It happened like this:
The room I rather pretentiously call my office, is stacked high with bookshelves groaning under the weight of loved tomes. Many, many times I’ve tried to Feng Shui my life and clear my clutter, but my books remain. Sometimes they become temporarily rehoused into bags and boxes which I tell myself will be donated to the charity shop, but I’m kidding no one. All that really means is that they come down from their high shelves to reside closer to the floor.
How can I get rid of them when I never know if and when I’ll want to re-read them? When I lose books from dire necessity (such as moving from one country to another) or because someone has taken the liberty of borrowing them and not returning them, I’m bereft. I remember books I read many years ago and which I sometimes have a fancy to read again but I no longer have them and they’re long out of print and I feel something nearly like pain.
When I do have an urge to re-read one of my books, I know exactly where to find it and half the pleasure is in the anticipation of reaching up to the shelf and luring it with my fingertips into my hands. The other day I wanted to look up a passage from Jane Austen’s ‘Persuasion’. I happen to have a large and incredibly tatty (well it is the most frequently-read book on the shelf) volume of Austen’s works. I found the passage I was looking for immediately (as well as a collection of pressed four-leaf clovers and cards with long-forgotten scribblings on them) but instead of closing the book, I carried on reading. One page, two pages and I was hooked. Again. I knew I had to sit and re-read the whole story.
Once I thought nothing of carrying that great volume around with me to read on London underground on my way to work; it went to university with me and still bears the scars in the form of pencilled annotations; I read it during coffee breaks or under my desk at work; lying in the garden; curled up on the sofa or snuggled up in bed. I never considered its size to be an inconvenience. Until last week.
The problem is, I’ve got so used to the convenience of the Kindle that the book seemed unwieldy; the print was small and the pages, like the spine were growing pale and fragile. And there on Amazon was a Kindle version for a mere 77 pence. Within a minute it was sitting on my Kindle.
But it didn’t stop there!
I’ve long been intending to re-read John Fowles’ ‘The Magus’ and duly went to my shelf to coax it into my waiting hands. As a matter of interest, you might want to know that this book is 656 pages long. Wouldn’t have bothered me in the least a year ago. But then a year ago I didn’t have a Kindle. And it only took a minute to do an Amazon search and download it. I didn’t intend to. I just looked out of curiosity, but then…
A year ago I quite distinctly remember agreeing with those people who said e-readers would never take over entirely from books. Never, I agreed loudly. I love my books – they are part of me…or rather they were. But so too now is my Kindle. I doubt I will clear my bookshelves just yet – after all, where would I press my four-leaf clovers - but given a choice between a good old-fashioned hard- or paperback and an e-book version, I’m afraid I’ve already made my choice. I’ve been converted. I’ve been Kindled! Have you?