Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Margaret Drabble on the joy of ebooks

You can buy texts at midnight while on the train to Taunton and read with ease in the full glare of the sun. What's not to like about electronic reading devices, asks Margaret Drabble

Margaret Drabble
Devoted e-reader … Margaret Drabble. Photograph: Richard Saker

My deep attachment to my e-reader is greeted by slightly offensive surprise from those who expect readers of my generation to be sentimentally fond of old bindings, and resistant to new and bewildering technologies. Those who express this surprise are almost invariably non-readers themselves, who prefer coffee table to content. The e-reader certainly sorts out the sheep from the goats, and divides those who need to read from those who like to turn the pages.

Let me dispel one myth. The e-reader, although technologically advanced, is in no way bewildering. It may take you an hour or two to acquaint yourself with it, but once you know how it works, its basic principles are simple. Unlike the proliferating array of mobile phones and DVD recorders and programs that plague us, the e-reader is easy to handle, and it does exactly what you want it to do. It enables you to read, anywhere, anytime, almost anything. It enables you to purchase or acquire texts at midnight, in the small hours, on a train to Taunton, at a bus stop, in a bunk on a ferry in the Arctic Circle. Don't tell me there is no romance in buying ebooks: what could be more romantic than sitting in the sun by the breaking white and turquoise waves on an island in the mid-Atlantic, enjoying a pleasant lunch and conversing about William Blake, and finding yourself able to find the quotation you half-remember with a click of a finger? And all, if you so choose, for free? Blake, the device shows us, is almost obsessively fond of the word "Atlantic", make of that what you will, and the lines tell us that Time rages in vain, for, "above Time's troubled Fountains / On the Great Atlantic Mountains / In my Golden House on High/ There they Shine Eternally

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