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Do you prefer paper books or ebooks?

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      05.10.2011 10:57
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      Pinch me!

      When Ealing Broadway was looted one shop remained untouched, that of the Waterstones book store, the angry young underclass boys missing out on the chance to get as much Harry Potter they could handle and, of course, the school books they used to get with their now defunct EMA. That is not only great news for Waterstones security in the future under the Tories but Londoners in general, a good chance the same school boys wont want to mug you for your Kindle on the same streets, the biggest seller of all last year for the book store. Amazons new Kindle Fire venture that combines tablet and Kindle wil also be a big target for the bad lads.

      For me the street theft of electrical goods like laptops and phones is one of the biggest reasons not to buy a kindle, especially if I was living in London. You make yourself a target at the stations and in dark corners if you have a lap top bag or expensive phone on show and one presumes you would put your kindle in the same bag, printed books far less likely to be lifted or hassled for. Is it worth spending a hundred quid on something that you don't really need and makes you a target for hassle on the bus and train? And if you have bought it for the home or work then why not just read the same EBook for free off the internet like you do your music when you steal that? The novel is supposed to be the great escape from technology and reality and never the twain shall meet.

      EBooks are nothing new, forty years old this week, an American called Michael S. Hart given extensive computer time by the operators of the Xerox Sigma V mainframe at the University of Illinois to create the first ebook by typing the United States Declaration of Independence into a computer, codenamed Project Gutenberg. But for me a kindle is a middle-class fad, simple as, EBooks something they have to partake in to make themselves feel more intellectual to the proletariat on the train and at college etc. It's just another must have in a long line of gadgets that serves no real purpose other than being trendy. Newspapers and books are meant to be made of paper and disposable. It's not that practical if we are honest and for me just wont last - Video2000, slide projectors and Betamax video comfortably in that category. I guarantee sales will tumble away next year. It is an extravagance in an economic downturn. Do people really want to read the newspaper on these things? May as well have a tablet and be done. Tablets have to be money better spent than Kindles. The only defence of kindles for me is they are easier on the environment, trees not having to be felled and 78 times less water used in their production than the equivalent amount of books on a kindle. Did you know someone wrote a paperback about saving the rainforests?

      Incredibly, the 50th biggets selling hadback novel sold just 207 copies in a week, this during 'Super Thursday', the last week of September when all the big books start to come out to stimulate Christmas sales. Amazon have bought out the Kindle Fire because for the first time their Ebook sales are outdoing those hardback sales, the death of the hardback getting closer. Novels in hardback are rare now and its mostly cooking books and non fiction that gets the thick cardboard promotion these days.

      Carrying a book, not a Kindle, is the true reading experience for me though, like having an LP over an MP4 file, the artwork on the front of the product proof it exists, something to stack in a rack to stimulate your memories of why you actually bought that book or music. If you have lots of books and CDs or DVDs then it's important to display them. The idea of having a Kindle just to save money seems almost disrespectful to the authors, who are also clearly unhappy with books being digitised by Google. This move to digitise words and art reminds me of Monsanto planting their genes in the seed crop, purely to have an intellectual rite to staple foodstuffs and so a royalty, GM crops not about feeding the worlds poor. We all know that once anything is digitized and online it gets stolen pretty quickly, the Kindle the getaway car, authors profits tumbling further, not much money in writing these days unless your Dan Brown. Some of you trying to get in print will be well aware of that. I believe the best selling book last year was one of those Jordan books (written by her ghost writer) and yet the winner of the Orange Booker prize shifted just 46,000 copies, the dumber the work the bigger the reward, which again undermines the Kindles potential.

      I hope is that we are not moving towards EBooks as the standard as I find the whole idea of reading off a screen somewhat restricted, mucky fingerprints, spilling liquids on it and battery issues things you don't need for a task so simple as it was. With a paperback you can sling it around, get the pages dirty or just leave it on a bench for someone else to read. The written word is meant to be transient, something to be passed on for a minimum fee through charity shops, market stools or just friends and families. There's just something about reading a novel as part of your journey to feed that escapism, or just something to make you look more interesting on your local park on a sunny day. I'm pretty sure guys are far less threatening to people with a book in their hands than playing UK Garage music really loudly on their flash mobile phones on the bus. All the pretty girls, if the truth be told, like guys with a book to read. What I am concerned about is just how much chit lit our intelligent ciao girls read! Did you know that one of Jordan's tomes topped the Times Book list for 2010!

      Having a book to read is a nice thing. It's a solid object full of someone else's passion and talent, an invitation into their world. Yes there are books for idiots and books for pretentious people who don't want to be seen reading something' normal'. But there are lots of books in-between and something for everyone. But how do you translate that intimate experience to an EBook? A Kindle is a dinosaur already, something invented because it was obvious rather than practical.

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