Tiring of an Old Love - Andrew Crofts

Last month in this space I bared my soul regarding difficulties in my relationship with my desktop. Altogether more traumatising has been the discovery that I might have fallen out of love with an even more long-standing soul-mate.

When I was first introduced to my pretty young iPad a year ago I imagined that it would merely widen my horizons, offer me more options and some lively entertainment. I stumbled into the relationship like some wide-eyed old fool who fails to realise he has been targeted as potential sugar-daddy material, never thinking it would make me question my relationship with the printed books who had been part of my life ever since I first met Paddington Bear. But suddenly I find myself irritated by features of my old love that I once found endearing or was totally blind to. I am impatient with physical shortcomings that I would once never even have noticed.

This realisation dawned when a book I needed for research purposes was not available as an e-book. So, the first annoyance came from having to wait a whole day for Amazon to get a physical copy to me. Imagine! A whole day! Most of that time, I tried to tell myself, was actually night, but already the seeds of discontent had been sown.

The book arrived and I carried it off to one of my favourite reading places, only to find that we now do not have bright enough lighting for anything which doesn’t have a back-lit screen, (a result of energy-friendly light bulbs and aging eyes). There was no facility for increasing the size of the print to compensate, which my obliging little iPad would have been happy to provide for me. When I did eventually find enough light I discovered that the print ran too close to the edge of the pages for me to be able to keep the book open without either contorting my fingers uncomfortably or cracking the spine back in a way that would once have seemed like sacrilege. With one spiteful jerk I snapped its fragile spine, immediately feeling like I’d kicked a kitten.

This book is perfectly well published by a highly respected house and in the past I would have accepted all these annoying little features without a second thought – just as I once accepted that a television needed to be “warmed up” and that Radio Luxembourg’s signal would fade whenever my favourite song came on. I have been seduced away from a long-standing and faithful love and I think I may just have to get over it and move on. When I was first permitted to use ink rather than pencil at school I had to dip the nib in an inkwell every few words, (an inkwell which was invariably clogged with old blotting paper which then stuck to the nib and …. I digress). I felt no guilt about the abandoned pencil, nor did I later feel guilt when I was allowed to move on to a fat, shiny, garishly coloured floozy of a fountain pen which held a decent supply of ink, (we were never allowed to use biros, that would have been taking technology too far), so I think I must now try to muster the same pragmatic approach to this latest betrayal of an old friend.

photo of author by Louis Leeson


George Fripley said…
Yes...technology comes and amputates our old comforts by stealth, and is reluctant to let us go back to them, either practically or mentally.

I haven't yet got an e-book reader, but I accept that it is probably inevitable. This will not replace books, but be an additional resource. Spending time in bookshops, through obscure texts still gives me great tactile pleasure that is absent from ebook readers. It also gets me out from in front of my computer screen or TV.

That being said, I also still love writing by hand, so perhaps I am a throwback to a bygone age. I get an aesthetic pleasure from seeing the letters and words form on the page, and it is clearly me. Typescript removes the visual personality from writing. It gives me comfort to see my writing - it is nobody else's.
Rick said…
I enjoyed the hell out of this. Progress moves on.
Susan Price said…
Love the photo of you with quill, Andrew! And your post is spot-on. I remember thinking I couldn't be bothered with these computers everyone was buying - and then I saw how fast a friend's printed things out. I went shopping for one the next day - and now, if I can't click through to Google to find the answer to something, I am bereft.
I've had my kindle for about a year now, and it's my permanent companion, always within arm's reach or in my bag. I love it.
Love this. And I must admit, I'm feeling the same. Kindle isn't back-lit (which makes it easy to read) - but my cover has a nice little LED light, which shines a light on the screen and means that I can read in the middle of the night if I want to. And I love the fact that I can read several books at once, and when I go back to them, it remembers where I was!
I only write notes and lists longhand now. Pen just isn't quick enough for me. Sometimes I even used to freeze the PC because I was typing so fast. I love my old and beautiful books, much as I love antique textiles - but I don't miss those fat paperbacks where the paper yellows so quickly and the spine cracks if you look at it. I was thinking that only the other day, reading an old 'William' book, of all things which was still lovely to handle and use - while some of the much newer books on my shelves have deteriorated all by themselves.
madwippitt said…
You technofickle!
Jennie Walters said…
Ha ha! Love the photo; your expression is just perfect...
Rosalie Warren said…
I love e-books, but one thing you can't do is flick through at speed, unless I'm missing something on my Kindle. For me, e-readers are great for novels but v annoying for textbooks.
julia jones said…
Photograph lacks hefty embossed gilt frame. Piece otherwise perfect. Someone will surely offer you relationship counselling - or is that what we're all here for?

Popular posts

What's the Big Idea? - Nick Green

A Few Discreet Words About Caesar's Penis--Reb MacRath

The Splendid Rage of Harlan Ellison - Umberto Tosi

A Glittering Gem of Black, Gothic Humour: Griselda Heppel is intrigued by O Caledonia by Elspeth Barker

Misogyny and Bengali Children’s Poetry by Dipika Mukherjee