It’s a fairly innocuous object, the Kindle – flat, grey and quiet. It doesn’t scream division. But it’s deceptive.
I’m an oldfashioned kind of book addict. I love the hush of a good bookshop or library. Some find piles of books messy, but to me they’re comforting. As a child, I went to bed with a book rather than a teddy bear. The closed covers of a book contain the escape of story, for me; a deeply familiar excitement every time.
So the Kindle in all its plastic electronic gimmickry is wrong on so many levels. How can such a dead object ever think to replace the texture of printed paper under your hands? How can a brand name dream of ousting an elegant hardback? A book is innately physical. It has a weight, a presence in your bag or by your bed. A Kindle is a book crushed flat with its beauty made hollow.
And yet, as a booklover, I should only be pleased that the Kindle is renewing interest in reading and taking novels to a wider audience. Many who wouldn’t usually read are enticed by the idea of an easily accessible tablet, similar to an iPad. You can fit a million books onto a Kindle, whereas an actual real book will push your holiday luggage entitlement way over the allowance. There is now a Kindle family, according to Amazon. Imagine: an extended family as a byproduct of an expensive gadget. Grandma will be delighted. She’ll be even more excited about the fact that she can read ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ in public with anonymous pleasure.
But at what price do these glories come? Isn’t a story cheapened by its vehicle? Jane Eyre’s longing for Rochester loses its romance once it’s computerised. Atticus’ honour lacks depth on a tablet. And, worst of all, the race to Poirot’s revelation loses its excitement when there’s no pages to turn. If the Kindle juggernaut continues pace and a book eventually becomes an anachronism, a thousand libraries will lie in ruins and Waterstones will atrophy with dust.
Maybe I’m overreacting?
What do you think?