Eating my words

Business - December 16th, 2010

THE VIEW FROM HERE, by Ian de Stains OBE

If you happen to be a frequent reader of this column, I owe you my unreserved thanks. Writing’s a lonely business at the best of times, and the thought that no one is reading what you write is enough to quell the ambition to do so. I owe you something else, too. Not an apology exactly; more a confession, a coming clean, an owning-up to doing something I’ve repeatedly vowed not to do. A measure of just how serious this reversal is, is the fact that I’ve taken to doing it in public and without a modicum of shame!

Not to put too fine a point on it, I have succumbed to the not inconsiderable attractions of the Amazon Kindle. There, I’ve said it. Confession is good for the soul, and I find myself glowing with absolution.

As with other e-readers, the Kindle will never take the place of the printed book in my life. There isn’t a room in the house that isn’t lined at least in part by books, and the house is all the warmer and more welcoming for it. But the fact is that the Kindle is convenience itself when it comes to ordering and, later, reading books (and for that matter newspapers and magazines, too). There’s also the preloaded dictionaries (the Oxford and the New Oxford American) and a variety of functions that allow you to highlight sequences, add notes, and see what other readers have found interesting enough to flag for wider attention. Manipulation through the various functions is so simple as to be intuitive, and my fear that I would find reading on screen to be off-putting was very quickly forgotten; the e-ink technology employed in the latest incarnation of this reader really can’t be faulted.

I found the Kindle’s compact size and light weight to be of particular advantage during a recent stay in the hospital. So many of the books that are currently on my “must read’ list are great tomes of several hundred pages in length. They are both heavy and cumbersome and not the easiest of things to manage when you’re propped up on pillows and with limited movement and strength. In most cases, downloading such volumes is much cheaper than ordering the hard copy (although it has to be said that in certain cases, the hard copies are must haves for the bookshelves, so there’s no cost saving there), and the Kindle store has many volumes that may be downloaded completely free of charge.

What all this means to the future of books and the livings of people who write them, I simply don’t know, but as a Member of the UK Society of Authors, I am following the debate with keen interest. None of my own work has as yet been “Kindled,” but then I swore you’d never catch me reading on one, so who knows what will happen next?

Ian de Stains is the Executive Director of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan. The views expressed in this column are strictly his own and are not necessarily endorsed by or shared by the Chamber.


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