By Elizabeth Kyne (Guest Blogger)
(Author Elizabeth Kyne embraces the surprising joy of ebooks and ereaders.)
How wonderful it is to hold a book in your hand. The joy of that new, untouched copy with its beautiful artwork and glossy cover. The feel of the crisp pages as you turn to find out the next step of the story, and the smell of the paper straight off the printing press. It is a pleasure which I have enjoyed since small.
Now, into this world of certainty, comes the book’s dreaded rival: the ereader.
This is an item that has no beauty. It is a rectangular grey gadget. It does not entice you in with a beautiful cover, turning the page feels like nothing, and it has no captivating smell (except, perhaps, the whiff of the factory when new). And yet this object dares threaten the supremacy of what has been the basis of the literary world since Gutenberg invented the printing press in the fifteenth century.
I say: let it dare.
This may seem heresy from an author, a reader and someone who studied literature at university, but hear me out.
First of all, the modern world seems to have gone gadget crazy. Almost everyone seems to have a smart phone, a tablet or an mp3 player – many have all three. Can you imagine the humble paperback book existing alongside all these electrical marvels, with their touchscreens and their wifi? Maybe you can, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But the advantage of the Kindle and its ilk, is that it bridges the gap between the old world of the book and the new world of the gadget. People are already listening to music, making phone calls and even shopping on their small mobile devices. How awful it would be if books were shut out of this new world.
And, even better than that, is the versatility of the ebook itself. You don’t actually need to have a specially-made reading device like a Kindle, because you can download whatever ebook you wish to read to your favourite device. People can read on their iphones, their ipads, their androids, their netbooks and even their desktop computers if they want to. Ebooks do not threaten literature, they allow literature to be accessed in more places. It makes books as much available to the teenager on the bus as they are to the retired librarian.
The dedicated reader, however, is more likely to be interested in a gadget especially made for books. As I explained to a friend of mine, who was thinking of buying a Kindle for her mother, they have some advantages over reading an ebook on, say, a phone.
eInk is the biggest advantage of all. It means that the words displayed on the page of an ereader are similar to ink written on a piece of paper, in that they are not back lit like a computer or a smart phone. Many people find reading on a computer screen for extended periods gives them eye strain, whereas the words on the page are much easier on the eye.
This, of course, doesn’t actually make the gadget better than a book. But – hang on – because that’s not the end of the story. One of the great advantages for my friend’s mum was the ability to make the ‘print’ bigger on the Kindle, a godsend for older eyes. Another good thing is the ease of ‘turning the page’ with the press of a single button and the fact that you don’t have to wedge the pages open as you read. Whatever device you choose is also relatively light and small, compared even to the average paperback. It can store hundreds, if not thousands, of volumes inside of it, which means choosing which book to take on holiday with you is no longer the dilemma it was once.
But, as more and more people turn to these devices (and read on their tablets and smart phones), there is no doubt that other aspects of our reading experience will change. Ebooks, it seems, will only hasten the loss of the book shop on our high street, which I agree is a great shame. But we cannot blame the ebook for that. It’s a trend that began with the rise of internet shopping in general which has also hit other retailers from craft shops to sport shops. Before that, there was the foray of books into supermarkets and, before that, chain bookstores competing with the independents.
The biggest change, I think, will be in the way we use sampling to decide which books to buy. In the olden days, you might buy a book based on its back cover blurb, a flick through the pages and possibly a favourable review. This would result in bringing home some fabulous books. It would also (at least in my case), result in bringing home some duff’uns. Those books that you wade through and wonder why you picked it up in the first place. Readers like me would give up after fifty pages; while more assiduous readers would plod on ’till the end in some sort of obligation or belief that the story would eventually pick up.
Sampling has the ability to change all that. Now, if you like the sound of a book, you can download a sample onto your gadget for free. That way, you get to read a nice chunk of it at your leisure and decide if you want to continue. If it’s a duff’un, you can give up without guilt because it hasn’t cost you any money; and if it’s a fabulous find, you can part with your cash knowing that reading the whole book is likely to be worth it. This means, more and more, that books are going to have to grab the reader early on if they are to be successful. Other than authors like Stephen King or PD James who can rely on a loyal following, there will be little room for the slow build. Stories will have to engage the reader from the very start. Not necessarily a bad thing.
Another great think about the new ebook age is that it allows every reader to have an almost infinite bookshelf at their fingertips. It wasn’t so very long ago that if I fancied reading, say, a detective novel, I would either have to hope that I had something on my shelf that fit the bill, or I had to travel half an hour into the nearest town to buy something, only to have squandered the day’s reading time by going to the shops. In recent years, I might have ordered a copy of the book I fancied reading off the internet and, but by the time it arrived in the post, I actually felt like reading a good romance instead. With ebooks, I can go online and pick out almost any book I fancy, download it and read it there and then. How brilliant is that?
That’s not to say it isn’t a scary world out there. Any change is scary, especially as you get older, especially as it impacts on something so valued as reading. But I say, don’t be scared, embrace the new opportunities that the new world brings. Paperback and hardback books still exist, and will continue to do so for a long time, in my opinion. In fact, as an author I am proud to have my books in paperback as well as ebooks. If that is how you prefer to read, you have as much opportunity to do that as you ever had.
The most important thing is, however, the words. One of the greatest things about the rise of the ebook and the ereader is that people are buying into them because they still want to read. Despite the allure of video games, the internet, Skype, texting, Facebook and all the rest, people still want to sit down and enjoy a good book. And if that means downloading it to their Kindle or their ipad, then I say let them do it.
If Wishes Were Husbands by Elizabeth Kyne
Rachel re-invents herself when she moves back to her home town of Aylesbury; with a new job, a new house and a new haircut. But people’s eyes glaze over when she tells them about her life as a forty-something singleton who works in accounts. So why not spice things up a bit? Why not tell her new hairdresser and her new friends about her fantastic husband? Everyone wants to hear about Darren, the man who cooks her amazing meals, cleans the house and takes her to bed for orgasmic sex three times a night! What a shame he doesn't exist…
…Until she comes home one night and finds Darren sitting in her lounge. And everything she said becomes true: from his sensuous food to his skill in bed. So real, that she believes it.
Not as if living with a perfect is man is… well, perfect…
She can’t find anything because every time she puts something down, he tidies it away. Then there’s the shock of the credit card bill from buying all that gourmet food. Not to mention the sex! Three times a night is great at first, but sometimes all she wants at the end of the day is a sandwich and some sleep.
Then Rachel decides that Darren has to go - and that’s when her troubles really begin.
Elizabeth Kyne takes the absurdities of the modern woman's quest for love and turns them into an enjoyable romp. She finds the comic in everyday situations, from buying a dress to experimenting with hair dye at home. While, underneath, she comments on the pressure to find the perfect husband and how that quest is doomed for us all.
Bio: Elizabeth Kyne trained to be a radio journalist and spent her early working years reading news bulletins and writing for magazines. Later, after learning the meaning of “mortgage” and “gas bill”, she decided to do the sensible thing and drop the freelance lifestyle to get a proper job. The job, however, all went horribly wrong and she returned to her first love of writing, and worked on several novels before finding success with If Wishes Were Husbands.