On Reading a Book

I’m reading a book just now, or trying to. When I say a ‘book’ I mean a book made of paper, not an eBook. This is the kind of book people talk about when they wax eloquent about the joy of real books. It is ‘London: The Autobiography’ by Peter Ackroyd and it is a fine work. The cover is interesting, the paper is good quality and the binding is well done. It needs to be well bound because it is a thick book and fairly heavy. If it were new it would probably have a ‘new book smell’.

The writing is excellent and the material is riveting. So there is every reason for me to be racing through this book.

And yet I am not, and I found myself wondering why.

I often read at breakfast. It is a good time to catch up on reading my weekly ‘New Scientist’ and my brain appreciates the warm up before the day really starts. But I cannot read this book at breakfast. It wants to flip closed all the time and it takes one hand to hold it open and two hands to turn a page. I need between one and two hands to eat so it doesn’t work. The second problem is that there is a good chance I will spill something on it, especially when I’m struggling to hold it open and eat at the same time.

These aren’t issues with magazines like New Scientist because they lie flat and they are ephemeral enough that the odd bit of egg or cereal landing on them doesn’t matter. I also often pick up my tablet (iPad Mini) and check the newspapers. Again, I can work that with one hand and food spills wipe off without damage.

The other time I read is in bed before I put the light out. There’s no food and I have both hands free. But propping up a heavy book gets a bit wearing and if Mrs wants to put the light out sooner than I do then we have to compromise. The tablet wins out there as well. It is not nearly as heavy as the book, and I can read it in the dark. I often wake up early and I can read in the dark before Mrs wakes.

I do rather like nice books, and I have a fair collection of them. But as for actually reading them, the tablet seems to do a better job. And books that are less than nice, such as cheap paperbacks, they come a poor third.

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