiable children have given me a bottle of champagne – and a Kindle.

I have to say I love it. These days I like to set the size of the print. I’ve bought too many books with tiny print in the last few years. Often, if I'm using a reading lamp, I get a distracting shadow of the print on the next page behind the words I'm trying to pick out.

Now my reading can easily be held in one hand, is as clear as I like it and ‘turning’ a page dislodges no dust or paper scurf.

Reading about a book and downloading it within seconds is gratifyingly novel. Not having to use a book mark is also a sort of freedom.

Does the Kindle change the reading experience? I don’t think it does, though I will say I am enjoying the re-arrangement of the experience.

I’d even say, so far at least, that it brings me into a more obviously direct contact with the point of a book, its contents. I find I get into the book more quickly – there are less preambles, no distracting cover. Just you and the writer.

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