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Wednesday, April 6, 2011


OK, I succumbed.

Having chuntered endlessly about how sceptical I was of e-book readers, and of how they'd never beat the comforting feel of 'real' books, I received a Kindle for my birthday. My weakening can be attributed to several causes, including the realisation that at the current rate of acquiring books, there would probably soon be no room for me in the Lair, let alone anything else; but I'm also working on a tentative idea to write some novellas exclusively for Kindle, and with that in mind it seemed sensible to actually experience it from a consumer's viewpoint.

So am I a convert? Yes, emphatically. The size is infinitely more convenient than most overblown modern paperbacks (I'm one of those recidivists who long for the days when one could fit a book comfortably into a coat pocket). The 'electronic ink' is easy to read, and obviously the ability to store many books on one small device has huge advantages - I won't now have to throw myself out, and I should be able to travel more comfortably from A to B without packing enough books to populate a small rural library. The facility to email my own drafts to the Kindle is likely to prove very useful indeed. Doom-mongers, my erstwhile comrades-in-arms, can predict 'the death of the book' all they like, but as far as I'm concerned, a week of the Kindle has already broadened my reading. For example, I've been vaguely interested for some time in reading Peter Mandelson's memoir, The Third Man, but it's probably not something I would ever have gone out and bought - but having it on the Kindle, taking up no space whatsoever, is ideal. Without searching the books available for Kindle, it would probably have taken me far longer to realise that one of my favourite authors, John Biggins (author of the simply brilliant Sailor of Austria series), had a new book out, namely The Surgeon's Apprentice, which is the first book I'm reading on the device. (Biggins is one of the very few authors who consistently writes books that I wish I'd written myself, and The Surgeon's Apprentice certainly fits that bill - set in the Netherlands in the 17th century and with a first chapter that touches on the assassination of Henri IV of France by Francois Ravaillac, a subject explored in the last chapter of my Blood of Kings, it seems eerily close to home!).

But I can foresee one serious flaw in the logic behind having the Kindle. I'm now likely to want a hard copy of The Surgeon's Apprentice, and the same is probably likely to happen with other tomes in the future. So rather than heralding the death of the real book and an end to space management issues, the Kindle might well lead to this reader, at least, ending up with even more books on his shelves. Maybe it's time for me to move into the shed after all... 

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