Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Kindling my enthusiasm

Years ago, my son David told me that a day would come when people would read books on electronic screens and rather than on paper.

‘Oh, no,’ I assured him, ‘that’s not going to happen. The books is such an attractive object. Look what you can do with it,’ I said riffling through one until I found my page, ‘that’s never going to be possible with some kind of electronic reader.’

Well, I’ve said before that it’s salutary to have your prejudices overthrown, especially when you overthrow them yourself.

My other sons, Michael and Nicky, gave Danielle and me a joint Christmas present this year, of a Kindle. I dug in my heels and resisted the temptation to succumb to this device. Several seconds went by before I gave in to its seduction. 

Of course, I’ve taken it over. Poor Danielle doesn’t get a look in. I’ve even had to buy her one of her own. I’m not going to be separated from mine.

Glory of a bygone age?
It’s brilliant! Why, I even have a subscription to The Guardian on it. I get up in the morning, and there’s the new edition. I don't have to wait for a paper boy or struggle through the cold to the newsagent’s. Why, even when I was getting up in California, there was the new edition without the difficulty of trying to track down the only good newspaper there is, in a nation benighted by its unavailability. 

In fact, because of the bizarre phenomenon I’ve commented on before, whereby it isn’t the same time, at the same time, everywhere in the world, I even got the next day’s edition in California at 4:00 the previous afternoon. 

I still haven’t worked out how they managed to get it to me so early.

What’s more, I couldn't believe how light my suitcase was. I'm never quite sure which books Im going to want to read when I set off on a trip, or how many I can get through, so I always take too many and exceed my baggage allowance or have to leave my boots behind. 

But this time I travelled with 25 books and I could carry them in the inside pocket of my jacket. And then I added two weeks worth of a heavyweight daily newspaper but the Kindle stayed as light as ever.

It even makes me feel virtuous. I mean, in the only comprehensible book I’ve read on economics — The Undercover Economist — Tim Harford argues that as societies become richer, their luxuries tend to get bigger and more resource consuming, until a tipping point is reached, when suddenly people realise that there is kudos in having commodities that actually damage the environment less. It’s happened with cars, except among Americans or Jeremy Clarkson: most people now pursue fuel efficiency at least as much as size and speed.

That’s how it is with the Kindle. I can read my paper without using up any paper. That means fewer trees chopped down, less fuel consumed in highly expensive shipping. Apart from the initial outlay, the Kindle is green. A luxury that makes me full good about myself. What more could I want?

Well, actually, I could want one thing. I wish I could ring the Kindle, like I ring my phone, when I don’t know where I’ve left it. Apart from that, the Kindle leaves nothing to be desired.

So, David: you were perfectly right. I’ve had to overthrow yet another of my prejudices. And the process has given me a lot of enjoyment.

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