Before I could read, I remember trying to read. And once I learnt to read it was all that interested me. When asked for her memories of my childhood, my sister says all she can remember is me sitting curled in a corner with my head hidden in a book.
I read whether I understood what I read or not. I’d got through the Iliad by seven, and spent the rest of my youth devouring pretty much anything else I could get my hands on, from Nancy Drew to Jane Austen.
Reading was and is my escape, my solace. What I read isn’t important; the back of a cereal packet will do, but a book is better.
But it turns out that the medium really does not matter. I never thought I’d buy an e-reader but I downloaded the Kindle software onto the iPad that Vodafone lent me for a month and I was converted within minutes.
Flying on Ryanair to Austria to stay at the Mayr clinic the weight limit was just 17kg and the iPad saved my reading bacon, given that I can polish off most novels in three hours or so. I needed a lot of books to take my mind off the Mayr purging detox regimen.
But love the iPad as I did (thank you Vodafone), I’m not in the market for a £500 shiny toy. So I bought a Kindle instead.
It’s incredibly light, and easy to read, with back & forth page turning buttons on each side, so that you can read one-handed. It can store up to 3,500 books, with up to one month battery life if you turn the wireless off when you aren’t buying books.
They come in two models: wi-fi, and wi-fi +free 3G. With wi-fi you have to manually link to a network to access the online store. With 3G you can access your home Amazon account automatically in 100 countries worldwide.
Many books are out of domain, so classics like Little Women and Pride & Prejudice are free, and there’s a discount on most bestsellers.
The 3G worked like a dream in California over the past ten days. When someone I met recommended the new Sebastian Faulks as we sat chatting by the Four Seasons Los Angeles pool, I was able to log on, find, buy and download it in under a minute.
I’ll still buy hardbacks, first editions, photography books and books I love to add to the 3000+ books I already own, but the novels I swallow, the dictionaries I need for work: those are all going on the Kindle. And I am not alone: Amazon reports that they sell 180 ebooks for every 100 print books.
(And on Twitter tonight agent Jonny Geller posted that, “ebook sales coming in from top selling authors in US is jaw dropping. what was predicted to be 5-15% of print sale is closer to 35-50%.” Altho when I checked in with him, he says that this is based on a small range of commercial & literary books in the past three months, not exact science.)