For my birthday, I asked for and received a Kindle. One day into ownership and I love it. I'm researching a new project and my first task was to wirelessly download a biography from Amazon and a free sample of a second biography. When I go to my writers' retreat next month, I can take a pile of research books with me should I so desire, all in the format of a slim, light device. I've also downloaded the latest novel I'm reading for my reading group and a manuscript I'm editing. I can't 'edit' on the Kindle, but I can annotate.
I was inspired to ask for this gift after seeing how the Kindle transformed my boyfriend's reading. He's gone from someone who read two books a year, to someone who now reads daily. All because he doesn't have to carry a book around with him - just a device that slips inside the inner pocket of his suit jacket. He loves technology, and that passion has made him rediscover the pleasure of reading.
I visited New York recently and saw the Barnes and Noble store on Fifth Avenue. This was the ground floor:
Nary a book in sight.
Nooks are the Barnes and Noble version of Kindle. The adult fiction had all been moved to the first floor and, I have to say, was difficult to negotiate. (For your interest, the YA department was on the lower ground floor and was MASSIVE.)
These devices are here to stay, no doubt about it. So why did I feel a sliver of guilt at joining the Kindle Club? Part of me felt as though I was being disloyal. To my fellow authors? I don't know - I don't have a clear idea of how ebook royalties work or how this development will impact on careers. To my shelves of books? I recently took bag loads to the local secondhand bookshop. To my library? I clock up so many fines that I only really loan reference books now. To the industry I've worked in for half a lifetime? I've just asked for a device that may make or break publishing as we know it.
I can't work out where my ambivalence stems from. Is it the knowledge that I'm taking a big step into a new era? I heard recently that authors are starting to carry a second pen - for signing Kindles, rather than books.
My instinct is that exciting new opportunities will come with this technological revolution. I also believe that books of paper and ink will continue to flourish alongside devices. I look to the future optimistically. But there's that definite twinge of guilt. I wish I could pin it down.
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