Saturday, 7 January 2012
A Kindle Sceptic Converted: Linda Newbery
"I work all day on a screen; I don't want to look at a screen for relaxation, too."
"I like the feel and smell of books."
"How can a piece of technology replace such a perfect design?"
A friend made all these remarks last week, and it was an echo of the objections I was making this time last year. I live with Gadget Man, and it's made me a bit resistant to devices of various kinds (to venture into his study is to be plunged into an archive of redundant technology - items no one wants, needs or can find ways to recycle). He, of course, bought a Kindle fairly soon after they became available. I was sceptical, but two things happened to make me change my mind and have a go.
The spur came at a talk given by Sue Price and Katherine Roberts at the summer gathering of the Scattered Authors' Society. They were messianic about the advantages of Kindle self-publishing, speaking of the control and independence, the ease of publishing, and the attractions of group blogging. I went into the room with only mild interest, but emerged an hour later already planning to reissue THE DAMAGE DONE, one of my favourite of my young adult novels. I went home from the retreat, enlisted Gadget Man as technical advisor, and got to work. Within a surprisingly short time, my book was available, with a new cover.
The second thing was that I'd noticed a change in Gadget Man's reading habits. Over the summer, he could be found for hours on end on a garden bench, engrossed in THE CRIMSON PETAL AND THE WHITE, via his Kindle. Now, I knew that GM would never have picked up the brick-like wodge of the book, had he seen it - the length would have put him off. But on the Kindle, he could ignore that; the device had allowed him to enjoy a book he wouldn't otherwise have started. On a practical level, holding a large book open can be tiring for the hands, whereas with a Kindle you can read one-handed, holding a mug of coffee with the other. (I'm about to embark on BLEAK HOUSE, and have downloaded the e-version for reasons of ease and comfort.)
Well, it seemed a pity to self-publish an e-book without owning a device myself, so I bought one as soon as the new cheaper Kindles became available.
Other posts within the last week have enumerated the benefits of e-books, but here's one I didn't expect.
I now use my Kindle for reading through work in progress. It's become a habit, each evening, to send my draft to the Kindle. (For anyone who doesn't know how to do this: your e-reader has its own email address, like a person. You just send an email with a Word attachment, and lo and behold, there it is.) Like many writers, I find that reading my work on a computer screen is useful only up to a point - for the final read-through before submitting, I've always printed a paper copy. I travel a lot, so this has often meant carrying a thick folder of printed pages for annotation. Now, instead, I shall be reading on the Kindle, where the text looks like that of any other book, providing the necessary distance needed at that stage. It's more portable than a typescript or a laptop, easier to read in bed, more discreet for public transport.
Like most e-readers, I'm planning to carry on reading a lot in book form, too - we're not faced with an "either/or" choice. But already my Kindle is a constant companion, for writing as well as for reading.