Matt’s View: Why e-readers will never be a match real books

Saturday, July 19, 2014
5:02 PM

I’ve spent the last week in a state of partial sleep deprivation.

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This is not because I have been living the stereotypical journalist life-style and burning the candle at both ends. More boringly, I have become engrossed in a book.

The novel in question is David Nicholls’ One Day, a story I first read a couple of years ago and have very much enjoyed re-visiting. If you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend avoiding the terrible film adaptation and giving it a try; it’s beautiful and funny and sad and knowing, and probably several other adjectives too. It’s one of those novels that really draws you in, hence my tearing through it at a furious place, only to stop when I look at the clock and realise it’s 2am and I have to be up in four and a half hours. In fact, work and life have been an annoying distraction between the times I can dive back in and find out what Dexter and Emma have been up to.

I read quite a lot, and have come to realise that, while I enjoy the stories themselves, I also like owning the books. In recent years, e-readers such as Amazon’s Kindle have become over-whelmingly popular as people have started to buy e-books, but I really struggle to see the appeal. Most people spend all day staring at some kind of screen, be it phone, computer or television, and I don’t want to be looking at another one when I’m trying to switch off and relax. Plus you don’t get the satisfying feeling of eagerly turning the page to see what happens next.

The other thing I like about real books is that they can instantly take you back to the time and place you were reading it. I love that my copy of The Beach is still water-stained from when I accidentally left my bag out in the rain while at university (I was, and still am, quite an incompetent human being), and that several of my other novels have tooth marks in the cover from when our cat was a kitten and used to enjoy chewing stuff up. However convenient it is to have all your favourite novels on one light-weight device, you can’t cram all those memories in there too.

Perhaps I’m being overly sentimental, but it seems other may be thinking the same way. Sales of Nook e-readers have fallen 25 per cent in the last year, while Amazon is launching its own smart phone, an indication, say analysts, that they don’t think the Kindle has a long and happy future ahead of it.

It’s likely this reflects the fact that people are reading on their phones or tablets instead, but I’d like to think it’s the start of a backlash, and people will soon be retrieving the novels which are packed away in the loft or have been shipped off to the charity shop.

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