E-readers... and the value of a real book

David Phelan confesses to preferring analogue to digital when it comes to books

I know, I know, I’m a gadgets writer, and writing this may get me thrown out of the Tech Journalists Union (I say union, but it’s more of a knitting circle). But I’ve yet to find an ebook reader that beats a book. Of course, some of them are great, and I’m loathe to be without my iPad mini, but however good they are, they ain’t the real thing.

I love the way I can tell by holding a book, even with my eyes closed, how far I am from the end. A little note that I’m 37 per cent through at the bottom of the page just doesn’t mean much. I like the way the content of the pages is fixed. With an ebook, if there’s a reference at the top of a page to redirect me to a note at the back (though back is a somewhat fluid concept in an ebook), I can click on it. But when I return to the original page, that reference may have moved to the middle of the page or anywhere. It’s annoying, especially if like me you remember something in a book because it was two thirds down a left-hand page a couple of chapters ago. Of course, you can search in ebooks, but you need the exact words. If all I remember is that it was something like “Release the battle hounds” it’s not going to find “Let slip the dogs of war”, is it?

Where this search feature comes into its own is when a character reappears after a long absence and you haven’t a clue who Mr Nupkins or Fizzytinkle might be. Type the name and previous mentions will remind you. (Nupkins, of course, is a character in The Pickwick Papers, while Fizzytinkle is a condition treatable with antibiotics.)

Unquestionably, ebook readers are amazingly convenient. With one you can – and anyone who has one will tell you this quite early on – carry a thousand books at the same time. That’s good, but to be honest I’ve never needed more than half a dozen books, max, for the longest holiday. Still, it’s more convenient on a plane, say, except for take-off and landing, when you can smugly pull out a real book.

And we’ve been printing paper books, magazines and newspapers for so long that we’re really good at this now. Editors and designers choose fonts meticulously, but on an e-reader you’re limited to a choice of half a dozen or fewer. And you probably won’t change from the default.

Ebook reader displays are either dark grey and light grey rather than the true black and white print offers or else they’re backlit screens with white light shining out around the text – both are more tiring than paper.

And the recognition that your neighbour on the train is reading the same book as you can be a pleasure. With an e-reader, we all look like we’re reading the same. Though admittedly, it’s less embarrassing if you’re currently working your way through Fifty Shades of Grey that nobody can see the front cover.

For now at least, we have the choice of paper or electronic books, but by the time we don’t, let’s hope the technology has caught up. Books are immeasurably rewarding, however you read them. I just find paper more satisfying.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

    £70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - SQL Server, T-SQL

    £28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Data Analyst (SQL Server, T-SQL, data)

    £28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst...

    Ashdown Group: European Recruitment Manager - Cheshire - up to £48,000

    £40000 - £48000 per annum + bonus and benefits: Ashdown Group: European Recrui...

    Day In a Page

    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions
    Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

    Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

    Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
    General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

    All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

    The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
    How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

    How Etsy became a crafty little earner

    The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
    Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

    King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

    Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
    Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

    Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

    The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
    Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

    Don't fear the artichoke

    Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
    11 best men's socks

    11 best men's socks

    Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
    Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

    Paul Scholes column

    Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
    Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
    London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

    Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

    Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
    Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

    Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

    Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
    Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

    Khorasan is back in Syria

    America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
    General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

    On the campaign trail with Ukip

    Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
    Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

    Expect a rush on men's tights

    Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions