Here I am on vacation earlier this week, reading an e-Book.
The book concerned is Blindsight, by Peter Watts, an SF novel available under Creative Commons licence. As you can probably make out, I am reading it on my iPhone with an app called Stanza. I have resisted the temptations of eBooks thusfar, necessitating as they seem to do large investment in readers such as Sony’s reader or Amazon’s proprietary Kindle. But I already have an iPhone; Stanza hardly costs any more than two bone buttons and a pin; and the fine screen of the iPhone being what it is, I felt it would do no harm to give it a try. Through Stanza you can get a vast amount of free content, so without much ado I’ve downloaded collections of out-of-copyright short stories by M. R. James and H. P. Lovecraft; Chuckie D’s Descent of Man, King Solomon’s Mines, Middlemarch, The Complete Works of Bill Shaksper and a few other things. Creative Commons titles include works by Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross, as well as books by Mr Watts as mentioned above.
Feeling I ought to have some incentive to try Stanza, the first book I read was Fanny Hill, the lubricious contents of which I lapped up with middle-aged pleasure, reflecting, as I did so, on how little has changed in 250 years. Of the various parts of my person that might have been induced to ache by this experience, my eyes were among the last and least. Reading books on the iPhone is a doddle. You can fiddle with the screen brightness, the font size and so on; you can dog-ear pages for future reference; you can turn the pages themselves in a most realistic manner. The only peculiarity is not having any easily grasped physical sensation of where you are in the book.
So, I rate Stanza and e-reading a great success…. except that while on holiday I picked up a much-thumbed copy of The Godfather, and was suckered into the familiar physicality of a book printed on recycled postbags, you know, with pages.
I like the e-Book idea. It’s great, convenient, portable, and the books themselves take up very little memory (I downloaded the Complete Works of the Bard over an ordinary mobile phone network in under five minutes – such is immortality). But as far as I am concerned, they don’t quite replace the pleasure of print.
Besides, when you are looking at your iPhone, people around you assume that you can be easily disturbed, perhaps more than were I actually hefting a tome. Here, for example, Crox Minima has joined me for a chat …