It’s been a difficult summer; you’ve been doing some godawful internship at some godawful corporation, getting up at a time you hadn’t heard of before and donning your cheap suit, ready to man the photocopier or offer people coffee in the hope that they might just like to give you a job. But now, finally, you’re ready for some R&R. You’re in a queue at Stansted Airport, waiting for your Ryanair flight to Spain where you’re going to recuperate, perhaps have a couple of nights out with some overly tanned Europeans but essentially enjoy sun, sea and sand. In your suitcase are the requisite clothes, sun creams, after suns and books: the latest Dan Brown, a few other thrillers and the obligatory course-related book, prepared to spend the whole holiday leering at you reproachfully from your open suitcase. You get to the check-in desk , lug your bag onto the conveyor belt and a piercing voice assaults your ears, “Sorry, but the maximum weight is 12kg. Yours weighs 13. If you want it to keep it all in there, you’ll have to pay a £30 fine.” You open up your bag and the problem is eminently obvious: 509 pages of Dan Brown, 600 pages of assorted thrillers and, to top it all off, 700 pages of Herodotus.
There is a simple answer to this conundrum, one which I’m sure a lot of book-loving Oxford students are by nature opposed to: the E-reader. The Kindle, probably the best known device for reading Ebooks, weighs less than 250 grams and is smaller than an A5 notepad but its size is by no means the only good thing about it. A lot of people are put off by the idea that the screen will glare like that of a computer but with E ink the reading experience is now barely any different from reading off a page. You can then carry as many books as you could possibly want, all in one tiny wireless 3g device. One of these machines can currently hold 3,500 books; by the time we all get around to buying them they will probably hold even more. Not only that but the books are cheap, I mean really cheap. Think Complete Works of Shakespeare for a pound. All you English finalists who have either bought as many plays as you could possibly afford or are trawling around libraries hoping to find a copy, imagine how useful it would be to have every single Shakespeare play at your fingertips and yes, you can make annotations.
Now, I know the arguments against them; I’ve heard them all before: “Darling, it’s the feel of the book that I love so much and the smell.” But aren’t these exactly the same comments that were made about LPs and then about CDs (nobody ever actually cared about minidiscs) until finally we all gave in and started listening to mp3 files which have no life to them, no artwork, no feel or smell. In fact lots of us don’t even own the files, we just listen to them on Spotify or YouTube and are quite happy doing so. Surely the whole idea behind the phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is that it is content which is important. So why are book readers so stubborn about the format? E-readers are fantastic devices; they’re fast, fun and hopefully will rekindle people’s passion for a simple book. Get it on your Christmas wish list now.