Talking Points – To E or not to E

One beautiful night this summer we sat in the garden with friends. Some were seventy-two and some were twenty-two. No-one had an ereader. But everyone had an opinion.

To E or not to E. That is the question. We are all quite sick of it.  A fury of discussion about books accompanies their (apparent) last days on earth.

Everyone staunchly defends the pbook or deadtreebook, as it is now called. Everyone denies they will use  an ereader. They are heavy in your hands. You can’t read them in the bath.

We will not read them in a boat. We will not use them in the rain. We will not use them on a train.  We do not like them here or there. We do not like them anywhere!

Earlier I had been on a panel. All writers over 40 denied any attraction for ereaders. On the panel was the head of a Canadian company that makes the Kobo. He was in possession of a surprising fact. Buyers of ereaders are mostly men 40 years old and over. Ereaders are gadgets. They can do a lot of things. But can they make those men read the collected works of Jane Austen, which they have downloaded free?

“I am too old! I don’t give a F-! I will not change!” shouted a friend. I completely agree.

And yet. I went and bought one.

I didn’t intend to read many books on it. Only a few. Well, just one, actually. My own. I wanted to see The Ghost Brush in that cute Apple ibook format.  I wanted to see what it looked like in a zillion different fonts, blown up large, or shrunk, and I especially wanted to turn the pages by flicking the corner of the screen with the tip of my middle finger. But more than that I wanted to read the Special Edition that is only available in e-format.

You do not like them so you say. Try them, try them and you may.

I went to buy an ipad. The salesperson introduced me to the touch system.  When she realized that all I really wanted to do was to see my very own book for sale she was nice about it and even sort of impressed. She showed me the ropes. You download the free ibooks app and—what is it with this language—then touch the istore and write in The Ghost Brush and there it is, cover out, tantalizing.

When I was operational, I checked with my publisher to see if they give author’s copies on ebooks. They don’t: security reasons. OK. I was going to have to buy my book. A bit galling, but not expensive. A bargain, in fact. For $11.99 I got the Special Edition with its bonus, a contemporary frame that wraps around the novel. It tells how someone called Rebecca wrote the book. It contains the postcard stories you’ve been getting, expanded.

I fingered my way to the I-bookstore and there it was. Special Edition. $11.99. I bought it. The book came immediately, its cute little icon jumping up obediently onto my empty ibook shelves and turning spine out. I touched it and it opened up; the pages lay flat, with that familiar fan of crisp cut paper (virtual paper that is) on the sides. I put the light up; I put the light down. I shrank it, enlarged it. Very cool. I turned the first page.

I do so like green eggs and ham. Thank you thank you Sam I am.

Is it sexy? Yes it is. Can you enhance books with it? Yes. Will I still get into bed at night with my real books? Yes.