When ebooks and e-readers first arrived, I was one of the many who scorned the idea as ridiculous. Surely reading is one of the few things we can do nowadays that take our eyes away from the copious hours spent in front of a screen? Why on earth would we want to put that on a screen too? I'd like to still have the use of my eyes in my old age!
But over the last year, my opinion has started to shift. E-readers became more commonplace, ebooks dramatically more popular. The entire publishing industry has shifted. Every morning on the train I would see more and more people reading on an e-reader - whether it be a Kindle/Kobo/iPad etc...
So what made me want one for myself? What changed my mind? Well for starters, anyone who has ever commuted in the London rush hour will know the challenges of reading a book - even a light one that doesn't give you wrist-ache if you hold it one-handed too long - on a moving train. It's a balancing act worthy of joining the circus. In the few seconds it will take you to remove your hand from the hand rail, turn to the next page and return it to the rail, will the train jolt and send you flying into somebody's lap? You never can tell. Sometimes the train is so jumpy, you just have to wait until you stop at the next station before you can turn the page so you wind up reading the same final paragraph over and over again out of sheer boredom.
Then came e-readers. A device, where one tap of the finger turns the page, is immensely useful on the morning commute. It's also probably lighter than your average paperback - and massively lighter than your standard hardback - so stowing it away in your bag won't give you back ache ... or break your bag.
Santa has been good to me this year and I am now the delighted owner of a Kindle Fire. So far, in only a few weeks, I have downloaded about ten books - one purchased, the rest downloaded from the Top 100 Free list on Amazon. While I sighed at the prospect of the holidays being over this morning, I was certainly a lot perkier than most on the commute. I held on, I tapped over the pages and I had no reason to pause my reading. I managed to recapture the joy of reading in an environment where it is often more frustrating than anything else.
The world of downloads also takes readers back further than they might usually go. As has happened with music downloads, classics are getting noticed as much as new releases. I've already downloaded Great Expectations and Les Misérables to read next - two books I perhaps would not have thought to buy in a shop.
This is not my only first of late - I also downloaded my first audio book last week when a migraine had me stuck in bed in the dark for twenty-four hours. So, while I was ill, in a lot of pain and unable to sleep or move, I had someone reading The Great Gatsby to me.
Is the world of non-electronic books coming to an end? No, I don't think so. It's simply adapting to suit our ever-changing lifestyles. Ultimately, people will still have their preferences - I, for one, still plan on reading actual books when I'm at home relaxing - but anything that gets more stories to more readers is OK by me.
Did you get an e-reader over the holidays? How are you finding it...?